Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review - The Empress Graves by E.J. Tett.

Firstly, I do want to be open and honest here - I know the author, she's a friend of mine and a co-author of Casting Shadows. However, this is a completely honest review of the book. If I didn't like it I would have either not reviewed it, or given it a poor review. You'll just have to trust me on that!

The Empress Graves by E.J. Tett.
The Empress Graves is the second book in the Power of Malinas trilogy. (A Young Adult Fantasy Trilogy). In the first book, The Kingdom of Malinas, the lead character Sorrel (a stroppy 16 year old) fights to defend her people from the Lamya who try to enslave them.

In this follow up, Sorrel is a little older - but still prone to the same impetuousness that on occasion leads her to act first, think later.

She has grown up somewhat though, and now understands the benefit of discipline in her training as a warrior.

She will need that training in order to overcome the challenges posed to her by the evil Empress Graves.

Many other characters from the first book also return, and they too are a few years older - and in some cases, a little wiser. In particular, Sorrel's brother Leif, who is now a leader of his people, but doesn't necessarily display the same confidence around his partner Saoirse who is now heavily pregnant. Sorrel's faithful friends Gaeshi and Little Cloud reappear as well, while there are also some new faces - most memorable among them probably the fast-talking Mojag and the playful, if sometimes irritating, Chogan.

While the action scenes are exciting and the dialogue is snappy, I think the best thing about these books is the way they turn the traditional gender stereotypes in fantasy on their head. Sorrel is a girl, but don't dare try to put her in a dress. I love The Lord of the Rings, but the female characters in that are generally just window dressing (less so in Peter Jackson's film versions, admittedly). Even the Belgariad by David Eddings, another of my personal favourites, which has strong female characters, still doesn't often hand them swords.

Girls aged 12-16 or so have a good role model in Sorrel therefore. She isn't perfect - far from it, in fact. There's plenty for an average bad-tempered, independence-craving but responsibility-shirking teenager to identify with in her character. Especially in this book, where anger threatens to make her enjoy killing and embrace the darkest aspects of her own personality - what teenager hasn't stared into that abyss (well, without the killing part, at least - or I hope so anyway!)? Makes me glad I'm not that age anymore!

In general it isn't just Sorrel who is darker in this book. Other characters such as Faerwald also address fundamental questions with a greater level of depth than the first instalment of the trilogy. Me being me, I quite like that. Dark is good, as far as I'm concerned. Of course, it isn't all dark - this is fantasy, it is all about the triumph of good over evil. But the lines between the two aren't always as clear cut as we might like to believe, and The Empress Graves addresses these grey areas nicely.

Links for further info:
The Kingdom of Malinas Website
E.J. Tett's Blog


Em said...

Wow, sounds good! :)

Joleen said...

It IS good. In fact, it is excellent!