My thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
Emperor Mage is the third of Tamora Pierce’s Immortals Quartet. It opens with Daine, Numair, Alanna, and other nobles arriving in Carthak in their ship, where the older group, including Numair who has been given a pardon by his sworn enemy, Emperor Orzone of Carthak, and the titular Emperor Mage, for peace talks while Daine has been sent to cure Orzone’s birds (he is a bird lover) who are suffering a mysterious illness. Once there, they are welcomed with great pomp and ostentatious entertainments and feasts. But all is not well in more than one way. The peace talks are not going as planned. And the Badger god has warned Daine, just as they reach that the gods are displeased with Orzone and something bad is in store for Carthak. When there, more than one bad omen is observed. Daine however, wants to stay on to help the birds, and she does so, also befriending Orzone’s heir Kaddar who turns out very different from what Daine thought he would be. They also meet Numair’s old teacher and friend, Lindhall Reed. Daine also begins to discover new and unexpected dimensions to her powers, which have some very interesting results, while also using what she learnt in the previous instalment, her shape-shifting powers. Not only that the patron goddess of Carthak seems to want something from her as well. Daine also learns or at least gets a hint of the secrets of her own history.
This was once again an enjoyable instalment, and very different from the previous one. Carthak is a rich place where much is attached to ceremony and ostentation, and I enjoyed reading the descriptions of everything, especially the costumes of the King, Kaddar, and the nobles—the feasts too but one wouldn’t really want to eat any of what was served. This book also,in addition to animals, has dinosaur fossils, with whom Daine ends up having some interesting adventures, but of course, it was Daine’s connection with animals(live ones) which remained my favourite element of the story. The adventure elements of the story were also fun, with Daine as always having to enlist the help of her friends to defeat the enemy. The last part of the book where they actually have to take action, Daine’s temper also having got the better of her,was pretty exciting to watch unfold. As she had begun to discover in the last book, even the immortals she considered evil are not really so—in fact she might even find a friend in them—something that can as well hold true in the real world. Another bit of our current world (in fact, the world at any time)that is in the book even if it may be fantasy, is the deception and betrayal that is often practiced against one another, at the individual level and even as units/groups; and of course that of people letting power get to their heads and its inevitable results. This was another entry in the series that I enjoyed, though so far I think, the second book is my favourite. With how this book ended though, I wonder what turn in terms of plot the next (and last) book in the series will take? Four and a half stars.