Book Review – Empire’s Legacy
Every once in a while, you come across a book that is truly magnificent, that grips you and makes you think about the characters and the world long after the book finishes.
This was certainly the case for me and Empire’s Legacy. Empire’s Legacy is actually a trilogy of three books and it has been one of the most immersive, well-written series I’ve ever read.
As a historical fiction author, it’s natural I fell in love with reading this genre, too, so when I came across this book series on Twitter, I was immediately hooked by its concept.
Empire’s Legacy is a series based on an ‘alternative Dark ages’, a speculative fiction based in our real history but with some fantasy elements.
The first novel, ‘Empire’s Daughter’, begins the journey of Lena, an 18 year-old living in the coastal village of Tirvan. The village is one of several that make up the Western Empire, where there is a very different way of life. According to a law called ‘Partition’ decreed a few hundred years earlier, the villages are populated exclusively by women and children. The men automatically, from the age of seven, are enlisted in the empire whilst the women live and work in the villages. The men and women only see each other for two weeks of the year, at a bi-annual festival.
So, the intrigue begins right away when Lena hears that a soldier called Casyn wants to ask the village to live and work as a blacksmith, defying centuries of tradition. Casyn, though, also brings a warning, which causes Lena and the other villagers to make a choice – whether to learn how to fight.
I won’t spoil the events of the book, but the pacing is excellent and the character of Lena is expertly written as you follow the villagers’ decision, including personal consequences for Lena. Despite the chaos of what is around her there is a stillness and balance to Lena that makes this book impossible to put down.
The sequel to Empire’s Daughter, Empire’s Hostage, begins with Lena again having to make a choice, to serve as a hostage in surety for a peace treaty that will hopefully bring a permanent end to the war raging across the Empire and its bordering lands. This book has a slower start, with much of it taking place in the Ti’ach, a farm that doubles up as a place of learning.
Here is an opportunity for the reader to learn more about the exquisite world Thorpe has created. Lena herself is struck by the discovery that the world is far larger than she knew, with cities and lands she had never heard of, except perhaps in legend.
Then, after Lena is asked to go on a journey, tensions rise and danger comes to fruition. Once more Lena is forced to put aside personal thoughts and do what duty demands her, at great cost to herself and the friends she has recently made at the Ti’ach.
Again I don’t want to give anything away, but the ending of this book is absolutely electric and probably one of the most exciting scenes of the series so far.
The final novel, Empire’s Exile, starts with Lena banished from the Empire she has risked her life to serve. Along with her co-exile and travelling companion, Cillian, she makes her way across the mountains to the east, hoping to find the legendary city Lena learned about at the Ti’ach- if it still exists, that is.
The novel follows Lena and Cillian across the icy climate and to a village that immediately offer them refuge, but danger is never far away in this series!
After that Lena’s worst fears are realised, as they hear word of what is happening back home, building to a spectacular conclusion to this thrilling and immersive series.
There’s far too much to say – and tricky to say it in a way that won’t spoil the reader – for a blog post here, but I’ll do my best to tell you why you should read this series. The attention to detail is extraordinary, filling the book with history and legend never overwhelms the reader, perhaps because Lena is learning a lot of it with you.
Rather the rich history serves to make colourful and characters come alive. Most of all, this is done in the character of Lena, who is gripping from the first page to the last. It is her that is Thorpe’s greatest triumph, as we see her humanity shine in how she explores human relationships (in particular, this series has been one of the most authentic portrayals of LGBT+ relationships. Also there’s beauty in Thorpe depicting intimacy without erotic scenes) and shows bravery in the face of war and integrity and love in the midst of difficult ethical choices. Lena’s journey ends with a powerful and moving conclusion, with my heart thumping in my chest and a few tears pricking in my eyes.
In the end, the best thing I can tell you about these books is to read them for yourself. Whether you love history, fantasy or simply an amazing depiction of a woman’s journey of bravery, integrity and love against all odds, I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Why not check it out? You can find links to Thorpe’s wonderful trilogy below:
Thank you, Marian, for writing such beautiful books.
Till next time,