For my January book review, I have chosen to critique a novel by one of my new favorite authors, Karen Miller. For those who are not yet aware of her, Karen Miller is a bestselling author who has taken the fantasy genre by storm. In a male-dominated genre, that’s a big deal.
Even though she is more well-known for her work, Innocent Mage, I decided to read her Godspeaker Trilogy first for the simple fact that I wanted to read a story centered around a strong female protagonist. The first in the series, Empress, tells the story of Hekat, a she-brat sold into slavery, who becomes a soldier, a warlord, and finally an empress of all Mijak. Guided by the god, Hekat, along with her High Godspeaker Vortka, travel the godless lands battling demons and smiting sinning people in order to expand their vast empire.
Empress receives a lot of praise for the writing style, the unique environment, and the gritty, edgy details that many authors would shirk from. Karen Miller doesn’t just go there, she goes there and back again. The characters are well-developed and multi-faceted. There were no good or bad guys throughout. Even the main character is not entirely likable; though, seeing as she becomes the villain in the next two books, I suppose she would need to be a little unlikable.
Most of the criticism comes from the main character being “cruel” and “unlikable” and to be honest, she is not always the most sympathetic character. I think what many readers fail to remember is that the environment is harsh and the people can be cold. Hekat is born in a household void of love and civility, then she is sold as a slave, betrayed by the only friend she has ever known, and forced to become strong in order to survive. Her coldness and cruelty did not upset me. To be honest, part of me enjoyed Hekat’s hardness. Her disgust for her husband’s affections and her resentment of her second son because he ruined her body make her more real and likable for me. I’m tired of reading about women who love their men wholeheartedly and who would sacrifice everything for their children. Not all women are like that. It’s nice to see a woman who has more going on, like ruling an empire for example.
Characters like Vortka, her son Zandakar, and the war leader Hanochek more than make up for Hekat’s lack of sympathy. I enjoyed the character interactions, especially because I never knew whose side to be on. It just depended on the perspective.
I know I did not have a lot of complaints; those I am reserving for my criticisms of the second and third novels that have fallen short of the first novel. Many say Empress is a challenging gateway to the series, but I disagree. The novel was indeed a challenge but a worthwhile one. Sure, the second book has been an easier read, but for what? So far, there is no payoff. Empress delivers.
So, if you are looking for an easy read, Empress is not the book for you, but if you are interested in investing in a fantasy series, the Godspeaker Trilogy is one I would recommend, though less highly as the series goes on. You might want to just hold off getting started until after you read my next review in which I’ll be highlighting the shortcomings of the sequel. Until then, happy reading!