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Empire's Legacy #1

Empire's Daughter

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Eric Hoffer Finalist, 2021; IndieBRAG recipient, 2021; Silver Medal, Historical Fantasy Box Set of the Year (as part of Empire's Legacy) 2019.

Lena’s world is about to change forever. Harried from north and south by two different enemies, both wanting this last remnant of a greater Empire’s land, and with invasion imminent, the military leaders see no choice but to ask the unthinkable: that women learn to fight.
In accepting the challenge, Lena is separated from her lover, who chooses banishment rather than break with generations of tradition. Promoted to leadership, drawn into the intrigues of power, Lena must make difficult choices, for herself, for her village, and for her country: a young woman at the heart of the violence and diplomacy that will begin her epic journey to save her land. Evoking Europe after the decline of Rome, the imagined world of Empire’s Daughter and its sequels is brought to vivid, believable life by the precise and powerful writing of Marian L Thorpe.


First published February 18, 2015

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About the author

Marian L. Thorpe

10 books79 followers
My books are historical fiction of an imagined world, one that is close to Britain, Northern Europe, and Rome, but isn't any of them. A world where a society evolved differently after the Eastern Empire left, where one young fisherwoman answers her leader's call to defend her country, beginning a journey into uncharted territory, in an Empire on the edge of history.

After two careers as a research scientist and an educator, I decided it was time to do what I'd always really wanted, and be a writer. As well as my novels, I've published short stories and poetry. My life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history provided the inspiration for my books, while my other interests in landscape archaeology and birding provide background.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Jonathan Nevair.
Author 5 books50 followers
July 11, 2021
I devoured this book. Thorpe’s writing is elegantly lean yet powerfully evocative. There is a spartan beauty to the language and world building, yet what it conveys is so expansive and evocative in imagery and emotion. The author builds so much with so little, especially in terms of the human experience. Morality, love, duty, and honor clash on so many levels in this book. A beautiful balance of personal relationships and larger political and societal conflicts run in tandem throughout the story.
The individual, the community, and the larger politic of society are woven together effortlessly – so much so that the boundary between them dissolves and pulls up the conflicts central to the story. I felt for all of the characters and their choices. Thorpe is able to highlight the human element within an intense and exciting plot line that kept me aware of the very personal and visceral aspects of choices between life and death that people make based on personal beliefs and/or for the greater good.
I imagine a great deal of research went into this book since it is based on historical precedents. Those aspects give the story and world a backbone that strengthens the details in the world building. Most notably, the gender dynamics the author uses to the foundation of the story are so powerfully conveyed – social encounters and conflicts push back against comfortable expectations and ideas of power, the individual, and the collective – my heart believed in these realities and it made me hunger for more, wanting to see this vision of a historical fantasy world broaden and deepen as the series continues. Add to that an ending like a dam bursting open and I'm hooked. Good thing I bought the entire series as a bundle. :-)
Profile Image for Bjørn.
Author 4 books132 followers
April 27, 2019
This is a five-star review with a caveat: this book isn't what it appears to be.

It's a trilogy, the title contains the word "Empire", a silhouette of a woman on a horse on the cover – like a run-of-the-mill epic fantasy cycle, right? What I received instead is a fascinating take on societal norms in an empire where roles of men and women have been divided so strictly that they must live separately except Festivals, when the two groups meet to – take a guess. In order to ensure the status quo is not disturbed children are sent "where they belong" early enough to learn the roles that an assembly – Partition – decided and implemented for them so long ago that hardly anybody remembers how or why. Nobody seems to question the order. That's how it's always been. Until a war begins; a war that, for the first time, requires women to fight. Some agree. Some refuse and are exiled from the communities. We watch the women train, grow to accept (or not) their new ways of living, fighting not just their instincts but also time, before the actual war begins – and quickly ends, because it's not the war that's important here. At this point I had to readjust my expectations before continuing, hence my remark at the beginning. There's nothing run-of-the-mill about Empire's Daughter.

The once seemingly untouchable societal norms begin to blur and crumble. Firm traditions, such as the division created by Partition, help lull people into a false (as proven at the beginning) sense of security, certainty that things have always been the same and will remain so. But now that the women have been presented with choices and shown different ways of life, not all of them want to simply go back to where they started. Some are more open-minded or demanding than others, some show open disdain towards those who want change. At the very beginning of the book a couple of women are split by their choices, as one decides to stay and fight, the other chooses exile not to be forced to kill. Do they meet later on? Perhaps. Do they find a way to be together again, even though their lives have been altered so much? Maybe. Do they agree on the way the society should continue...? As a suggestion of new Partition begins to be flaunted around, the question becomes – is it possible for a society to democratically decide to redefine itself so radically?

If you're looking for magic, dragons, pages-jam-packed-with-action, etc., this is not a read for you. Instead, Thorpe expertly builds an entire world and an entire society with its politics, ideas, traditions that suddenly fall apart – a bit like a post-apocalyptic novel minus the apocalypse.

The only problem that I encountered were multiple names similar enough to confuse me. In particular Callan, Colm, Casyn, and... I think there was another one starting with C... yeah. Eventually I figured out who was who, but it required my full attention – which might have been the author's way to ensure you read the entire book in one evening :)

PS. Please have Kristofer Hivju play Turlo in the movie adaptation, 'k? Glad we agree.
Profile Image for Liis.
572 reviews109 followers
December 23, 2015
This book…! Now this book is just something special…

This book gives a reader so much more than just one idea, one plot, one theme around strong women. This book will have you witness an Empires current, past and future affairs with its history literally changing before your eyes. It was absolutely fantastic!

In short- we are dealing with a way of life where males, from the age of 7, leave the villages to fight for the Empire and women are left behind in the villages to live, to manage, to work on food, clothing, farming, fishing. The women live in pairs- this was something that confused me in the beginning- they live in pairs? Like pairs-pairs? In some cases yes, romantically. In other cases just for support and companionship. And yet! During the Festivals where men are visiting the villages, they pair up with the women to produce offsprings. Meh, produce offsprings sounds so mechanical. Hehehe @ mechanical. Oh-Kay! Moving on!

So, this way of life has been in place for a couple of centuries- the men are gone to the army, the women hold the village life together by following a fairly political way of handling things (meetings, voting, no one speaks out of turn, that kind of stuff). One day, everything changes when a man comes to the village of Tirvan (same happens in other villages) and asks the women to learn how to fight to defend themselves and possibly to kill as there is a threat to their lives from a country of Leste. Trade used to work with no problem in between those two, but now Leste wants to come and raid for food. This causes women to change the foundations of their morals, their beliefs and the very foundations of their upbringing as they have agreed for decades that women do NOT kill.

But, as the women meet and vote, most of them agree to learn, even if for self-defense, to use knives, bows, swords. And so this book’s very being is set to motion- it’s kind of like a survival course and I mean it as a compliment. The story is full of strong, independent, hands on, not afraid of work kind of women. Not that I am a feminist or anything, but I truly appreciate the idea that when needed, the woman can take care of herself whether it is hunting, fishing, or wielding and axe (to chop wood of course!) :) In this story, the women, even though having men in the village for a while to help train them into combat, must face the raiding tides on their own as men have the Wall to defend and some will sail to Leste to overtake the threat.

I must say, I really like this book- there’s no excuses, do what must be done and get on with it. Much the way I like to live my own life. Don’t like something? A job task at an inconvenient time? Plans not coming to fruition as per wishes of “Princess But-I-Want”? Too bad, sissy, change your mindset and get on with it.

Anyway, as is natural to many things in life not everyone agrees to pick up arms and learn how to fight. Some women from all of the villages across the Empire stick to their beliefs and refuse to stay to defend their homes. So, they are exiled…

This is only the first half of the book. The story evolves so much more… New friendships are being forged, past beliefs are being put to a test. Our main character Lena will end up on a mighty adventure. Not only on horseback travelling through the Empire, but also on a journey to understand her heart, to learn who she is and what it is that she will stand for. Will women once again end up living alongside men? Or will they stay separated as per the old ways and only come together during Festivals for brief mechanical encounters?

A very strong and impactful book! Marian’s first novel in fact and I am in awe at how beautifully and well written it is! In fact, unless Marian is a pro at surviving in the wild she has done some awesome research into strategy, and everything involved in real hard work. I definitely recommend to give this one a go. A glimpse into the second book Empire’s Hostage tells me I need to read how the story evolves!
Profile Image for Laury.
Author 8 books49 followers
May 5, 2021
What an engrossing novel! I know it's an alternative history, but I kept finding my imagination slipping into the realness of it and wonder if this or that is how things *really* were...weren't they? The world, the characters, their intentions, their loves, their courage and struggles are all so utterly compelling it felt like I was transported to another time, a real historical time, not an alternative history! It has a bit of the feel of Years of Rice and Salt in that the tension is a slow build, layer upon layer, until it tumbles into the preparations for war and a new life for our "empire's daughter." I stayed up late reading it to simply be with these people and in this world a while longer. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Update: I am coming back to this review again to say how much this novel has stayed with me. I think of it often, the images that Thorpe so vividly created in my mind have inhabited it such that when my husband was listening to a podcast on ancient Greece and Rome.....I imagined it as Thorpe did in her alternative ancient history.

More than that, though, while the treatment of gender and gender relations is also alt-world, but inspires the reader to reflec on our own. It's a fact that gender and gender roles are not natural to the world. They arise out of cultural, political, economic, and environmental pressures. So in these novels, Thorpe changed a few things in our past and so much was different as a consequence. Women and men are separated from each other with distinct tasks, for good or ill, because of political circumstances and environmental need. I won't say more, because the author introduces it so quietly in this novel, you don't quite realize what Thorp has done until you get to Empire's Hostage where worlds and their competing notions of gender and gender roles collide. It's a feminist series, but also a beautifully queer one.

I mean, read this series. I've tried to talk everyone I know into reading them.
Profile Image for Christie Powell.
Author 21 books57 followers
April 6, 2021
Very realistic

I enjoyed this book. The world opperates on very different customs than mine, and it was fascinating to see what that might look like. The world and characters are extremely realistic. I found some of the second half of the book a little slow. But I did enjiy ghe real-life political problems andcquestions, and how they affect real people. Well-worth a read.
Profile Image for J.C. Paulson.
Author 10 books180 followers
January 31, 2022
The author said it best herself: this is "a unique world both familiar and unfamiliar - an empire on the edge of history."
"Unstuck," therefore, in both place and time, Empire's Daughter nonetheless provides a fascinating perspective on human nature. Why we fight. How and why we love. Who are the caretakers and who are the warriors . . . and sometimes, that we are both.
Thorpe's particular skill, however, is world-building, as many reviewers have noted. The novel unfolds steadily, gradually, elegantly, without the brain-freezing information dumps often forced upon us in lesser works. The reader grows into the world as the landscape and the sometimes heart-breaking social covenants seep into her consciousness.
Indeed, the author's prose is elegant, relatively unadorned and flowing; the plot, easy to follow; the motivations secured in the human condition.
Additionally, the sexual structure of this society is brilliantly done and within the overall social construct entirely sensible and believable. As a side note, I very much liked the characters' names . . . also recognizable while clearly different, when taken together, from real-life English speaking societies. An excellent touch.
I could not wait to pick up the book to end my day in a different world that nonetheless felt familiar, while existing on the edge of history.
Profile Image for Sydney Young.
1,095 reviews88 followers
December 30, 2021
Thoroughly enjoyed and couldn’t put down. Interesting world much like the Roman Empire except that a bargain has been struck and women / men live entirely separately except during an annual festival, when much fun is had for those who desire it.

Lena is happily living her life as a fisherwoman with her partner in her home village when a man who’d grown up there returns to inform them the Empire has learned of a planned attack. It will be so widespread that the Empire can’t hope to survive without the women putting up a brave defense. This sets off a series of events that catapults Lena into a life she never imagined, all while she suffers a string of losses. Of course, I wanted to see if the women’s village could do it, and m naturally became quite invested. I’ll happily read on to find out what happens next!

Profile Image for Angela Boord.
Author 8 books89 followers
October 26, 2020
This is a rather quiet historical fantasy with romantic elements that didn’t need lots of big magic and big action to keep me engrossed right to the end. The plot revolves around a fascinating social experiment: in the Empire, men and women live in separate villages. Men are required to be soldiers and boys are taken from the women’s villages at the age of seven; women farm and practice trades. But when the Empire is threatened by foreign raiders, women are asked to fight and work alongside men. This sets off a cascade of change, for both women and men of the Empire — not enough change for some, too much for others.

Lena’s calm, matter of fact narration leads the reader through the book, which doesn’t depend on action for suspense, but rather on the constant multiplication of changes and questions that stem from the single question that begins the book: “Women, will you fight?” I thought this was deftly done. Lena’s character is fairly straight-forward and this is reflected in both the prose and the story; there is some fighting, but it’s not the centerpiece of the book. The book really does a good job of showing sweeping societal change by zooming in on the effects those changes make in a single, ordinary woman’s life.

I really enjoyed this book, so much that I bought the next book immediately after I finished. The ending is a little cliffhangery but not too bad... just enough to make you want to see what happens to Lena in the sequel.
Profile Image for Samantha.
400 reviews39 followers
June 15, 2021
I received a free copy of this book from the author via Rachel's Random Resources in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Lena and Maya make a great pair. They are friends, lovers and have been since their tender teen years. For over 200 years the men and women of The Empire have lived separately. The women hunt, fish and have various other trade skills like making and mending clothing and other needed items; the men are soldiers, from the age of 7 they train to fight in The Emperor's Army keeping the entire Empire safe. One day the threat of war causes the Emperor to make a difficult decision, asking the women to put aside the Partition and learn to fight to defend their land. Their choice is simple, learn to fight or exile. Lena chooses to fight, Maya chooses exile. Now the two must part ways and for the first time they must navigate through their lives without each other.

This book is told in first-person point of view. This story was so good and the writing was absolutely wonderful. Thorpe gives us a wonderfully detailed picture of the places within the story. The characters themselves are also done perfectly. I found Empire's Daughter to be easily enjoyable. The pace is slower but not drawn out; it fits the story well.

I was feeling a lot things in this story. There are so many elements and events that lead you to feel different things from happiness and excitement to frustration and disappointment. Everything is challenged in this book from societal norms, personal beliefs and desires, and even when to abide by the law and when to bend or brake it. It's like watching an entire society unfold and then having them try to figure out how best to put it back together. Things will never be as they once were, roles are being redefined and now everyone must find their place in The Empire all over again.

What I liked most about this book was the strong female characters. The women are given a choice if they want to learn to fight to protect themselves and their land in the pending war. Some women choose not to and instead take their chances with exile, like Maya. The majority of the women chose to fight. This happens early in the book and it totally pumped me up for the book ahead. The women all coming together breaking tradition to defend their families and land hooked me.

"We defended our animals, and ourselves, with weapons." She thumped her staff on the floor. " I have killed a wolf or two in my time, and I would do it again. Why is this any different, except this time the wolves have two legs?"

I thought of Maya, of her passionate conviction that women did not fight, did not kill. I wondered if she would see the necessity of this ruling, or if she would think only that we had betrayed her beliefs.

Overall, I recommend reading this book. It is classified as fantasy but there are no magical elements to it. If you enjoy strong female characters, a dash of love and a sprinkle of hope and betrayal than you will probably enjoy this book. I definitely intend on finishing this trilogy.

You can read this and all my other reviews at https://fourmoonreviews.blogspot.com/...
Profile Image for Eileen Hammond.
Author 13 books19 followers
April 26, 2020
Thrilling tale about love, loss, and war.
Great book. Well written and obviously well researched. Lena is 17 and lives a sheltered life in her women-run village (Tirvan). Her lover and partner in business is Maya. The Emperor discovers that a rival country will soon attack. He sends mentors to the women’s villages to train them in warfare. The story is of female empowerment and Lena’s growth as she faces tough choices to become a leader. The book keeps you spellbound from the first page. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for gj indieBRAG.
1,509 reviews66 followers
June 23, 2021
We are proud to announce that EMPIRE'S DAUGHTER (Empire's Legacy #1) by Marian L. Thorpe has been honored with the B.R.A.G.Medallion (Book Readers Appreciation Group). It now joins the very select award-winning, reader-recommended books at indieBRAG
October 22, 2019
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed a copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources and Arboretum Press for this free copy.

Hand to hand combat violence and resulting death
the protagonist is trained as an assassin
No graphic sex. One cat dies, no dogs.
No sexual violence but discussion of rape a possibility.
**These content warnings were included by the author for this tour.

The premise of this first novel is definitely interesting, and it makes me think back to learning about the hunter-gatherer societies that were dominant in way ancient history. Similar to real history, the women were the gatherers of food and supplies, while the men use their physical prowess to defend their Empire. What’s more interesting in this novel, and something that I don’t remember hearing cases about in school, is that they basically kept the sexes separate from the moment the child turns 7 years old. Before then, women are the ones that raise the children despite their sex. So even in this world, they are still in charge of the “household” by taking care of the children and keeping them alive until it’s time for the boys to transition to live with the men and learn how to be soldiers.

While this arrangement has been working out for the Empire for over 20 generations, things have changed to the point that women are now “needed” to become soldiers and help protect the realm. I guess the men are finally realizing that women can actually be useful in the arts of war, especially if that’s something that they are more prone to helping their society through the art of war rather than the domestic arts.

One of the things that did hurt me was that since there were two different choices that the women had to make, our main couple weren’t able to come together and stay together. While one side went to fight, the other decided that it wasn’t worth it and chose to live in exile. Is the prospect of having to fight for your Empire that terrible that you’d rather not have the chance to come back home? I don’t remember how the punishments really work in this society, and what the repercussions would be for such “betrayal” to the Empire. Isn’t it better to actually have a choice that will be respected?

On another note, not all of the women should be forced to fight since women still need to be available to take care of the children that aren’t trained to fight or really need adult supervision in order to survive. It’s okay to not have all the women fight, and having them exiled is detrimental to the future of the Empire.

I’m curious to see what ends up happening in the next two books, on whether Lena and Maya ever see each other again, if their love is able to stand against these forces that have kept them away for selfish reasons. Nobody should be forced to kill if they were given a choice. They should have the choice to stay and defend their home in another way.

This was such an interesting take on a fantasy world, and went into gender roles in a way that was almost thought provoking on another level, one that I didn’t think I would have while reading this.

Profile Image for Kim Warner.
39 reviews
September 8, 2020
Empire’s Daughter, Book I of the Empire’s Legacy series, is a fascinating alternate telling of medieval history. It is well-told, well-researched, and well-plotted, to where the reader is truly immersed in the medieval world. Strong female characters drive the story-line and the depth and complexity of the characters gives the story incredible plausibility; it makes one wonder – perhaps it could have happened this way.

The evolution of Lena’s world is slow and steady. Descriptions and narration of the world are fascinating – one of the multitude of ways the author enhanced the story was by often answering the question why? Why do they structure things this way, why do they build things that way, why perform these particular tasks, why? Answering the why questions in the background gave credence to the world-building, and helped the reader sink deeper into the story.

Another nod to the author for bringing a variety of social issues into the book. So often I found myself comparing today’s world to Lena’s world, and wondering, what if? That, and noting that many issues seem embedded in our human nature, perhaps never to be altered.

It has been a while since I have woken at night and desperately wanted to read a book rather than sleep. Empire’s Daughter is such a book. If you are at all interested in history, if you believe strong female characters have a place in excellent writing and story-telling, if you crave being swept away on a quest that could change the world, this book is for you. And if you just love a well-told tale, I highly recommend the first of the series. I cannot wait to begin the next book.
Profile Image for Wendy Bayne.
Author 13 books56 followers
April 21, 2022
Empire's daughter is a unique and fascinating exploration of human nature set in backdrop of a fantasy nation devoted to separation of the sexes, except for procreation. Each part serving a vital function for the good of the Empire.
Yet as with any society change is inevitable and when the citizenry don't or won't adapt conflict arises.

Empires Daughter sets the stage for a look at how people deal with the stratification of their society. When the inevitable happens and the men ask the women to take on an unfamiliar role of warrior it is seen through the eyes of Lena hitherto a fisherman, now being trained in the art of war.
Relationships complicate Lena's life and the choices she makes coming out in the end as a changed woman if still somewhat conflicted.

Her adventure is not done though and she finds herself in the presence of the Emperor acting in a limited role as an advisor as he proposes sweeping changes to the original agreement that separated the sexes.
However the process is interrupted by an assassination attempt and a breaching of the Northern wall by a barbaric enemy. Will Lena answer the call to war once again, will the women of the Empire rise up once again to defend their homes and children? That remains be be seen I assume in the sequel Empire's Hostage.

Without a doubt a compelling read.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to others.
I will be continuing with the other books in the series.

Profile Image for Adam Wing.
Author 5 books55 followers
December 3, 2020
I was not sure what to expect when I started reading EMPIRE’S DAUGHTER by Marian L. Thorpe. I had been aware of her as an author for some time, and had heard good things about her EMPIRE series. Needless to say (or perhaps not), I was delighted with what I found.

The novel offers a fantasy world grounded in reality, in which the main speculative conceit is defined not by magic or monsters, but by a society divided in ways that difficult to imagine.

Yet imagine it, Thorpe has.

Perhaps this is why EMPIRE’S DAUGHTER felt so unique to me. While the world-building is first-rate and thoroughly researched (everything about the novel seems as if it’s pulled from first-hand experience), it doesn’t feel like an exploration of an unknown land, but rather a dive into our own. And while the story kept me invested, and certainly has its share of action, conflict, and danger, it mines its drama from the social challenges of a world like ours, but also different.

The truest thing I can say about this novel is that it felt real. It focuses on the connections between characters in ways books rarely seem to (and real-life drama never fails to). I was drawn into their lives as I would be for real-life friends.

I recommend this book and look forward to reading the sequels.
June 9, 2019
I really enjoyed this book. The romance subplot wasn't my cup of tea so I skimmed that and I don't think characterisation is the author's strongest point yet I was hooked on the story. There's something about preparing for war that I love to read about even though I'm a pacifist at heart. I loved the MC's interactions with all the side characters, as well as her growth into who she is now. I don't think she reads as a teenager but that's okay.
My favourite part was the ending though. My heart aches but the latter half of the book was excellently written and I'm eager to continue with book 2
Profile Image for Angela Crook.
Author 4 books13 followers
September 16, 2019
Empire's Daughter was a classic fantasy novel, quest included. If you're looking to go on an epic journey and fall into this world, so much alike, yet so different from our own, with fascinating characters and complex issues to resolve, this is the story for you. I look forward to books 2 and 3.
4 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2019
Thought provoking story line. Beautifully written. I love a book that starts with a map. Intriguing. I look forward to the next two books.
Profile Image for Helen Hollick.
Author 52 books508 followers
March 19, 2020
It's a difficult and probably daunting task to make up a world. The author has to utterly convince the reader that this new world is believable, and realistic, even though it is fantasy. So the first test of such a book surely must be to make the reader think that they are having a real world described to them. Empire's Daughter passes this first test brilliantly. The whole time I was reading, I was convinced that Ms Thorpe knows every tiny detail of the empire she has created, which made what she described on the pages feel incredibly real. The scenery, the customs and traditions, the way of life - all were portrayed so well that it felt like reading about a real time and place. It's clear that the author has done a great deal of research on several periods of history in order to make her imagined world feel so authentic.

I wasn't sure, initially, though, whether it was a place I necessarily wanted to spend time in, so far-removed was it from anything I'd come across before. But within a few pages I had settled in and felt like I was walking with Lena as she moved around the village. It was almost as if the author was saying, 'It's okay, come on in. It's new and different, but let me be your guide.'

And what a sure-footed guide Ms Thorpe is. This, the first in a trilogy, contains all the elements required of a great story: battle plans, battle scenes, a journey. But it also has human relationships, a love story, and a main character who grows and learns throughout the course of the book. It's not all about the main character though, and all the people whom Lena encounters are depicted vividly and are three-dimensional. One character, Tice, does not have a major role and yet her story affects many of the other characters. (She even has her own song, printed in full at the back of the book, which I thought was a great idea which gives a moment to pause and consider all that has been played out.) Lena's interaction with the other people in the story bring some touching moments, and the bonds she forms with them develop in a believable way. The relationship between her and her partner Maya is interesting and true to life; they love one another, but have opposing views and this leads to scenes of tender, emotionally-charged moments which really resonated. I really enjoyed this book and felt like I'd gone on Lena's journey with her. And here perhaps, the reviewer should ask whether the book passes the ultimate test: does it do its job, imagined world notwithstanding? The answer is a resounding 'Yes'. Long after I'd closed my Kindle on this particular volume, I found myself thinking about the characters and am keen to pick up the story in the next volume of the trilogy.

Originally Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
January 28, 2016
You can find this and other reviews on my blog: Mezzalily's Teen Book Reviews

Thanks to the author Marian Thorpe for sending me a e-copy of Empire's Daughter in exchange for an honest review!

“But the world changes. In all the women’s villages of the Empire, this week or next, a soldier like myself will arrive to ask to live in the village, to take up a trade.” Casyn paused, for a breath, a heartbeat. “And to teach you and your daughters to fight.”

In Empire's Daughter, women and men are separated due to the Partition agreement. Boys, aged 7 go off to fight for the Empire while the women learn trades and provide for the Empire's army. When a man of the Empire arrives at Tirvan, Lena and her partner Maya's lives change forever. While Maya chooses exile, Lena chooses to stay and defend her village from the Lestian invasion.

I loved the story, how men and women were separated and only came together during Festival. I also really liked the historical feel to the characters and landscape. Casyn's arrival in the village is well handled and shows the maturity of Lena.

Lena was a nice character. She was believable and showed many good qualities. However I did feel that she got over Maya to quickly. I liked her relationships with Casyn and Dern but also with other villagers as it added some depth to her character.

I felt the first half of the book was better than the second. In the first half, there are some great descriptions of the women learning to fight. The battle was also really well written, I loved how they planned and executed the battle. However, I felt the second half of the book didn't really live up to the expectations of the first half. I felt the search for maya was a bit pointless especially been as she knew it wouldn't work. However I did like it when she reached the Emperor's camp where she had her talks with Callan, Casyn and Colm.

Overall, I did feel that it was a very well written story with good ideas and characters but there were parts that I didn't like.
Profile Image for Dan Fitzgerald.
Author 7 books68 followers
January 11, 2020
The writing is tight, the story is well paced and plotted, and the writer knows just how much detail to give without going overboard.

The world is meticulously created, and the author’s research shines through in the details. Though the world is imaginary, it has the heft of reality. I’m not sure I’d call it fantasy, but it’s not historical fiction either. It’s a fully realized world very much like an unnamed place in medieval Europe, though you can never put your finger on where.

The themes of the novel include the slow, practical and reasoned building of a women’s rights movement in a patriarchal society ripe for change. But the success of the movement is anything but assured, and any number of events has the chance to derail it.

The writer also does a great job of portraying queer and straight relationships side by side, and the lack of heteronormative bias is quite refreshing. But like the book’s feminism, it is subtle, perfectly embedded in the world and the plot. It is a natural outgrowth of an ethos of equality that suffuses the book.

There’s a good mix of action and dialogue, swordplay and romance, not to mention fishing and farming. I would call the writer’s style measured, controlled, but still able to surprise you with a deft plot twist.

If you’re looking for a fantasy with dragons and fireballs, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for epic length and pages upon pages of description, this is not the book for you. But if you’re looking for a tight, well-constructed story of manageable length, a book that will keep you reading but taking your time to savor it, a book that will help you imagine a better past, and by extension a better future, Empire’s Daughter just might be the book for you.
Profile Image for J.R. Alcyone.
Author 2 books63 followers
June 9, 2020
So let's start with an admission on my part: I've never actually read a historical fantasy before. I love magical realism, but I find the world-building and all the rules in fantasies to be a little too confusing and tedious; I tend to like my fiction set closer to the real world. (To give you an idea, "Field of Dreams" is my favorite movie.) For that reason, I tend to read mostly realistic fiction and "regular" historical fiction, but I decided to give Marian's trilogy a try for IndieApril.

And now as I am finishing book three (and getting around to reviewing book one), I am glad I did.

I really loved this book that takes place in an alternative version of ancient Britain. Well-done first-person past tense is my favorite point of view to read, and this novel grabbed me from the get-go. The writing is top-notch, the world is fully realized, and the characters kept my interest throughout. There are thought-provoking points made throughout the story about gender roles, war, societal compliance, family, and loyalty. The amount of research, time, and energy that had to have gone into creating this novel is truly staggering to think about.

Yet it was always accessible. I never felt disoriented or confused or had to page back to figure out what was going on. If you shy away from fantasy because you're not a huge fan of world-building, this book is set in a world close enough to our own that you won't feel disoriented or lost.

Recommended for: Readers who like books written in the meticulous, historical fiction style, but want to expand their horizons a bit to read a novel set in an alternative "universe."
Profile Image for Terrible Timy.
219 reviews119 followers
February 18, 2023
This review was originally posted on Queen's Book Asylum!

I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been aware of the Empire’s Legacy series by Marian L Thorpe for a while now. Partly because of some of my friends who are huge fans of the author and partly through other channels. But I never could make up my mind about whether Empire’s Daughter would be up my alley or not. On one hand, I love historical fiction – I have a degree in History for a reason, you know, but on the other, I’m not really interested in books with a lot of military action and battles and tactics, and what have you. Gimme political games over military stuff anytime. When I opened my requests for a short while and Marian L Thorpe got in touch, I thought why not? Let’s give it a chance and see where I end up with it.

But even after finishing it just in a couple of days, I still have no idea where I’m standing with the Empire’s Daughter. I don’t think I liked it, but at the same time, I can see what Thorpe was doing here and why many readers loved it. It tells the story of an Empire that needs to be changing after rigid rules were made about 200+ years ago as new challenges are rising.

It gives us an interesting insight into a society where men and women have their own divided worlds, rules, and roles and how these interact with each other, how even the smallest changes affect them, and what reactions are given by the people. Where same-sex relationships are normal, and the two worlds only meet twice a year when it’s time for the Festival where they can have liaisons in order to have children. And even then, women have a free choice whether they want to bear children or not, knowing that every boy has to be taken away at the age of 7 to become a soldier.

It’s a story told from the POV of Lena, a young woman by their standards, even if she is only 17. She lives through these changes, even encourages some, or at least has a say in them all the while she also learns that every decision has consequences. I sometimes struggled to remember she was actually 17, as she acted above her age, but then it’s easy to forget that we are judging these characters through our modern glasses, and that societal norms were very different centuries ago.

Thorpe’s writing style makes Empire’s Daughter a smooth and easy read. It’s easy to depict Tirvan (Lena’s village) and its many features, and the people living there. What I had issues with was the pacing. It was a bit too slow for my liking. I admit I grew bored at times, especially toward the halfway point. Personally, I enjoyed the last 30% or so the best, that’s where the book really got me interested, but that’s a bit too late. I wished the first 2/3rd of the book was trimmed down a bit and the ending was in the middle where things really got going. While I appreciate slow worldbuilding, here it was just super slow. This wouldn’t have been such a big problem if 1) I was invested in the characters, which I wasn’t (considering this book is pretty character-driven, that was an issue), and 2) if I enjoyed descriptions of different pieces of training and tactics and whatnot. It’s very much a case of it’s me, not the book.

My biggest complaint with Empire’s Daughter is that it’s too… clean. Sure, there is a bit of blood, a few people die “on screen”, and some heavy topics are brought up, but on the other hand, I never really got raw emotions, nor felt the realness of some situations (or most, anyway). Some things happen off-screen I think should have been in the focus – like that time one character saves another, we are told it happens, and everyone is happy, but I’d rather have read about that than how they spent a whole day making the waterfall climbable. Although, since this was written from the POV of Lena who wasn’t present, that would have been hard to pull off, but still.

Or another example is, although Lena has a partner in Maya, she eventually decides to lay with a man – we see some of that relationship building up, but we never get Lena’s feelings about her first time with a man, specifically – but then again, I might have missed the fact she already had a male partner at a Festival, although I doubt it. And most people are just really nice or understanding and welcoming and it’s just way too feel-goody for me, especially since this is a world where war is looming. And I understand that it was important to show that men in this world can be thoughtful and caring and have a soft side despite the fact they’ve been trained as soldiers since their birth. And yes, there are asshole characters – there always are – but they are few and far between and usually there to show how super nice everyone else is. It feels weird to complain about this as I like cozy reads, but I also prefer asshole characters. Not sure what that says about me…

One more thing I wanted to mention is the lack of religion – or rather, we know that there is a goddess, but faith doesn’t get an important role in this world, nor is there much talk about it. Which I find curious, because religion, myths, and legends were always at the center of most civilizations. And this is what fascinates me in any type of worldbuilding – how faith and god(s) come into play regarding the main plot or even just the characters’ everyday life.

I probably could go on with a lot more thoughts, but this already turned out to be another long review. So, in closing, I’m going to say that Empire’s Daughter is a debut novel that gives much food for thought. It’s not exactly what I expected and I might not have been the right audience, but I can see the intent behind it, and I’m curious how much Thorpe grew as an author over the years. Empire’s Daughter has a different approach to historical fiction, showing a different side of what a reader might be used to, and is not afraid to slow the space to make sure we get a clear – although maybe over-detailed – picture of what is going on. If that sounds like your jam, you most likely will have a good time getting immersed in it!
Profile Image for epizkey.
16 reviews3 followers
June 19, 2015
An insightful and breathtaking story: Empire’s Daughter is an an inspiring, exciting story that encompasses a great deal of intriguing themes and insights into society, human nature, and personal struggle and growth. Written for the experienced reader, Empire’s daughter is the first in a series that will take the reader on an adventure of epic proportions. A must-read!
747 reviews11 followers
November 11, 2019
This is the story of an Empire, communities and a woman. Told by the leading character, Lena, this is an epic fantasy which is also truthful to the emotions of individual’s facing challenges both similar and different to reality. Lena, her mother, sister, aunt and others all live in a village of women and girls of all ages, and boys under seven. Men are only permitted to enter the village and be with the women and sometimes their children at certain festival times. Otherwise they are soldiers, boys and men, guarding the edges of the Empire.

The coastal village of Tivan is a self supporting community, with fishing, farming and hunting all undertaken by women and girls. The midwife is kept busy as women can become pregnant at Festival times, and the whole community assists with bringing up the children. Lena is seventeen, just finished her apprenticeship in sea fishing, and shares a boat and her life with her partner, Maya. The village is run by a democratic council of all the women, with three leaders. All is peaceful in a village and an Empire wide system that has run for ten generations. Sometimes Lena wants adventure, going further in her boat, but mainly she is satisfied with life, content in the known and traditional. This book so cleverly sets up the situation and details of the village and its inhabitants that it becomes a historical novel, complex yet understandable, solid and completely engaging. I recommend this book as an excellent read for fans of historical fiction and those who enjoy an element of fantasy.

The real importance of this book is the demonstration that women can not only run a peaceful society, but also rise to a time of unprecedented crisis. After an establishing of the relationships and order with which life runs in Tivan, which details how everything is expected and calmly dealt with by the women, a new person in the village creates excitement and discussion. There are suggestions of a sort of Roman society with communal baths, an Empire of long standing, and a carefully organised society with a huge military element. The technology is also of the Roman era, with sail powered boats, scythes for harvest and crucially knives, archery and other hand weapons for battle. When danger threatens, the best way of proceeding is debated, and it is Maya’s decision to go into exile from the village which affects Lena’s life so profoundly. The training for warfare is exhaustively and well described, revealing extensive and detailed research. The various attitudes, abilities and challenges faced by the individuals in the story really come alive, and surprises and revelations among the detailed progress of close battle really involve the reader.

I really enjoyed this book, and the character of Lena really comes alive through her mixed emotions and feelings. Her impetus to seek out Maya propels much of the book, as well as her loyalty to her village, family and friends. The other characters she encounters, such as Casyn, make her question the way things have been, and whether they have to as she discovers the Empire outside Tivan. The relationships between men and women, characterised by Casyn as “We live apart and die apart”, is at the centre of the novel, as well as the underestimation of women as fighters shown by some men. This examination of an alternative way of life made me, and I suspect others, reflect on the expectations of our society, and in particular relationships between women and the genders. The list of characters is a bit overwhelming in the start of the book, and I wonder if it is too detailed. That is a minor quibble with a book I found memorable and enthralling. I have been so glad to have the opportunity to read and review this novel, and would love to read the subsequent books mentioned in the start of Marion’s saga.
Profile Image for C.D. Tavenor.
Author 20 books67 followers
February 28, 2019
Marian Thorpe’s Empire’s Daughter, the first book of her Empire’s Legacy series, takes place in the fictional land known simply as “The Empire.” Written in the first person, the tale follows Lena, a young woman raised in the coastal town of Tirvan. Within the first few pages, I realized I’d stumbled upon a truly special story; for Thorpe has created an alternative world that bends gender and sexual norms in brilliant form.

In the Empire, women live separate from men. The men all join the military at a young age, while the women live in villages scattered throughout the land, as established by a treaty between men and women centuries before the narrative. Women raise both boys and girls until the age of seven, when the men come to take their sons off to war.

But this world isn’t some strange sexist place where men rule over women; the arrangement was mutually established, and men and women view each other as equals throughout. I won’t spoil how Thorpe continually complicates gender dynamics throughout the book, but this alternative reality she’s created truly forces readers to think about the absurdity of “traditional” gender and sexual rules that exist in our world today. Just imagine if history had followed an alternative path, what possibilities could have occurred.

Yes, I’ve been raving about the setting, but the characters of Empire’s Daughter are also incredibly diverse in their beliefs, convictions, and behaviors. On one page you’ll meet a bull-headed, stubborn women, on the next the insightful old grandmother. Elsewhere, you’ll meet the thoughtful military commander, immediately followed by the drunken disorderly soldier. Through her characters, Thorpe breathes life into her world in a way few writers can.

Finally, I can’t emphasize enough that Thorpe knows how to continuously raise the stakes of conflicts, both internal and external, as she constantly expands and contracts the plot throughout the story. And every conflict pays off, in curious, intriguing, thoughtfully thematic ways.

I highly recommend Empire’s Daughter. Any reader will find something to enjoy in this novel.

Writing: 9/10. Thorpe’s writing is some of the cleanest I’ve seen of indie-authors, and she successfully draws you in with her rich descriptions and sensory experiences.

Characters: 10/10. Even through a first person perspective, Thorpe makes you feel the emotions and pains of other characters. That’s hard to accomplish.

Setting: 9/10. I only withhold ten points from this category because I earned absolutely no context for lands (save one) beyond the Empire’s borders. It’s not necessary for this story, perhaps, but given the detail provided everything else, I wish I’d learned just a little about the geopolitics of the world!

Plot: 10/10. All conflicts serve a purpose and connect with powerful themes that undercut every page. You will want resolution alongside Lena, the main character, and you’ll be rooting for wins for other characters, too!

Overall: 9.5/10. Empire’s Daughter receives the second five star review from The Two Doctors Review. Well done, Marian Thorpe!
Profile Image for Cassandra MADEUP BookBlog.
424 reviews6 followers
October 7, 2019
This was an absolutely wonderful story full of the intrigue and politics that come with civilisation, a world that has been wonderfully and cleverly created to give a very rounded and realistic impression that makes it feel as though the Author has been to this place as opposed to having created it.

I loved the storyline, which shifted and changed in ways that I wasn’t entirely expecting, but in ways that completely made sense and didn’t once leave me wondering where something had come from. Oh don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see some of it coming, but even them situations, after it had happened made perfect sense.

The ideas behind this story are unique but not entirely unbelievable. This is a society in which the government that exists has created a society in which men and women live entirely separately, they only mingle on particular festivals and for specific reasons, and I’m sure that you can figure out from there the point of the festivals.

Children are given set roles, and once they are old enough are sent to learn and fulfil those roles within their society, and this has been happening long enough that this just is accepted, it’s “how it’s done”. When the rules change because suddenly there’s a war that needs the women to fight, everything changes and not all are happy with it.

This is the premise of the story, two women who end up separated because of this, but it’s so much MORE than that. This story delves into the problems that can be caused when the status quo within society changes, when peoples roles are adjusted and the upheaval that can ensue as a result, and it is done wonderfully. We see the changes in attitudes, the confusion and overall uncertainty for people who previously knew exactly what to do and what was expected of them.

The women we follow take different paths, one chooses to fight and the other chooses exile. As you can imagine, their reasons are explored and both seem reasonable, as everyones perspective does when you look at their view. We see the society changing and the changes to the people within it, and it’s brilliantly done. Everything is explained easily and the story flows wonderfully from one scene to the next, but it isn’t exactly what you would picture from a “Fantasy” novel? So if you prefer stories to be heavier on the magic and less concerned with the inner movements of society, you may not be as interested at this point, but what I will say is that I would have felt the same.

I was intrigued by the idea of two female lead characters and wanted to see where it went, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am SO glad I gave this a chance, it was really REALLY enjoyable!! Highly recommend it for a change of pace!
September 15, 2021
I accidentally stumbled upon Ms Thorpe’s books one day while scrolling through the SPFBO hashtag. The Self-Published Blog-Off has made me familiar with lots of books that I ended up loving (Senlin Ascends, Orconomics, Kings of Paradise, etc…), so I always try to follow which books caught the eyes of the reviewers. Intrigued by all the good reviews for Empire’s Daughter, and lucky enough that there was a sale because the sixth book in the series was coming out, I did not hold back and grabbed the first three books and started reading Empire’s Daughter.

Ms Thorpe skillfully portrayed how a nation reacts to impending changes in its traditions. Through Lena, we see the mixed emotions of the women who never knew a different life than farming and fishing who now have to pick up weapons and fight for their freedom. Not every woman reacts the same way and even the women who oppose the fighting get a voice and their actions are portrayed in a neutral light.

“From our earliest childhood, we knew how our lives were structured and where the duty of both men and women lay. I had not considered, until tonight, that sacrifice underpinned that structure, that each of us paid some inestimable price for our calm and ordered existence.”

Lena does not become brave overnight, Maya’s departure torments her but she needs to put on the roles of one of the village leaders and soldiers. She is confused, frustrated and makes mistakes, but she knows that she needs to protect her home.

“You will do what you need to do, but when this is over— and it will be over, soon— you need to grieve. For Maya, for our changed life, for the lives you will have taken and lost. If you do not grieve, Lena, you will break.”

Every aspect of the preparations for war is mentioned in great detail. The first half of the book might have suffered a little bit as it has slower pacing, but it picks up after the invasion. We get insight into how the women live every day, before and during the war preparations, and one can see that Ms Thorpe has done a lot of research.

Even though the cast is rather large, Ms Thorpe manages to describe the motivations and peculiarities of the characters in few words. Her characters are lifelike and convincing. I could see the book adapted into a drama that would keep the audience engaged. Moreover, Ms Thorpe’s storytelling is precise and elegant.

Empire’s Daughter is a beautiful book with a lot of heart that will leave you pondering over it long after you read it.

Pick it up if you like:

alternative history
low fantasy books
well written female characters
thought-provoking books
My rating: 8/10
Profile Image for Cheryl Burman.
Author 11 books50 followers
August 14, 2021
Marian Thorpe admits that her made up world is drawn from bits of our own - most made up worlds are - but the society she has created to live in that world is far from anything we know. A fascinating concept, where the women are not just the mothers, the cooks, the healers but also the blacksmiths, the fishermen and the farmers - in fact everything with one exception: they cannot be soldiers. That's what the men are - all of them, trained away from home from the age of 7 (this broke my heart a little, I have to say!). It works, it's accepted, and twice a year the two halves of this society 'meet' at Festival to ensure the next generation.
Then a man, Casyn, arrives at Lena's village with startling news. The Empire is about to be invaded by neighbouring Leste, and the women are asked to defend their homes while the army in turn invades Leste while its own army is busy with the Empire. The women react in different ways, as expected. Lena is excited by the idea, but her partner Maya loathes it as being a departure from tradition. Besides, there is no way she could kill another person. In refusing to agree to the Council's ruling that the village will learn to fight, Maya is sent into exile.
The story is not so much about the war and fighting (although Thorpe has obviously done an enormous amount of research into many areas, including knife fighting, to give credibility to her tale) as it is about Lena's personal journey following the heartache of the separation. Lena learns to put community above self (an innovative idea these days), she works at being the best in the leadership role she is given and she takes responsibility for her own actions. Along the way, her world expands, against a background of changing times as the old traditions are now seen as being able to be challenged. Well written, pacy and full of interesting characters, Empire's Daughter won't disappoint.
Author 1 book2 followers
December 19, 2020
Empire’s Daughter is a fantasy book that proves you don’t need magical systems or different humanoid species to make something interesting. Taking in place in a secondary world iron age era, Empire’s Daughter follows Lena, a young woman from an all-women village as life as she knows is about to change.

I couldn’t put this book down, and found myself longing to cosy up with a cup of tea to read it. I haven’t had that feeling in a while.

One of my favourite things about this book is the language, both how Marian L. Thorpe describes the world, but also how the characters speak and interact with each other. It’s simple, effective, and honest. Being in first person, the text in itself lifts the world and the characters beautifully. It was inspiring, to say the least.
The social culture of the characters is realistic. Lena handles emotional and psychological trauma in a mature and thoughtful way, which was a wonderful change of pace to read.

What I did miss from the world building was religion. There isn’t really any spirituality or cults in this book, and for an iron age setting, it felt a little off for me. Another thing was the food consumed in the book. While I appreciate Lena eating and sleeping and bathing a lot, there was a disturbing lack of porridge. People mostly eat apples, meats of different kinds, bread and cheese and so on, which for a history junkie like myself, sounds like party food. It’s just a small thing that took me out of an otherwise extremely well written setting. Since it’s a fantasy book, however, I’m inclined to forgive.

I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of Empire’s Daughter. It’s full of people to love, a world building everyone should take note of, and a story that will stay with you. I can’t wait to read the next one!
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