The first of a trilogy of books connected to Feist’s Riftwar series, the books are set in the world of Kelewan, on the other side of the Rift. A world controlled by an emperor, and a warlord, but dependent on the politics of the ‘game of houses’ that requires alliances, military might, and the skillful diplomatic and dangerous games of promise and betrayal.
The landscape creates the image of feudal Japan, but on an alien world. Families are esteemed, and feared, based on their standing in the game of houses. At the top of the hierarchy is the emperor and the warlord, and the four great houses. Nearly as ancient, revered, and feared are the Acoma, a strong established family. As the daughter of the Acoma, Mara, is entering her final rights into service to the goddess, her father, brother, and most of their army are slaughtered in the Riftwar when they are betrayed by one of the great houses. Ripped from her training to return as the Lady of the Acoma, she must try to survive, succeed, and grow through her own cunning in the playing of the game of houses. A woman of eighteen she shows particular aptitude to the game, and begins a series of alliances, careful strategies, and a self-serving twist of tradition to survive those plotting against her. Her bravery, skillful political calculation, and disarming grace show she is well suited to play with the big boys. It is exciting to see her face the challenges, and she will surprise you time and again. The fierce loyalty she commands from the Acoma aid in her risky, and novel approaches to the game. Her willingness to bend, but not break, tradition allows her to grow her might through novel recruiting, and an alliance with an insect race.
The trilogy is different than the Riftwar books which start with the “Magician’s Apprentice” and follow the rise of the powerful magician Pug. They give you a glimpse of the enemy and its society. You will cheer Mara, even as you might condemn her world, and the intricate introduction to the game of houses will pull you into the following books. It is exciting, harrowing, and sometimes surprising, but a worthwhile read. It gives you a greater appreciation of Feist, and deeper understanding of the conflict he has meticulously created.
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