Mara has to be one of my all time favourite protagonists. Brilliant book.
So we start with Mara about to undergo her rites of admission to a religious order. However due to circumstances out of her control, this is interrupted and she becomes Ruling Lady of the Acoma and is thrust into survival to both save herself, her House, and all the people she rules as her family’s enemies try to destroy her.
Mara has to be one of the best young female protagonists I have ever read about. She is not athletic, she barely walks anywhere. She is not good at weapons, the one time she tries to release an arrow she fails. What she is though is smart, and she uses that along with using the training and abilities of those she rules to move ahead in the game. She’s also self-aware enough to know her limitations though sometimes she takes a bit of time to get there.
It is a truly alien world she lives in, where ‘Honour’ is everything, or at least the appearance of it. Slavery is common and widespread, indeed the whole world’s economy is based on it. What is truly unique here I think is that, at least in this book, no one questions it. During a raid, a slave boy is killed and no one cares, not Mara or anyone close to her, they care more about the animals he was guarding. It can be hard to read sometimes but it is interesting and fairly unique as often modern sensibilities are put on it. Anyone who is associated with her house, slave or not, is totally at her mercy. She can order the death of anyone and it will be done instantly.
How Mara deals with her marriage is both brilliant and disturbing. Buntokapi is not a nice man but he was ruthlessly dealt with. How the plan came together was just astounding. And that’s not even going into the events at the Minwanabi House. There is a bit of Mary Sue about Mara, but honestly I don’t care. She makes mistakes and though there are fortuitous occurrences, she makes the most of them.
This is set in the world of Kelewan, which is part of Raymond E Feist’s Riftwar saga. It is not necessary to have read them, though it will definitely add more context to certain parts. This is an amazing world, dark but so interesting with a real feel of history behind it. It has lots of great characters, not just Mara, though nearly the whole book is from her POV. It’s been quite a while since I read this but it holds up as well as I remember.