Mon
Jul 14 2014 3:00pm

Rereading the Empire Trilogy: Daughter of the Empire, Part 9

Welcome back to the reread of Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts’ Daughter of the Empire! Finally a chapter in which almost nothing terrible happens. Phew.

Chapter 11: Renewal

SUMMARY:

Mara performs the ritual of mourning with her husband’s ashes—with notably mixed feelings as compared to when she did this for her father and brother. Her father-in-law arrives at the gates. While her soldiers prepare themselves to defend her if necessary, Mara goes out to Lord Tecuma’s litter and presents Ayaki to him; hardly the ideal circumstances for this ceremony.

Cold in her presence, Tecuma calls her a murderess and makes it clear to her that he knows she must have engineered for Bunto to make such a public insult to the Warlord and his father.

Something akin to respect coloured his manner for a brief instant. ‘I salute your brilliance in the Game of the Council, Mara of the Acoma’—then his voice turned flint-hard—‘But for this one bloody victory you shall pay in kind.’

Mara knows that Tecuma is grieving and angry. She will not, however, put up with his attempt to place a representative of his house in her household as Ayaki’s guardian. She asserts her status as mother of the next Lord of the Acoma—who are not and never will be vassals to the Anasati family. Tecuma released Buntokapi from all ties to his own family in order to become Lord of the Acoma, and Mara will not stand for him attempting to take power now.

Mara has inherited the rule of the Acoma from her husband, and will hold it until Ayaki turns twenty-five—and if she should die before that, he will rule as she does, vulnerable and underage. She points out the two things they have in common: caring for Ayaki and making things difficult for Lord Jingu of the Minwanabi.

Tecuma concedes that it is in his interest that Mara stays alive… for now. They part without violence.

Mara now turns her attention to the next dangerous problem in her life: Teani, Buntokapi’s concubine, whom she now knows to be a Minwanabi spy. Mara visits the town-house, with Papewaio and a disguised Arakasi among her honour guard. Teani greets her wearing robes more costly than any that Mara owns.

Mara lets Teani know that her services are no longer required by the Acoma, and insults her by suggesting the only useful role she could play is as a camp follower. She then dismisses Teani’s attempts to assert her value as a member of the household, letting her know that the town-house is to be cleared and sold.

Far from being pensioned off handsomely for her high-status position as mistress, or being granted another position on the Acoma estate, Teani is forced to leave with nothing but the gifts given to her by Buntokapi. She is enraged.

As they leave, Arakasi warns Mara that she has made an error—she believes it doesn’t matter whether someone tries to kill her for political rather than personal reasons, but the enemy who hates you is more likely to risk everything to cause you harm.

Teani travels away from Sulan-Q, returning to the Lord of the Minwanabi. Along the way, she meets a pot-seller who is revealed to be Chumaka, advisor of the Anasati. Teani has been a double agent all along. To her frustration, there is no planned vengeance against Mara despite her role in the death of Buntokapi.

Enraged at how her comfortable situation with Buntokapi has been destroyed, Teani intends to get her revenge against Mara no matter what—if she can’t do it in the name of the Anasati then she will turn to her other master, the Lord of the Minwanabi.

Chumaka is quite pleased at how all this has turned out—he had no particular fondness Buntokapi, and feels that Teani will be more use in the house of Minwanabi than in Sulan-Q. Ah, politics, he loves it.

Mara calls a board meeting of her advisors. The agenda includes such items as the ongoing expansion of their garrison, and how they can recover from the damage that Buntokapi did to their general finances. Arakasi notes that when Mara’s period of mourning ends, the marriage brokers from various households will start flocking in, and they will inevitably have Minwanabi spies among them. Mara promotes Nacoya to First Advisor, a position that has remained empty for some years, and everyone is delighted for the old nurse.

Sure enough, when the mourning period for Buntokapi comes to an end, Mara slips out of her red wardrobe and into a big pile of hopeful petitions from new suitors. Obviously she hasn’t got TOO bad a reputation as a black widow… Or would that be red widow in this context?

Bruli of the Kehotara (a Minwanabi vassal) is the first suitor they allow to formally present his petition—his family is too powerful for Mara to ignore or dismiss even though she would rather eat glass. At least they don’t have to worry about whether there will be Minwanabi agents in his retinue—because there obviously will.

Mara and Nacoya amuse themselves with the vain Bruli, who arrives in full warrior regalia—Mara plays the vapid socialite who cares more about fashion than war honours, and Nacoya gives the boy some elaborate, time-wasting advice on how to win her heart.

Meanwhile, there is a petition from Hokanu of the Shinzawai, whose family would be a powerful political alliance. MARRY HIM, MARA, HE’S LOVELY!
There are still a few financial loose ends left from Buntokapi’s reign—gambling debts, which Mara pays off without hesitation, but also a debt owed to him for his wrestling wins against the Lord of the Tuscalora. When they write to request the debt be paid, the Tuscalora send back such an insulting refusal that Mara reluctantly gears up the soldiers for a military response.

Here we go again.

COMMENTARY:

Ah, bureaucracy! Mara’s life is slowly getting back to normal, with meetings and politics and accidentally declaring war on other families, that sort of thing. It’s a little jarring to realise how quickly she is expected to start dealing with the next husband, though there is a mourning period we get to skip over quickly.

Husband-free zone for a while at least, surely? Though of course there’s that damaging perception that a woman on her own is vulnerable…

Teani takes over a good chunk of this chapter with her stompy machinations. I find it interesting that the novel has told us repeatedly that most of the sex workers on this world are highly honoured, valued and respected, and yet the one time we get into the head of one, we get a pretty dark history of abuse, sexual perversion and cruelty. Is the narrative reverting casually the kinds of clichéd tropes that people expect to see in a woman who is a fantasy novel ‘concubine,’ or is this a deliberate subversion of what we are told versus what we are shown?

Teani, like Mara, is put in the position of having to kill a bunch of slaves for the sake of discretion—it’s really fascinating how little trust the Tsurani place upon their slaves considering the high expectations they have of those who are sworn voluntarily to their families, almost as if slavery is an unworkable system!
Mara may have been pretty morally reprehensible for what she did back in the Cho-ja hive, but at least she doesn’t get sexually excited by the prospect of the cold-blooded murder.

Oh, Teani. No one wants us to like you.

It’s odd and quite endearing to see Mara and Nacoya having fun with Bruli, despite the seriousness of the situation—in another reality these two women would be performing long cons up and down the country, scamming their way from place to place. Nice to see them working as a team for something other than dishonouring and murdering a person.

The whole Tsurani honour thing, though, I’m pretty much over at this point. I can see why Mara can’t let such a blatant insult go because it’s a test of her power and her reputation, but it’s just EXHAUSTING, this society of theirs. Can’t they all just agree to arm wrestle over points of honour instead of constantly armouring up?

The silk and the chocha might be nice, but I’m so glad I don’t live there.


Tansy Rayner Roberts is an Australian fantasy author, blogger and podcaster. She won the 2013 Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Tansy has a PhD in Classics, which she drew upon for her short story collection Love and Romanpunk. Her latest fiction project is Musketeer Space, a gender-swapped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers, published weekly as a web serial. Come and find her on Twitter!

9 comments
Tabby Alleman
1. Tabbyfl55
Is the narrative reverting casually the kinds of clichéd tropes that people expect to see in a woman who is a fantasy novel ‘concubine,’ or is this a deliberate subversion of what we are told versus what we are shown?
I think neither, since both assume that Teani's story is typical of Tsurani sex-workers. But Teani is also a spy and a double-agent, so I don't think we can regard her as a typical example.
megaduck
2. megaduck
”I find it interesting that the novel has told us repeatedly that most of the sex workers on this world are highly honoured, valued and respected, and yet the one time we get into the head of one, we get a pretty dark history of abuse, sexual perversion and cruelty. Is the narrative reverting casually the kinds of clichéd tropes that people expect to see in a woman who is a fantasy novel ‘concubine,’ or is this a deliberate subversion of what we are told versus what we are shown?”

Most of what we’ve seen from the world comes from Mara, who is a highly privileged person with a relatively sheltered upbringing. She also, at this point in the story, buys the party line hook line and sinker.

Theoretically, sex workers are honoured, valued, and respected, in this culture as Mara believes. At the same time, they are ripe for abuse (as is anyone, especially a woman, low status in this culture. For example, Mara’s Maids under Bunto.)

So I would say this is deliberately peeling back some of the nastiness that lurks in this culture that Mara is not in a good position to see.

“Nice to see them working as a team for something other than dishonouring and murdering a person.”

Well, murdering at least. I’m pretty sure they are planning to Dishonor Bruli and shame him to the almost to the point of suicide. I never thought of her as a black widow, but at this point, it really fits.
.
Not that I can blame her, Tsurani play hardball.
Sara H
3. LadyBelaine
Indeed, this very chapter shows us that although Teani was give a quasi-honored position as courtesan/mistress... she is theoreticallly reduced to being a camp-following prostitute with one sharp shoved by a wealthy noblewoman.

The misery of sex workers is there, its just that Mara moves in a rarified air with concubines and mistresses as part of her social arena. Even the Ladies of Reed Life are high-class prostitutes who work out of posh brothels. Mara, as we know, at this point in her life, has no conception for the misery and brutalityimposed upon the lower classes.
Brian R
4. Mayhem
Yep, there are definitely several types of sex worker here - the high status high maintenance "Courtesan" type, who has status based on who she is attached to, but is nothing without a patron.
Then there are the Reed Life, who seem to be a vaguely religious order ... similar to the formalised brothels in the Kushiel series.

And finally we have the common prostitute, at the level of the soldiers and general tradespeople who is simply not part of Mara's world so not visible to the text.
I'm not so sure that they are the same low status high risk as in our modern world though - camp followers have always been relatively accepted *in their class*, compared with say the kind of desperate man or woman working today's streets. And we haven't yet seen any signs of drug addiction, which removes one form of coercion.
megaduck
5. megaduck
Mayham @4
"Then there are the Reed Life, who seem to be a vaguely religious order ... similar to the formalised brothels in the Kushiel series.

And finally we have the common prostitute, at the level of the soldiers and general tradespeople who is simply not part of Mara's world so not visible to the text."

Hmmm, I never saw the Reed life as a religious order or guild and that the common prostitutes were different. At one point (I don’t remember in which book, sorry) that there were sailors going to the women of the Reed life. Also there is a mention in book 3 that Women of the Reed life do not have a high life expectancy.

I would guess the breakdown is,
Courtesan - Educated/Beautiful enough to be taken as a lords/merchants full time mistress.
Woman/Man of the Reed life – A generic term for a sex worker but mostly applies to someone that has a fixed address. They stay at the same Brothel or shop the same way a trades person may. There is probably a range of social status here depending on who their clients are and how prosperous they are.
Camp Follower – a Vagrant sex worker. These people don’t have a fixed place to stay and instead wander from camp to camp. Based on historical models they would probably be closer to laundry women and cooks who also had sex with the soldiers.

As Tsurani culture is based on Korean culture we could probably look at prostitution in Korea to get more information.

“And we haven't yet seen any signs of drug addiction, which removes one form of coercion.”

I’m not sure you’d need drug addiction as Tsurani culture is so stratified movement between classes or occupations is nearly impossible. Once you get someone into that position then society would do the coercion for you.
megaduck
6. Capper
I did not see a new installement today (7/21). I look foward to Tansy's reread every week. This is a great series of books and the rereads have been very entertaining! Thanks very much for doing this!
Maiane Bakroeva
7. Isilel
So, now we know why it was so important for Mara to wait until Ayaki was born and survived the first few months - or was it closer to a year? Having a child of shared blood was crucial to her plans.

Also, it seems that Ayaki will inherit at 25 because he is technically inheriting from Bunto. If Mara didn't transfer lordship to her husband, she could have, presumably, ruled until her death, like a man would have.

Why on earth is Chumaka pleased? Surely, Teani is now motivated to throw in with the Minwanabi, rather than remain loyal to Anasati.

Also, I don't entirely understand Mara's catty behavior towards Teani. I mean, it isn't like she could possibly be jealous or anything. She disliked Bunto and was relieved when he moved to the city and his mistress. Yes, Teani is a Minwanabi spy, but wouldn't it have been better to feign ignorance?

Oh, yea, I am also curious regarding the missing update. What's up, Tansy/Tor?
Tansy Rayner Roberts
8. TansyRR
Hi all!

Sorry about the missing post, it was ready to go but I think I hit the wrong button, and we all just failed to notice in time. Regular schedule will return this week.

xx
megaduck
9. alreadymadwithteani
I guess what they mean about sex workers is that they are valued within their class, but like most other sections of society, tend to be stratified as well. Loss of a powerful patron can also equate to loss of ability to maintain her high class and lifestyle and hence loss of status, which is big everywhere else and difficult to reverse. Mara rubbing it in, I'm not sure if it was personal, or if she was simply goading the Minwanabis by proxy.

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