Welcome back to the reread of Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts!
This week: Arakasi tries to convince Mara he’d be okay with assassinating his sweetie, Jiro of the Anasasi is a sleazeball, and Hokanu has a terrible case of husband!fail. No children die in this chapter, hooray!
Chapter 14: Revelation
Summary: Six days later, and Arakasi is still being pursued by his enemies after making the entire Hamoi Tong look terrible at their jobs because he assassinated their Obajan.
He’s running out of time. Kamlio, his hot honey-haired courtesan (who does not yet know that he accidentally caused the death of her twin sister in the course of his job, or even that she is the apple of his eye) is in danger, and Mara is awaiting word from him at the Imperial Palace.
Bribing his way on to a river boat to the capital, Arakasi finally gets some privacy in the cabin, and means to spend the time usefully decoding the journal that he stole from the Tong. Instead, the caffeine pills well and truly worn off, he falls asleep for a few days.
He does manage to get the decoding done before he gets to the Holy City, though.
Finally, he gets to Mara and informs her of two important facts: 1) the mission is accomplished and 2) he is a thoroughly changed man because of it.
He confesses his romantic dramas to her, and also admits that the job of completely destroying the Hamoi Tong is not quite complete, though his possession of the journal (which is their natami as well as the records of all their work) will be a huge help in that.
Unfortunately, he’s pretty sure that this mission has broken him, which is a problem because for all his backup plans, he doesn’t really have a worthy successor waiting in the wings to take over his job as Spy Master. The only person he would trust with the position is his nemesis bro, Chumaka First Advisor to Jiro of the Anasati.
For obvious reasons, that’s a terrible idea.
Speaking of terrible ideas, Arakasi informs Mara that Kamlio is the loose thread remaining from the mission and that it would be best to have her silenced. (he is very unconvincing about the last part, but stoic)
Mara, who is in no way an idiot and figured out very quickly that Kamlio is his honey pie, orders him to save her from the Tong instead. Arakasi is relieved but knows it will be super expensive. Mara finds this hilarious because Arakasi has never had a problem spending her money wildly before—this is only different because it’s something for himself not for the good of the Acoma.
Still, she sends him off to do what he needs to do in her name, because if her darling Acoma babies can’t have the hope of love and happiness, what is she even preserving her family name for?
Mara, I think that sound was all your ancestors rolling their eyes so hard at you from under the sacred grove.
Once Arakasi’s love life is dealt with, Mara joins her adopted father the Emperor Ichindar for his Day of Appeals, sitting at his feet on a white and gold cushion despite her heavily advanced pregnancy.
Jiro of the Anasati swaggers over to make a very smarmy request: to have Ichindar present his famously beautiful daughter Jehilia to the court so they can all enjoy how awesome she is.
Mara almost sets fire to him with her fuming, because Jehilia is only ten years old and deserves to not be leered at by gross adult men angling for an Imperial wife.
Ichindar is likewise incensed but manages to get out a politely scathing comment about painting a picture, it will last longer.
Jiro manages to imply that he will be using that portrait for entirely inappropriate purposes, and somehow no one shoots him dead for being a complete sleaze.
Mara is worried that it was her presence that encouraged Jiro to be extra insulting, but Ichindar later soothes her with an assurance that it was only her presence that stopped him from doing something very impolitic.
Two days after Mara goes into labour, Hokanu arrives at the palace and gets in a fight with the imperial hadonra, who won’t let him into the quarters that are restricted only to the Emperor’s family.
Literally gets in a fight: he wrestles with the man, bursts through a gathering of imperial daughters, musicians and feather-clad dancers, and finally makes it through to his wife’s rooms. It makes me happy to imagine he is covered in feathers and glitter when he does so.
The baby has been safely born and is gloriously healthy; Mara glows with pleasure as she introduces Hokanu to his daughter, Kasuma (named after his brother).
Poor old Hokanu, knowing what his wife does not, that this is their last child, fails to conceal his disappointment and is rightfully slammed by Mara for wishing the baby was a boy.
Now is not the time to stop being the perfect husband, Hokanu.
Mara is furious at him for regretting the loss of a ‘strong’ heir who will want to play sports with him, and fair enough too, because she has proven a woman can rule a house powerfully. But Hokanu is mourning the loss of his sons and the manly bonding he had with Ayaki as well as Justin (not to mention the baby that never lived). He was close to his father and brother, and now will have no son unless he takes a concubine (which he would never want to do to Mara).
Regretting his clumsy total mishandling of the situation, Hokanu takes Kasuma in his arms and falls completely in love with her.
As for the tension between he and Mara—Hokanu knows that telling her this is her last child would go some way to repairing that, and give her a little more insight into his emotional response, but he does not want to hurt her by taking away her hope of future children. He is prepared to suffer a little distance in their marriage to save her from that particular pain.
TERRIBLE CHOICE, HOKANU.
At least, he considers, this child will be safe from the quiet feud between the Acoma and the Anasati—whatever her mother’s allegiances, Kasumi will be safe as a daughter of the Shinzawai.
Spoke too soon! Mara has her own bad news to break—turns out the journal Arakasi brought from the Hamoi Tong revealed a shocking twist: Hokanu’s father was assassinated on behalf of Jiro of the Anasati.
Ayaki’s death has been avenged—Mara learned that the Tong assassinated him on their own behalf, in retaliation for that time Arakasi forged their chop to use their assassins against the Minwanabi. Arakasi’s execution of the Obajan has at least dealt with that little matter—which is small consolation now there is a new reason to feud with the Anasati on behalf of the Shinzawai as well as the Acoma.
Hokanu is so over today.
Commentary: Lots happening in this one! Love, drama, angst, politics and murder. All the food groups.
It’s wrong that I find it hilarious that Hokanu’s father was not in fact the only ‘dying of natural causes’ character in the book, right? I had completely forgotten that he was actually murdered.
Hokanu’s trophy as Best Husband Ever is definitely tarnishing, not only with his faux pas over being dad to a girrrrl, but with the continuing secret he is keeping from Mara, about her own body and future.
Once again, little cracks are showing in their relationship. Not enough to make him actually go solve the problem by knocking up a few concubines, but enough to make the reader wonder if maybe Mara and Hokanu aren’t as good a match as we initially thought…
Heh the part with him beating up the hadonra and crashing the entertainments of the princesses was pretty funny, though. Comedy involving men making questionable life choices and performing slapstick while their womenfolk give birth is one of those classic tropes.
Also, PHEW, after the grim parade of dead children it’s a huge relief that Mara’s daughter made it into the world alive and healthy, even if Hokanu is being a drip about it.
Maaate. Firstly, Justin still counts as your son if not your heir and you can still play all those manly sports with him. He’s not dead like Ayaki—he’s right there. Secondly, GIRLS CAN ALSO PLAY SPORT. Teach Kasuma to ride, shoot and play soccer and you’ll have awesome dad bonding time.
Plus, wouldn’t hurt to train her in all that rulership stuff that Mara never got around to learning, because imagine how well Mara’s daughter could run a family if she had the actual tools to do it properly?
Daughters are cool, Hokanu.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is an Australian fantasy author, blogger and podcaster. She won the 2013 Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Tansy’s latest piece of fiction is “Fake Geek Girl,” a novelette at the Australian Review of Fiction. Come and find her on Twitter, sign up for her Author Newsletter, or listen to her on Galactic Suburbia!