Emperor Mage, the third in the Immortals series, is my favourite of the four books. It's rich with great characters, excellent story, fabulous action and above all a fantastic local that's full of colour and verve all on its own.
Daine has come to Carthak, with a diplomatic tortall delegation, to cure the (probably evil) Emperor Ozorne's sick birds in his beloved Aviary. But after three years, or more, of warmongering being credited to him is it possible that this diplomatic mission is simply a ploy?
Set in the hot and tropical Carthak, Emperor Mage has a very different feel to that of the first two books, and the lavish and strict court of the Emperor is a big change for Daine from the relaxed northern Tortall court. The animals are more exotic, the food and company are of a higher calibre, and expectations are running high that Daine can meet and exceed the rumours that have come across the sea before her. But the biggest change in the story is the involvement of the gods, and the Graveyard Hag especially. Nothing like a pissed off God to liven a story up!
Some of the new characters are worth the book itself, Zek, a marmoset she rescues right at the beginning is especially fun. I love his proud discovery of keys and their usage. Lindhall Reed, Numairs friend and old teacher is also a great character, though there isn't as much of him as I would have liked in the story. Finally Kaddar, Ozorne's young heir charmingly goes from bored boy dreading entertaining the female foreigner Daine to enraptured young man eager to get to know this unusual girl who's continually surprising him. Although I could have lived without out the slightly creepy jealousy this incites from Numair (despite the fact he's obviously sleeping with a past fling he reunites with at the palace). Gick.
Alanna, Gary and Duke Gareth are enjoyable additions to the diplomatic party and I liked seeing the interaction between Duke Gareth and young Daine especially. Though I have to say that there's a moment that really bothers me in the book, where Numair is commenting on how pretty Daine looks and when Daine references Alanna, Numair comments although they're good friends he would never consider her someone to compare other girls too.
After spending four books letting us know our hero can be a pretty girl in dresses and it makes her no less of a tough ass, and although she isn't the most beautiful girl on earth she's charming and attractive enough to win her fair share of men, I dislike that Tamora Pierce then turns around and makes reference to her being kind of manly due to her status as a knight. And enough of calling her stocky!! She's short and probably muscular, but she's continually referenced as incredibly quick and graceful, I cannot reconcile this with her continually being referred to as stocky! But maybe that's just me.
Truthfully, this book is my favourite of the series, and I think I could happily of finished the series on this high note. Unfortunately there is a fourth book, and I don't love it or what it drags us through to end Daine's story. But it has some good moments and some characters that come back later on that are worth mentioning. So stayed tune for tomorrows review of The Realms of the Gods, Book 4 of the Immortals Quartet.
Emperor Mage, the Immortals series, By Tamora Pierce
Published by Simon Pulse, May 2005