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on 17 December 2010
I purchased this book in spite of the reviews I read, and I have to say I am so glad I did! I love stories which are not told through a hero's eyes, but through a villain's. By the end of the book I felt full of hatred for this 'empress' and to the author I would say a job well done. Often with many fantasy the main character comes from a humble or deprived background. We sympathise with them because of their doubt in whether that small-time girl/boy can really be the hero to save the world. Hekat has a very poor background, but what she never has is this 'doubt' in herself and in her purpose and this quickly evolves into arrogance. As a result, I can understand why few people of here liked her or the book. Truth is, I hated her- and as a result felt passionately the struggle of the people around her, though those characters were not so fully developed. I do agree that her words and thoughts can be repetitive- but this contributes to the frustration.

Seriously, if you like to become emersed and involved with characters and their deeds, good and bad, this is definitely worth a read.

If on the other hand, you're looking for a 'good' main character then it is probably not worth your time!

(I loved it.)
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on 15 March 2012
I felt one star would be too harsh, but I couldn't get higher than two.

Apart from the large array of unpleasant, selfish and humourless characters, I got very frustrated with the language. There was apparently a compulsion on the author to find new (pointless) words for everyday things, which ended up grating badly due to frequent repetition (whereas the English words would have been almost invisible).

If I see the words "Aieee" or "Tcha" again in the next twenty years, that will be too soon.

And (with my pedant's hat on) someone should explain to Ms Miller about semicolons; anything to stop her using commas to separate linked sentences.

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on 7 June 2012
I read Karen Millers 'Mage' series and thoroughly enjoyed them so I tried this book without having first read the reviews! It's very much personal taste but I found this book horrible - it is far too blood thirsty for me! On just about every page they are sacrificing more poor animals / drinking warm blood / bathing in blood, and then there's the slaughtering of whole villages of people including babies.
The main character is just plain vile. Call me old fashioned but I like a main character that is at least likeable in some way! I read the book from start to finish but keep asking myself why! I wont be reading the rest of the series.
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on 10 February 2015
Karen Miller took the fantasy world by storm with her debut "Kingmaker, Kingbreaker" duology, with both "The Innocent Mage" and "The Awakened Mage" selling well and getting good reviews in many places. Whilst I missed those, I'd heard enough good things about her work to be excited about "Empress", the first in a planned trilogy of "Godspeaker" novels.

In a part of Mijak known only as "The Savage North", a young girl is resigned to a life of beatings, hunger and being unloved and unwanted, largely for having been born female. She is saved from this life by the arrival of two traders, Abajai and Yagji who take her back to their home city of Et-Raklion. Hekat, as she has named herself, thinks she is there as their favourite, but is upset to discover they have bought her as a slave.

Not seeing this as an improvement on her old life, she runs away, determined to become something more. We follow Hekat as she seeks to improve her lot which, given that she seems to have boundless ambition, is something she is never quite satisfied with. Believing that she is chosen by the God, Hekat will use anything and anyone to make sure she gets to where the God has told her she can be.

"Empress" is possibly one of the bloodiest fantasy novels I remember reading for quite some time. The Mijak God demands regular blood sacrifices, in much the same way as the Old Testament Christian God. If something important is to happen in Mijak, then the godspeakers make even larger sacrifices and omens are read in the entrails of slaughtered animals. Whilst I accept that this can happen, the constant and frequent detailing of these sacrifices did feel a little unnecessary and if anyone is a little squeamish, this could be a bit unsettling.

In addition to this, the scope of Mijaki life is a lot narrower than in many fantasy novels. If they are not involved in activities around the god, then they are at war. Apart from Hekat's journey to Et-Raklion, there isn't a lot more depth to the story than either being at war with another part of Mijak or preparing for the next invasion. Hekat's sole purpose in life seems to be total control of Mijak and the story follows her step by step in her attempts to achieve this aim.

The narrow scope of the novel also only allows for a narrow cast of characters. Whilst the major characters are well drawn and distinct, outside Hekat and the senior members of Mijaki society she deals with they seem to blend into each other. The warriors and godspeakers are referred to merely as part of a collective, unless they are specifically required for the story.

For me, unfortunately, this made the whole thing feel somehow superficial. Hekat is obsessed by power, which has made her very arrogant and difficult to like. There are more likable characters around her, but these are generally bent to her will and it's impossible to like them more, as they tend to be downtrodden. There is no real hero here, no-one you can feel much sympathy for and certainly no-one you can really cheer on. This, combined with the constant cycle of war and blood sacrifice, makes "Empress" a tough read, as there isn't a point where you wonder what's going to happen next or look forward to it, especially once the course of the story has been set.

The language used does not assist in making things flow, either. Hekat is uneducated, at least at the beginning of the story, which makes her use of language very fractured. This takes some getting used to and I had to re-read some passages to ensure I understood what she was trying to say. She does eventually learn more, but she retained a habit of referring to herself in the third person and her arrogance seemed to increase with her knowledge, which still made her utterances slightly distasteful to read as it's not a character trait I like.

Karen Miller was trying to create a strong character and has succeeded, but Hekat wasn't someone I warmed to, especially in comparison to Fiona McIntosh's Ana in her "Percheron" trilogy, who manages to be a strong character without being unlikeable. Perhaps I would feel more positive towards Hekat without this point of comparison, but I never felt close to her and, as a result, I didn't settle into the book and can't claim to have enjoyed it.

On the plus side, "Empress" is a self contained book, which means I don't now feel under pressure to read on as I have done with other series. Whilst the ending leaves things open for further progression, it also provided a decent stopping point and it's not immediately obvious to see how the story will continue from here, particularly for another two volumes.

It may be that someone who has enjoyed Karen Miller's work before will enjoy "Empress", but there was so much about it that failed to appeal to me. It's well written and the main characters are very distinctive and I suspect that had Hekat been a more likeable lead character or if Mijaki society had been a little less bloodthirsty, I would have enjoyed it more than I did.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 9 November 2009
I'm surprised to see so many people giving this book bad reviews because they didn't like or identify with the main character because that is exactly what appealed to me. I've been reading fantasy about as long as I've been able to read and I've come across dozens of different formats for heroes, many of them re-used many times over, but I've never before seen a character like Hekat and I found myself fascinated with her.

I originally picked this book up on a whim in the store, read the first chapter and put it back. But over the next couple of days I found myself thinking about it a lot. This girl was so strange, so different from most protagonists that I wanted to know what was going to happen to her, and what the rest of her world was like. Next time I was in a bookshop I made straight for Empress.

The rest of the book, in my eyes, did not disappoint. By the end I'd say Hekat had definitely made the shift from hero to villain but it just makes me more interested to see what happens in the rest of the series. Rarely do we get such an insight into a villain and even at the end I found myself with a lingering sympathy for her (after all her world is hardly conductive to healthy and sane development, especially for a girl) which should add an interesting extra dimension to the rest of the story.

In short I found Empress to be a refreshing change from the usual fantasy template and an excellent setting for the rest of the series.
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on 25 January 2009
Having previously read Karen Miller's 'Innocent Mage' and disliked it, i felt that perhaps i should give her another go. However, i found that i was, once again, dissapointed. The story is good, the writing is good and i have no fault with the basics of this book. I do however, find myself not caring about her characters, in fact i tried to like Hekat, i felt sorry fo her at the start but as things went on and her arrogance grew i found more and more that i didn't care what happened to her or the other characters, which for me is a very important aspect of a book.

Because of my indifference to the characters i found myself growing rapidly bored, but this is just my opinion because i like books that are character driven where you can connect with the character on some level. Zandakar however, was a redeeming feature of this book. I found myself interested in him which helped to regain my interest in the book. I found the ending predictable but still good notheless.

I would say if you want to like the protagonist, don't read it. If you would like to read a book, just for a fairly good story and don't mind the word 'god' rammed into your brain every sentence, then i think you will like this. For all my criticisms though, i find myself carring on and reading book two and thouroughly enjoying it, i think it must just be Hekat i find offensive...
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on 28 March 2011
Kinda wormed its way in to me and meant I kept going despite some low points when my interest was waning.

In fact I can hardly believe I stuck with this first book, but having read all 3 books in the trilogy now, to be fair I'm glad I did. Although it is merely a scene setter for books 2 and 3. Read this if you want to go the whole hog on the trilogy otherwise move along!
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on 16 August 2008
As previous reviewers have already said, the characters are one-dimensional and there is no deeper explanation as to why they behave the way they do - after every chapter you will need a shower, yes, not only because of the blood that seeps out of its pages, but because of the inhuman and anti-human rejoicing in suffering at all levels. I was really disappointed about this book as I really enjoyed Miller's previous ones. I love reading and have great respect for the written word, and yet it is the first time in my life that having read half of a book I decide to stop and not continue - I already read or hear too many cruel things going on in this world in newspapers, radio or TV, and I don't think feeding more of it into the world is a healthy idea. There is no need to connect to what I don't want to see in this world.
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on 14 June 2015
Wow... is all I can say on this book.

Empress takes us to the cruel world of Mijak. It's people are harsh and suffer under the bloodthirsty rule of a 'God' that delights in sacrifice, slavery, torture and unquestioned loyalty. We have a sense of where the book is leading from the first few pages. The violence and depravity does not lessen throughout but unlike some books, this does not become wearing.

Hekat is a powerful character. She has fire, purpose and drive. Despite starting the book as a victim, she clearly is not and while identifying with her is difficult (because boy is she evil and cruel) she is also one of the better written female characters I've seen in a while. She is single minded in her quest and its actually good to read a properly written female character who doesn't attempt to make us feel sorry for her. I love the fact that the character is apologetically cruel.

Will definitely be adding book 2 and 3 to my reading list.
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on 11 January 2011
I have just read this book for the second time, and I was more absorbed in it the second time than the first. Its a very good read, absorbing and a convincing world. It is impossible to like Hekat, even at the start she is raw and self-absorbed. But while you are making allowances for her and expecting to see her develop into something powerful, she goes mad and bad and becomes totally fascinating.

Her son is a shallow and weak character, but it is clear that he is a total victim of his mad mother's obsessive devotion. I hope he will develop in the next book. Other characters are only weak in comparison to the manic character of Hetak.

I don't have to like a main character to still find a book absorbing, and this fantasy comes from such an unusual angle that it is very satisfactory to read. I agree with the other reviewers though, there really was a bit too much blood, and I got very irritated with the constant 'aieeeee'.
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