Book Review: Tamora Pierce’s Emperor Mage

Posted January 24, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Tamora Pierce’s Emperor Mage

Emperor Mage


Tamora Pierce

It is part of the , series and is a fantasy that was published by Simon Pulse on June 1, 2005 and has 358 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Lioness Rampant, Wild Magic, Trickster's Choice, Trickster's Queen, Wolf-Speaker, Realms of the Gods, First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight, Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff, Daja's Book, Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Briar's Book, Magic Steps, Street Magic, Cold Fire, Shatterglass, The Will of the Empress, Melting Stones, Battle Magic

Third in the Immortals fantasy adventure series for children about a young girl with the ability to speak and heal animals. This particular adventure occurs in Carthak. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Tortall books on my website.

My Take

All I can say is that I hope King Jon realizes what a treasure the kingdom of Tortall has in Daine! And Daine is beginning to see Numair with a different eye than that of a young girl…more that of a young woman.

It’s another moral tale, the kind that Pierce does so very well, cloaking it in a fascinating story full of adventure and intrigue. This one is of treating people with decency whether they’re slaves, family, gods, animals, or the “man on the street”. It’s an excellent example of what can happen when any one person gets carried away with their own importance and tramples on the freedoms of others whether it’s the ability to seek out knowledge, feel easy in speaking out and existing, or simply ensuring that the people one governs are healthy and happy.

Ooh, that emperor is such a jerk!! He thinks all he has to do is offer Daine a title and her own estates and she’ll accept being kidnapped, her country invaded, and Numair’s death. What an idiot!

The Story

Desperate to avoid war, Tortall sends an embassy to negotiate a treaty with Carthak. As a symbol of goodwill, Daine goes along to use her skills on the emperor’s desperately ill birds — the only creatures about whom the emperor seems to care.

The embassy will be in great danger while in Carthak for none of them trusts the emperor and each of them must use extreme care to avoid giving offense. For the first part of their trip, events are as expected: Daine heals the emperor’s birds and Kaddar takes her on tours of the different parts of the emperor’s zoo — including the forbidden sections, Carthaki temples, and its museum and university as well as visiting Kaddar’s friends where Daine displays some very unexpected skill. But the treaty negotiations bog down worse and worse for it is as suspected, the emperor is not serious and Daine quickly finds herself in grave danger.

Lucky for her that Numair is a brilliant mage, the emperor is too vain to believe he is not the best mage in the land, and that he has angered too many. Including the gods. He has also underestimated the young and pleasant Daine along with her formidable abilities to befriend anyone.

The Characters

Veralidaine “Daine” Sarrasri is gifted with the wild magic which enables her to speak to animals and heal them and the Emperor of Carthak is desperate for someone to heal his birds. Daine can also shapeshift into any animal. She also discovers the identity of her father, Weiryn. Skysong, a.k.a., Kitten, is the baby dragon Daine now cares for after her mother died saving everyone at Pirate’s Swoop (see Wild Magic). Much against his will, Badger is forced to give Daine yet another Gift for the mission the gods have set for her on this trip, a Gift of Life over Death. Zek is a young pygmy marmoset whom Daine saves from crocodiles and/or a watery death.

Numair Salmalín is King Jon’s wizard and Daine’s teacher. He used to be very friendly with the emperor until he was accused of treason and thrown into the dungeon.

The Tortallan delegation is headed up by Duke Garen of Naxen with fellow delagatees Sir Alanna, the King’s Champion; his son Gareth the Younger, an old schoolmate of Alanna’s; Harailt, the dean of the royal university; and, Lord Martin of Meron.

Stormwings are half-metal, half-human immortal birds. In Carthak, King Jokhun Foulreek of the Stone Tree nation rules them through a pact he made with Orzone which found the true Queen Barzha and her mate Hebakh prisoners while Lord Rikash Moonsword is his second-in-command and vassal; a very unhappy vassal once he learns what Daine has to say.

Emperor Orzone is the ruler of Carthak and a very powerful mage. It is widely believed his mages opened a rip in the boundary between their mortal world and the Divine Realms, land of the Immortals. An enemy of Tortall, he has set his avaricious eyes on stealing away Daine. The Graveyard Hag is the preeminent goddess in Carthak. A very unhappy goddess.

“His Royal Highness Kaddar, prince of Siraj, duke of Yamut, count of Amar, first lord of the Imperium, and heir apparent to His Most Serene Majesty Emperor Orzone” becomes Daine’s friend during negotiations. He unexpectedly learns of his own misguided prejudices. Lindall Reed is a mage who teaches at the university and is an old friend of Numair’s. He’s very anxious to discuss animals with Daine. Varice Kingsford is another old friend of Numair’s; her mage skill specializes in entertainment and cooking which she utilizes in designing very creative parties for the emperor. Tano is the Banjiku cat-man who helps Daine escape.

The Cover and Title

The cover is rather eerie with its bottom border of a deep purple rising in a short gradient into a plummy purple before becoming a deep eggplant. The right half of Daine’s face stares out at us as a white bird flies, superimposed over the skeleton veins of leaves and Daine.

The title is certainly accurate for this story is all about the Emperor Mage.