Cover of Emperor Mage, Daine in a gold dress surrounded by animals with water in the background

About the Book

Title: Emperor Mage (The Immortals #3)
Published: 1994
Series: The Immortals
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Let’s Play Dress Up
BFF Charm: Platinum
Talky Talk: Smorgasbord
Bonus Factors: Dinosaurs, Animal Friends, Ozorne’s Outfits, Daine Loses Her Temper
Relationship Status: BFFs

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the third book in The Immortals series, so if you haven’t read Wild Magic or Wolf-Speaker, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing.

Cover Story: Let’s Play Dress Up

Daine wears this exact outfit at some point in the book, so I know whomever designed this actually read the story within. You go, Glen Coco! I won’t lie; I wanted something like it when I was younger. A lilac dress with a delicate gold overlay? So fancy. 

The Deal:

After three years of tension with Carthak, King Jonathan and Emperor Ozorne are attempting to broker a peace treaty. Tortall is tired, worried they won’t have enough manpower to go up against the armies and navies of Carthak, but they’ve also leveraged their ties to other countries enough to stand united in the face of a dictator, so Ozorne’s got his own worries. Daine and a group of emissaries travel to Carthak’s capital for the peace negotiations, but before they even disembark the badger warns Daine not to step foot on Carthaki soil.

As she was personally invited by the Emperor himself to check on his ailing birds, Daine knows she cannot turn tail and run home, but like her feathered and furred friends, she can sense an uneasy wind blowing through this strange land.

The gods are watching Carthak…and it looks like they aren’t happy.

BFF Charm: Platinum

BFF platinum charm

If you tried to poke Daine right about now—well, first, she might turn into a bear if you surprise her, but second, you’d probably hear her nerves twang like a bowstring, she’s wound that tight. She didn’t want to make this trip at all, having limited experience with royal etiquette (King Jonathan and Queen Thayet are extremely laidback rulers) and, understandably, she’s tense about not wanting to inadvertently eff up these peace talks. And if we know anything about Daine by now, it’s that when she gets uncomfortable, she gets grouchy. I love grouchy Daine. She has no patience to give when confronted by a new, out-of-control power that gives her the ability to make dead things (like tiger-skin rugs and stuffed vultures) alive again; with Numair’s ex-girlfriend fawning all over him; and, when dealing with the two-faced snake-charmer of an Emperor who pretends to be civilized and reasonable.

She’s grown so much from the first book and isn’t afraid to speak her mind against things like Carthak’s use of slave labor, even when it would be more advantageous for her to keep quiet. I love that when Daine sees a problem she feels obligated to resolve it. Maybe that’s not always the easy choice, but it makes it the noble one.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Nothing is explicitly stated (though some characters make some sly observations), but it’s obvious that something has changed between Daine and Numair. Frequent glances, little comments, that tendency to hide jealousy behind concern for the other’s well-being. They’re in that stage where you realize you have a crush on your friend, but you don’t want to believe it because you think it’ll ruin the friendship. BUT you also can’t help knowing exactly where that person is in the room at all times, because you have a heightened sense of awareness for their presence. Back when I first read this, there was nothing my little tween shipper heart wanted more than to see these two have a conversation about what they were feeling. And at my umpteenth reread, I still feel the same.

Talky Talk: Smorgasbord

Pierce has created a country very different from Tortall with Carthak, a place with a deeper history and rich center of learning and academics. You can tell she cares a lot about supporting her story’s locales with real life research, because it feels like a fully realized place. Under Ozorne’s exacting rule, Carthak has become obsessed with royal power and military might while its people are enslaved and starving as a drought depletes their resources.

This is my favorite book of the series because there’s so much going on. We’ve got tie-ins to the larger storylines about immortal creatures and skirmishes with Carthak, Daine finally comfortable in her powers and using them to her advantage, a look at political power-plays and social commentary, gods and their fickle interference, plus the ramping up of a friendship-to-love story. Over all of this Pierce managed to invoke this feeling of unease and you spend the whole book waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it finally does you will not be disappointed. 

Bonus Factor: Dinosaurs

Dinosaur skeleton in a museum

Lindhall Reed, Numair’s old teacher, brings Daine to the Hall of Bones, which is basically the dinosaur wing of the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Daine is fascinated (like all of us) with the bones of these long forgotten creatures.

Bonus Factor: Animal Friends

A pack of meerkats sitting up

One bonus in going to a new continent is that Daine gets to meet brand new creatures she’s never seen before, like Zek, the marmoset, who loves grapes and hiding in her hair, or the hyenas in the Emperor’s royal menagerie. The rats she encounters a few times aren’t a new animal species, but their mob-esque portrayal tickled me.

And while he isn’t exactly an animal, we do get to revisit an immortal from the last book, a Stormwing named Rikash, and I love his arc here.

Bonus Factor: Ozorne’s Outfits

Fancy man's closet

(What I imagine the antechamber to his closet would look like.)

This emperor is definitely not walking around his palace naked – there is much attention given to the descriptions of his fancy wardrobe changes. Here he is decked out for their first meeting:

“Gold frosted Ozorne’s hair; gold beads hung from a wealth of thin braids. […] His neck was ringed with six rows of deep-blue stones that sparked with many-colored fires: black opals, expensive stones prized because they could hold magical power. […] Looped at his right hip and passing over his left shoulder was a crimson drape. The long end of the cloth was linked to the emperor’s left wrist by a gold bracelet. […] Like the prince, he wore toe rings, and added to them ankle bracelets.”

Basically, this dude is a walking jewelry store display.

Bonus Factor: Daine Loses Her Temper

the word redacted surrounded by a circle

There’s a chapter in the book thusly titled and it is a delight. There is more I would love to share, but that would be major spoiling, so join me in the comments if you remember this part.

Relationship Status: BFFs

What else can I say, Book? We don’t need to be fancy with each other; I know all your secrets and you know mine. We’ve been friends for so long, we can probably finish each other’s sandwiches sentences. Quite simply, I adore you.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Emperor Mage is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.