Empire’s Daughter, my SPFBO7 entry, will not be considered fantasy by everyone, because it has no magic, no elves, no dragons, no monsters. I prefer to call it speculative fiction. What it does have is a world –  not a planet far, far away, or this world in a dystopic future, simply a different world – whose societal structures are very different than our own. One where women and men live entirely divided lives, except for two weeks a year – women farming, fishing, blacksmithing and building; men in the army. Until the day a soldier rides into my protagonist’s village, asking the unthinkable: that women learn to fight.

I am not young, and I grew up with the speculative fiction of authors like Ursula K LeGuin and Elizabeth Lynn, whose books asked questions about the nature of society, our assumptions about what was ‘normal’; who created fictional worlds where sexuality and hierarchies and power were different. It was – and is – (in my view) one of the purposes of speculative fiction, whether fantasy or science fiction: to challenge opinions and assumptions about society, but in a way that places them in a theoretical setting. By doing so, readers are exposed to ideas and arguments they just might turn away from if they were set in ‘the real world’.  

In the six books that make up the Empire’s Legacy series (the sixth, Empire’s Heir, releases August 30th), I examine the tension between love for an individual and love of country; I raise questions of betrayal, and if it is ever justified, and if the price of victory can be too high. I do this within a setting which is largely non-heteronormative, but like the structure of the army or the governance of the women’s villages, that’s just how this world is. 

The monsters that confront my characters in the series are the monsters we all face: human cruelty; decisions of life and death; external forces we can’t control, and our own choices. In Empire’s Daughter, Lena, my protagonist, is eighteen – fully an adult in my world, used to danger in her life as a fisherwoman – but facing the possible destruction of everything she knows. She has very difficult choices to make, and choices come with consequences. By the end of the series, she’ll be a woman well into her fifties, still living with the consequences, good and bad. Because there is no magic to use to save the world; only her – and her co-protagonists’ – actions. 

Or maybe I’m wrong. Because there is a magic, of sorts, and that’s the power of love, of understanding and forgiveness and of the generosity of the heart. It’s just not a love that always gets to speak its name in our 21st C world. But it does in mine.

Marian L. Thorpe, author of SBFBO7 entry Empire’s Daughter

Marian L Thorpe is the author of the award-winning series Empire’s Legacy, set in a world reminiscent of Europe after the decline of Rome. Following two careers as a scientist and an educator, Marian returned to her first love and began writing seriously, with her first novel published in 2015. 


About Empire’s Daughter (Empire’s Legacy #1)

Lena’s world is about to change forever. Harried from north and south by two different enemies, both wanting this last remnant of a greater Empire’s land, and with invasion imminent, the military leaders see no choice but to ask the unthinkable: that women learn to fight.

In accepting the challenge, Lena is separated from her lover, who chooses banishment rather than break with generations of tradition. Promoted to leadership, drawn into the intrigues of power, Lena must make difficult choices, for herself, for her village, and for her country: a young woman at the heart of the violence and diplomacy that will begin her epic journey to save her land.