In Daughter of the Empire, the story focuses mainly on a race of people — the Tsurani — who seem to have been written based on an amalgamation of different real life Asian races.
They believe in face, honour and the obedience to social traditions that are passed down through generations. One of these traditions is that when a youth wants to join the army in a House (aka family), he has to be related to one of the current army members.
Once sworn into that house, he will never leave. His oldest son will take his place in the army. But second and third sons are free to join another house.
When Mara of the Acoma takes over as Lady of her house after her father and brother are betrayed and die in the war, her army is severely weakened. Nobody believes she will stay alive for long. After all, she is young — only 17 — and besides being a girl (lacking training on taking over the House), has spent the prior six months training to be a nun.
There’s nowhere for her to gain new soldiers — mercenaries aren’t trustworthy enough to be part of the main army, taking in younger sons from other Houses could mean a spy in her House. Instead of accepting her fate, she comes to realise the difference between law and tradition. And she learns how to bend traditions to her favour.
She goes into the mountain and looks for “grey warriors”, soldiers whose Houses have ceased to exist. In the Tsurani culture, they have no master and thus, no honour. These men are yearning to die as warriors and all Mara has to do is find a way to let them serve her.
Somehow, by surrounding herself with people who think of ways to circumvent — yet stay within the boundaries of — tradition, Mara survives and eventually, thrives.
This series of books is my go-to anytime I am troubled. Even though it’s fiction, I’ve learned so much about strategy and negotiation and leadership.
Business books are great, but if you really want to absorb something, learn it through fiction.