One of the most intelligently egalitarian novels I've ever read. A realistic examination of a fascinating young reformer, called away from the quiet life of a nun as the last remaining survivor of an assassination attempt on her entire family. As she fights to avenge her father and brother alongside strong warriors and advisers who had served her family well, she uses her wit and ingenuity to tackle the challenges of rulership--one of which will always be staying alive in this brutal society. (One inspired by feudal Asian and Native American culture to a degree, if I'm not mistaken, but with its own special flair as well.)
Mara is a heroine and role model engineered to inspire the reader to think outside the box. She's human, but she's marvelously sharp-minded and compassionate at the same time. While Feist's female characters in his solo work often failed to impress, Mara does not. Janny Wurts seems to make up for his deficits (perhaps he makes up for hers as well; I've not read her solo work yet) and together they carved a pure masterpiece.
I wish I could gift this trilogy to everyone I know. It's brilliant, it has appeal whatever your gender, and whatever your personal tastes there'll be something to intrigue you. Even though it's political in ways, the backstabbing and venomous nature of this vicious society with its cruel laws is unspeakably fascinating. This is a person daring to challenge the status quo of a stagnating culture, which any American tired of their political system can identify with as wish fulfillment. There are tales of romance sprinkled in, but they are far from trite or rosy or maudlin; there is real peril to happiness and there are issues larger than love. The battles are heart-pounding because they are so personal. It's not as evil as Game of Thrones, but you will end up wondering which of your most-beloved characters will survive, and how.
I reread these books every year or so and they never get boring. Worth every penny and much more. Vastly under-rated and under-recognized. I hope that this changes.