Now, THAT'S more like it! Major major redemption for the yawnfest that was book 2. In Emperor Mage, Daine gets to pretend she's actually a girl sent from a royal envoy as diplomats into a foreign land instead of a girl who wants to be an animal and surrounded by animals all the time. Human interactions are awesome, and I'm so glad Daine isn't just talking and plotting with animals all the time now, and that she's actually solving a decent mystery and dealing with major international intrigue. It's everything I enjoy about this series all thrown together in one book. I can find nary a fault with Emperor Mage.Daine, Numair (is it terrible of me to admit I want to burst into the Numa Numa song every time I read his name?), Alanna, and other emissaries from Tortall are sent to Carthak as a peace delegation. They hope to avoid war, and Daine in particular is looking forward to helping emperor Orzorne save his menagerie of sick birds. Daine gets mysterious messages from the badger gods, a hag witch god, and granted powers that can bring dead things to life, and man is she bad-ass with her new powers.Daine meets the heir-apparent to Carthak, Kaddar, and despite getting off on the wrong foot and their different views (like Daine's inborn Northern hatred of slavery), the two become friends. I never really liked Kaddar, though, he's just one of these characters who made a bad initial impression that never really redeems himself no matter what he did for the rest of the book. Daine also gets conflicting messages from the Emperor Mage, Orzarne. He's supposed to be this evil, powerful despot king, yet he clearly loves animals...but still keeps his people enslaved and keeps a zoo of loved-yet-confined animals and immortals. The jury is out on him for much of the book, so I wasn't sure of where he stood on the side of good or evil, and I liked that characterization of him.Daine...wow, she really saves the day in this one. My admiration for her grows. The only complaint I have with this book are the gods. My, they are annoying; I'm glad that at least in this world, I'm not religious, and the gods do not see fit to play around with mortals. The godly beings in this series are more among the lines of Anansi or the Native American fox trickster god than the likes of Buddha.