The Emperor’s Realm opens in a dreamscape with Marianne meeting Alindiah, an ancient water fairy. When Marianne wakes, she and her brother Robin follow a horde of fireflies through an enchanted forest and find themselves welcomed by Lance into the Firefly Forest Fairy Colony. Lance gives Robin a coveted sand hound dubbed Dignan. Entranced by the wondrous fairy music, Marianne finally begins to feel at home, but her dreams of belonging are quickly quashed by the imperious Princess Nia, who banishes half-fairy/half-human ‘cretiennes’ like Marianne and Robin from the colony. Before they depart the next morning, the mysterious Ambassador Cyphus tempts Marianne, Robin, and Dignan with a taste of magical Journey Fruit that transports them halfway around the world to the Emperor’s Realm.
In the Emperor’s Realm, Marianne and Robin encounter the nefarious spymaster Faw, gifted as well as cursed with the ability to shape-shift; the stifled Lang, confined to the Imperial Palace as she waits for her runaway betrothed to return; and the philosophical but still carnivorous tiger Javan. But most shaking to the siblings’ relationship is the surprising entrance of Wyeth, Robin’s charismatic boyhood friend who dazzles Marianne, but whose presence reminds Robin of dark secrets he would sooner keep hidden from his sister. As the teenagers fend off a ravenous lion carp, explore a garden of unearthly delights, and journey into their own memories, they each find themselves gaining the courage to claim their own heritage.
Only by traveling so far away from all that is familiar does Marianne come to realize how connected she really is to Fairyland. After sprouting a pair of wings, Marianne fulfills Alindiah’s prophecy to be the next Queen of Fairyland.
- Alindiah: Based on The Lady of the Lake from the King Arthur tales, Alindiah embodies mythic magic. It is her Choice that alters the future of all Fairyland.
- Dignan: This sand hound is a born burrower whose precious collar is the inciting spark for all the adventures in The Emperor’s Realm. Robin welcomes him as an ally against Marianne’s pesky Prince and sarcastic Leo.
- Princess Nia: Haughty and horrid to Marianne, Princess Nia is the only child of the reigning Queen of Fairyland. But though she’s expected to carry on tradition and assume the throne, there’s the possibility that this fussy fashionista doesn’t have the makings of a monarch.
- Ambassador Cyphus: An envoy whose rare fruit transports the taster to the Emperor’s Realm. He seems to be the only voice to which the Emperor ever listens.
- Faw: Abandoned in the wild mountains because he was born a dreaded shape-changer, Faw thrived under the paternalistic tutelage of Javan. But once he leaves the protection of the mountains for the Imperial City, he finds the world cruelly unwelcoming to one of his blood. Unable to survive as an intellectual, he serves the Emperor as a brutally effective spy, using his shape-changing abilities to silence dissidents. Tormented by his life of deception, Faw finds his only solace in the company of Lang.
- Wyeth: A smooth operator or a sincere suitor for Marianne? Robin knowledge of Wyeth’s past effectively disqualifies him in Robin’s eyes, but Marianne doesn’t always listen to her older brother. Especially when Wyeth radiates cultivated charm, with a dash of wanderlust.
- Javan: An academic tiger. To Javan’s surprise he finds that his greatest joy comes not from his bookish research, but in being Father to an infant he finds abandoned in the mountains and christens Wen-Faw.
- Lang: Because Lang is the educated daughter of shipping magnates, her hand in marriage is bartered off to the coddled only child of the Emperor, whom the populace derides as “The Porker Prince.” But as Lang’s bridal party approaches the palace, the Porker Prince flees with a case of extremely cold feet. So Lang languishes in the palace, sustaining her spirits through her beloved botanical studies, and from Faw’s covert visits.
- The Emperor: Once a fair ruler, the Emperor seemingly became unhinged after the disappearance of his only son. Now he runs his empire with an iron fist and has launched an expedition to attain a powerful dragon disc, which happens to be on Dignan’s collar.