Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker

The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Series: The Emperor's Edge #1
Published by the author
Pages: 321
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: Good verging on Awesome
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Amaranthe Lokdon is a strict, by-the-book law Enforcer. While she might not be the best in a sword fight, she'll topple coffee canisters on any unsuspecting thugs with confidence in her principles. When Amaranthe is sent to kill the most notorious assassin in the kingdom, it appears someone has unprecedented faith in her abilities. Or maybe they just want her dead.

Amaranthe soon discovers a conspiracy that threatens more than just her life - one whose tendrils reach all the way into the palace and to the Emperor himself.

''All right, girl, we are not going to be attracted to the amoral assassin.''

(Right Amaranthe, let's not. *coughcough*)

Oh my goodness, I love this book. I really wasn't at all sure that I would. Actually, I bought it mostly because of the cover subtitle proclaiming it 'A High Fantasy Novel In An Era Of Steam' and me mistakenly thinking that meant this was a fantasy/steampunk amalgamation. It's not. Yes it has steam powered devices, but it takes more than just that to make a steampunk world.

The setting is rather unique. I've read a lot of fantasy novels and I don't ever recall coming across one quite like it. This is the type of setting you'd get if you take a typical fantasy and force it into the future. This is a world that is still having growing pains - as evidenced by a patriarchal society having to deal with women no longer being willing to stay at home. No, now they want to run businesses and, in the case of our heroine, work for law enforcement.

As far as I could tell, the Enforcers were like patrol cops. There were other branches and divisions - such as an Inspector that investigated a crime scene - and different ranks - like sergeant and lieutenant - but the Enforcers seemed to be patrol cops. Amaranthe is the only female Enforcer. In fact, she's the only female of any note in the story. I only learnt the name of two other females. That is probably my only complaint about this story.

It would have been nice, and wouldn't have taken away anything in the story, to make one of the other characters female. (I'm thinking Aksytr - that 'troubled/standoffish teen' works just as well for girls as it does boys.)

Now, as I'm on the subject, the characters… I really didn't think I would like Amaranthe much. When you first meet her she is such a straight-arrow and I was hoping she's be a little more rebellious. She really comes into her own as the book progresses though. She has a few odd personality quirks, (ex: an almost pathological need to have things perfectly aligned) a wonderful sense of humor and, for all her starched shirts and hair buns, she is such a girl.

Amaranthe tries hard to be straight-laced, especially on the job or during missions, but every so often, a remark of hers will slip by and it leaves her sounding like the twenty-five year old female that she truly is. This was quite refreshing for me as I've read some books that don't really have a gender voice for the characters - and even one book that was told in first person that took until the specific gender of the main character was mentioned for me to realize it was a guy.

Besides Amaranthe, the only other character to have any of the story told from their point of view was Sespian, the young emperor. And when I say young, he just ascended the throne last year, on his eighteenth birthday - after his regent ruled for three years following his father's death. He was a surprisingly entertaining character to read about - though we didn't spend much time with him - and it was interesting to see how he really started to… Well, I don't want to give much away. Let's just say he was noticeably different at the end of the book than at the beginning.

The other characters all comprise Amaranth's 'team'. Sicarius, the 'amoral assassin' who inspired the quote I used - and who I started falling for long before Amaranthe did. Maldynado, a particularly handsome male escort that seems to have a few skeletons in his closet. Books, the former professor turned drunkard with his own axe to grind against the empire. And, finally, the aforementioned Aksytr, a 'mental sciences' user who practically oozes troubled teen. They all had their purposes for being there and were different enough characters that I always got a real kick out of watching them interact.

The plotline was nothing new. I don't want to say much more than that because a couple of things did surprise even me a little. I'll just say that, if you've read enough fantasy books, you've probably already read more than one variation on this plot. However, that didn't effect how much I enjoyed this story.

While it's not 'original' or 'dark' or any of a dozen other words that the 'good' fantasy stories have to get these days, it was fun. I liked the team that was organized. I liked the way they played off each other. I liked how it felt a little like some of those Forgotten Realms novels I used to read. I liked how we had the truly hate-able evil villain (possibly a few, depending on your view) that we were so glad to see get his/hers/theirs/its - and not have that story dragged out for more books.

In short, I liked the book. Okay, I liked the book a lot.

Challenges this was read as part of: Book Bingo