Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Emperor's Edge (Lindsay Buroker)

The Emperor's Edge
(The Emperor's Edge series, Book 1)
Lindsay Buroker
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: In the steam-powered empire, Amaranthe Lokdon is an anomoly. Unlike most women, who are content to marry well or run businesses, she became an enforcer, struggling to build a name and a career in a society dominated by seven centuries of warrior-culture male chauvinism. Having been passed over for a well-earned promotion, Amaranthe figures nobody notices her hard work - until she receives a summons from Hollowcrest, commander of young Emperor Sespian's armies and the acknowledged power behind the throne. Sicarius, perhaps the most dangerous assassin in the known world, has been spotted in the capital city, just weeks before the emperor's birthday celebration. While male enforcers and spies have died by the dozen trying to bring him in, perhaps a woman might fare better. This may be the break Amaranthe has been waiting for since she joined the enforcers... or it may be a trap with ties to a treasonous, magic-tinged plot that could destroy the whole empire.

REVIEW: This story reads like a peculiar cross between steampunk, a heist movie, and one of those old-school TV series with the team of outcasts fighting impossible odds - and even their own government - for the cause of justice. It starts fast, establishing a decently-realized steampunk world and interesting characters, none of whom are quite what they seem to be. Amaranthe never thought she'd end up where she does, as partner to a killer and leader of an unpromising collection of society's cast-offs attempting to avert a national disaster in the making, forced to rely on both quick thinking and raw luck as she struggles to survive. But, then, her team members never thought they'd be pitting themselves against the empire, and worse, either; but for Amaranthe's determination, the whole effort would dissolve. Even the young Emperor Sespian finds himself pushed into becoming something more than he thought he could be, as he realizes the true nature of his so-called trusted advisers. The plot offers plenty of action and tension, balanced by humor that sometimes ranges toward slapstick but never quite crosses the line into outright goofiness. Without spoilers, it wraps up most of the storyline in one volume, while establishing the premise for the series to come... not unlike a TV pilot episode, which it rather resembled at several points. All in all, it made for a fun and fairly satisfying read. I might track down the next books in the series someday, time and budget willing.

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