The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker (2010)
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.
Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.
The Emperor’s Edge is a charming and exhilarating fantasy adventure set in an era of steam. It follows Amaranthe, a lawful good-type police officer, who ends up being charged for crimes against the throne. She finds herself working with unlikely allies, including an amoral assassin, as they try to stop nefarious plots to kill the emperor, with a lot of adventure, mystery, and humour.
It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and it grabbed me right from the first page. It keeps a playful tone with a lot of banter and witty commentary on each page. With the writing style’s wit and genre-savvy moments, I’ll venture out on a limb and compare it to Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. Buroker also does the world-building so smoothly that the reader doesn’t notice that they’ve absorbed essence of the city of “Stumps” with each newspaper headline of bear attacks on Wharf Street and each strange beheaded statue.
The world is really interesting. It’s high fantasy, yet it takes place in an empire where magic is outlawed and is only used by foreign subversives or urban gangs. Amaranthe working as an enforcer is quite the exception, as women have dominated the eras of commerce, but haven’t been accepted in other sectors of this militaristic empire. It’s filled with lively interactions between denizens of various social classes, and it makes the setting very distinctive.
Amaranthe is a likeable and memorable protagonist. She has some combat ability, but her skill lies in persuading others to work with her and coming up with creative ways to solve problems. There’s quite a bit of chasing, escaping, and combat, and it’s all refreshingly fun to read because of the original methods she employs. She uses a lot of odd props and the environment to her advantage, and comes up with a zany but practical plan to save the emperor. The other characters are also lively individuals with a lot of depth, and I liked every member of their misfit crew.
What makes this book especially strong is the conflict between Amaranthe’s goals and the amoral approaches to attaining them. While there are a few evil guys, everyone else is just a normal person doing their jobs. She feels sympathy for many of the mooks that they have to take down, because she used to be an enforcer just like them. I liked how she didn’t take the decision to harm others lightly, and the choices she made were consistent with her values.
There were a few eyebrow-raising moments. I felt like that a few humourous quips were taken too far, as they didn’t fit the tone of the scene. I was also a bit skeptical of the extent of Amaranthe’s ability to charm others. Somehow for me, it wasn’t established that Amaranthe was that charming until midway through the story. But these moments only happen a couple of times, so these are minor nitpicks that won’t affect your enjoyment of this book.
The Emperor’s Edge is a fantastic novel, and it’s one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. If you’re looking for a fantasy adventure, you really can’t go wrong with this one. It’s highly recommended and I’m definitely reading the sequel.
You might like this if you like…
Steampunk, a fantasy adventure with a sense of humour, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, intelligent protagonists that find creative ways of knocking down/subverting mooks, some pretty zany city architecture
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to follow, you’re in luck! The sequel, Dark Currents, is already out on Smashwords and Amazon, and with more installments to come. I also reviewed Flash Gold, which shares a similar mix of (1) action-packed fantasy adventure (2) wintery steampunk setting (3) female protagonist with moxie partnered up with a tall, dark, and assassiney sorta fellow. Encrypted is set in the same world as The Emperor’s Edge and it’s also been getting excellent reviews.
Posted on July 4, 2011, in 4 stars, Ebook Reviews, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Frida Reviewed, Lindsay Buroker, Naomi Novik, Steampunk, The Emperor's Edge and tagged court intrigue, estrogen brigade bait, lawful good hero. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.