Back in the 1980s, people enjoyed watching The A-Team, a team of renegade ex-somethings that performed good samaritan tasks while being hunted by the law. These days, a more sophisticated equivalent may be Leverage where an ex-insurance investigator creates and leads a team of criminals in performing good samaritan tasks while avoiding the scrutiny of both baddies and goodies. The Emperor’s Edge is a fantasy steampunk-ish novel that is cut from a very similar cloth. In fact, the first novel reads like a movie-length pilot episode for an ongoing series – and it is the first book of a series.
Amaranthe Lokdon, the main character, is a strong woman in a man’s career, proving herself first as an enforcer and then as a fugitive attempting to uncover and stop a plot against the emperor. She has attitude, almost always knows what to say, can sway most people to follow her with her fervour and determination and spends a great deal of time trying to gain the trust of a notorious assassin. There are moments between these two in the book that I could see quite clearly on the small screen: meaningful looks, sassy banter, dry and sarcastic retorts and a fair amount of secrecy and distrust. It becomes the “will they, won’t they” stuff of which television series are made.
There’s a bit of well-disguised ogling at the male form in many scenes and a reasonable amount of blushing, but the author never actually presents a romantic scene. Again, the sexual tension would have suited television quite well where fans would have relished the eye-candy while savouring the addictive frustration of fancies unrequited. The quiet and hit-and-miss relationship that develops between the main character and the assassin is quite entertaining with the assassin remaining unfathomable and Amaranthe becoming more determined to penetrate his mysteries.
And then there’s the story.
There is a plot to assassinate the emperor. It sounds pretty simple, but the author slowly paints a picture of an atypical emperor and the various special interest groups/persons who might want to unseat him to maintain the status quo. Concerned parties and their plots are gradually uncovered by the enforcer-on-the-run and her motley crew. I found the pace quite satisfying. Everything was not revealed at once, but rather in small doses after key scenes. And in the downtime, Amaranthe and her crew put together a plot of their own. Actually, this could have been a rather slow moving part of the story, but the author made sure that the development was punctuated with ample action scenes and even the introduction of something sinister prowling the streets of the empire at night.
All threads eventually meet and there are some fairly dramatic revelations. But just when it seems that our team is successful, there’s another turn of the wheel, and then another. Again I’m reminded of a very well-written television drama – keeping the audience off-balance, taking them through one more leg of the journey on the edge of their seats. It’s good stuff.
So what didn’t I like? Not much, to be honest. I did find Amaranthe a little too successful in negotiation and planning. I can see where she might need to have been talented in this area as a successful woman enforcer in a world full of men. Negotiating and perhaps manipulating men would have been a necessity. She was obviously talented as an enforcer which explains her success in investigation and deduction. However, it sometimes felt a little far-fetched. On the other side, the impressive assassin was just a little too impressive for me. He moved like a super-hero and it would almost have been in keeping with his portrayal to see him leap tall buildings in a single bound.
That said, I found it easy to easy to put aside my relatively small issues with the book and sit back and enjoy a story which could well find its way to prime time television. Move over Leverage, this is the A-Team of steam.
Price at the time of review: $0.99 US
Available: Amazon, Smashwords, Sony, Diesel, Kobo, Barnes and Noble
Author site: http://www.lindsayburoker.com/
GoodReads page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10031259-the-emperor-s-edge