RogerBW's Blog

The Emperor's Edge, Lindsay Buroker 24 December 2021

2010 steampunk fantasy, first of its series. Amaranthe Lokdon is a cop in the Empire's capital city, struggling against sex prejudice. While she's dealing with a robbery, the young Emperor has a chance conversation with her, and next thing she knows the General of the Armies is sending her out alone on a job to kill Sicarius, the most dangerous assassin ever known…

Which the astute reader, if not Amaranthe herself, will immediately recognise as a suicide mission. Soon enough she's talked with Sicarius instead of killing or being killed by him, she's worked out who's poisoning the Emperor, there's a bounty on her head, and she's gathering a motley crew to… counterfeit the Imperial currency?

Well, it's certainly a very agile book. It's all about the "what fun" of living in a steampunk world, and while there may be occasional labourers and urchins about the place, they're not interesting. Look over there, here's the General's secret biowarfare lab! A magical monster is stalking the streets at night! (Oh yes, there's magic by the way.) Here's a cool scene with Amaranthe's old schoolmate who's now running one of the city's biggest gangs! Sicarius broods, and is hawt! Apparently if we convince the bad guys there's a large-scale counterfeiting operation they'll give up all their evil ways because they care about their money, and then they'll, ooh look here's the emperor again.

There is an ongoing plot, but this felt very much like the pilot episode of a television series: it's here primarily to show us what each of the principals is like and introduce us to the sort of thing they're going to be doing. And like a lot of modern television it's more concerned with showing us how cool and impressive its characters are (particularly the two leads) than it is with anything else. I like competent characters doing difficult things well, but this never quite takes on that feeling; even though Amaranthe succeeds at basically everything she tries, there's always a narrative sense of her messing up and just barely prevailing, which isn't borne out by the actual actions

I mean, it's not objectionable in itself, but in six months I'll have no idea of who any of these people were.

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