Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
The Emperor’s Edge is the first in what is presently a quartet written by author Lindsay Buroker. I stumbled across this book on ereaderIQ, a website that lists—among other things—free ebooks. Recently I set out to scour the web for the best free ebooks currently on the market and I am proud to say that—after reading many poorly edited yet promising attempts—I’ve finally found a genuine gem. The story is both engaging and simple. Amaranthe Lockdon is one of the select few female enforces employed by the Turgonian Empire—the most successful empire in the world. Due to the scarcity of women in her profession as well as her personal drive to be precise in all of her tasks, Amaranthe can be described as a very focused individual. She’s so focused on proving her worth and serving the Empire that she agrees to undertake a mission that would exploit her feminine wiles and compromise her moral principles. Nothing is what it seems in Turgonia however, and what initially promises to be a simple tasks reveals a plot to kill the young and naïve Emperor, Sepsian, and possibly lead Turgonia into a civil war. All at once, Amaranthe is a fugitive on the run, working with the country’s most notorious criminal as well as a band of unlikely comrades in order to stop the plot against the Emperor before his nineteenth birthday, which takes place in just two weeks!
I really enjoyed this book and I’m still shocked that I got this gem for free. The pace of the story is very well done, with the action scenes being just fast enough to engage the reader yet not so fast that the story looses detail or depth. Amaranthe serves as a very good example of what a well-developed and strong female character can be. When I was growing up there was nowhere near the abundance of YA fiction that there is today. While I loved to read I often struggled to find girl characters that did not drive me crazy! Most were stock characters and utterly predictable and it was especially difficult to find worthwhile female leads in action stories. While I did eventually discover writers like Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley whose heroines are usually rich and full of depth, my youth left me with a physical intolerance to poorly written characters of either gender. I’ve abandoned more books because of poor characterization than I have of any other story failing. Therefor, The Emperor’s Edge was a welcome addition to my slowly growing list of stories that feature ladies who are anything but stereotypical. What makes Amaranthe well written is not merely the fact that she’s a woman occupying a position of strength. Infact, the "strong woman" motif has become just as much a stock character as the "princess" motif. More often than not, writers tend to give a female character a sword, add some water and presto! They now think they’ve written a strong female lead. Amaranthe escapes this sloppy characterization by being more than just her rank. Not only is she a strong female character who can take care of herself, she’s also very human and still a girl. She’s very intelligent and willing to admit when a problem is too big to handle alone. More often than not, Amaranthe chooses cunning and logic in order to succeed in her quest, though she doesn’t shy away from fights she knows she can win. She isn't beyond feeling physical attraction towards certain members of her group but she wisely puts those feelings aside and focuses on the task at hand.
In addition to Amaranthe, her motley crew of criminals in the making are also thoroughly enjoyable. While some of them could admittingly be classified as stock characters, it is perfectly acceptable—in this nerd’s opinion—to have your secondary characters fit into preset categories. You have the charming fop, the mouthy street rat, the wise old man, and the stoic assassin. The fact that these character types are common in adventure stories really didn’t bother me, and each character is given as much depth as the fast-paced narrative will allow. Some readers might feel like this book falls short in certain areas. While there are many dark underlying themes in this book(medical experiments on prisoners, mauled bodies turning up on the street, rape etc.), the story only ever scratches the surface of these themes, providing enough description to shape the atmosphere of the book while never going into a full gorefest. Ultimately, this just comes down to reader preference. If you’re looking for a dark steam-punk thriller and expecting loads of juicy details then this book might not be for you. Personally, I would classify this story as a mystery with mild steam punk tones and enough action to keep most readers satisfied. Granted, the plot at times can be very predictable, as it follows traditional formulas seen in most action and mystery novels. There is one surprise revealed towards the end of the book that I honestly never suspected and I even—dare I admit it—gasped aloud.
The bottomline is that this book, which is currently free, is too good to pass up. Even if you do read it and find that you didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I did, I can’t see anyone disliking this book so long as they know to expect a story that is more fun that it is surprising, and more focused on characterization than it is on exploring every dark tone or subject matter with graphic descriptions. This is a fun and engaging read, which boasts both original characters and characters that fit into familiar motifs. It’s fun, it’s free—what excuse do you have for not downloading it?