Here be Dragons

Nathan’s Review:  (posted 24th April 2013)

Say one thing about the Emperor Edge series, it is highly consistent.  Three books in and I know exactly what to expect from each book at this point.  I know that I will be very entertained by enjoyable banter between entertaining characters.  I  know that main character Amaranthe Lokdon  will come up with the craziest, most implausible plan imaginable, her crew will go with it, it will fail, and quick thinking from her and her crew will save the day.  And to top it off, I know when it is over I will immediately go to Amazon and book mark the next book, then try to talk myself out of buying right away…It will be there later man, have some control!

This time around Lokdon discovers that athletes are disappearing from some Olympic-like event before it even starts.  Hey, our crew is in great shape!  Let’s enter Basilard into an event against people who have trained their whole life.  This way we have an insider AND a chance to speak to the Emperor at the end.  It is fool proof!  Following a patter in the series the plan falls apart, a couple teammates get kidnapped, and things spiral farther out of control.

I think even the characters are starting to realize they live in a slightly silly land, saying things like “you have a tendency to wander into the enemy camp to chat with the head villain.”  The magic is starting to get a bit powerful; it is getting harder to understand how the Empire is so powerful when it is willfully ignorant of such a powerful force.  And I really am not buying how Lokdon is feeding her people working as mercenaries with such high standards.

But those area all minor squabbles.  Fans of the series get more of what they want.  These books still move at lightning speed; walking the line very well by showing a lot of action without getting bogged down by repetitive details.  And the characters continue to.. not grow.. but do all the things that made them so endearing in the first place.  Maldynado alone makes the book a great buy, Sicarius shows a little personality behind his too perfect cool exterior, and Lokdon shows both charm and wit.  Even Akstyr shows some usefulness for the first time.

Still not books for everyone, but still just right for me when I want something light.  Three books down and I only want to read some more.

4 stars.  One more way these books have stayed consistent.

Pauline’s Review:

This is the third of the ‘Emperor’s Edge’ series, featuring former enforcer (cop) Amaranthe and her motley band of outlaws cum undercover agents – Sicarius the assassin, Maldynado the ladies’ man, Books the scholar, Akstyr the learner mage and Basilard the former slave wrestler. The steampunk setting is, as always, a nicely drawn backdrop and convenient plot device, so that one of the events in the games of the title is the clank race, where contestants compete on a mechanical (and rather unpleasant) obstacle course. As usual, there’s a mysterious series of events for the team to investigate in the hope of ingratiating themselves with the young emperor, and restoring themselves to respectability. There are also some ongoing backstories, and the author is brilliant at reminding the reader of past details at just the right moment, and without it ever feeling contrived. If only all authors were so skilled.

This is a million miles from the gritty realism end of fantasy. The characters are just the right side of caricature, and the plot – well, it really doesn’t matter. It rolls along nicely, a jolly adventure that is always one wobbly step away from disaster but never quite teeters over the brink. It’s predictable in the sense that the eventual outcome is never in any real doubt, but there’s a huge tangle of twists and turns along the way, most emanating from the fertile (if not always sensible) imagination of Amaranthe. You’ve got to love a character who never fails to have a hairbrained idea, however dire the circumstances. There are moments when it’s tempting to pause and think – how on earth did they get into this situation? And how can they possibly get out of it? There are times, too, when it all got a little bit over the top. The amount of punishment the characters manage to take, the number of armed and/or magic-wielding opponents they tackle simultaneously, and the sheer number of problems they encounter, all of it becomes just a little too cartoonish sometimes. And then there’s another brilliant bit of humour, and I just don’t care. In the end, it’s the characters who matter, and the funny, tetchy and even (occasionally) affectionate moments between them that make these books so wonderful. Even Sicarius the ice-cold assassin gets some bonding with Basilard, and… and… no, it can’t be… is that a romantic interlude with Amaranthe? Well, sort of, maybe.

For anyone looking for a light read, with plenty of action and huge dollops of witty banter between the characters, this fits the bill beautifully. These books are just so entertaining, it’s all too easy to think – just another chapter, and then another, and perhaps just one more… The book equivalent of a box of chocolates. Lovely stuff. Four stars. 

Books in the series
The Emperor’s Edge
Dark Currents
Deadly Games
Conspiracy
Blood and Betrayal 

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