Possible spoilers from earlier books in the series.
More of the same from Amaranthe and her loveable group of criminals, and in no way is that a bad thing. For those who don’t know, the series follows former Enforcer Amaranthe and her crew through light steampunk world as they try to clear their name and keep the Empire, and more importantly the Emperor himself, safe from those who want to remake the land in their own ideal. She comes up with harebrained plans, the crew grumbles then follows along anyway, and things end up ok in the end. Usually.
At the end of the last book the group learns that Emperor does indeed know of both the Emperor’s Edge (the name of Amaranthe’s group) and of the danger to himself. In fact he wants to arrange his own kidnapping away from his handlers. And thus begins ‘Conspiracy,’ in which the group trains for a train heist (bad pun). As in the last two books one member of the group takes over as the secondary story, this time it is he of the bad attitude, wannabe mage and former street punk Akstyr. Akstyr does some major soul searching and considers what kind of person he is looking to be, but thankfully doesn’t distract from the main story.
The book started out slower for me than previous outings; the early set up was missing some of the witty dialog that really carries the series. The first third is also a much darker outing than we are accustomed too, something that doesn’t mesh with expectations and didn’t work as well for me. Thankfully once the heist is actually underway the book snaps back to what I read the series for; snappy infighting and wacky hijinks!
Amaranthe is still enjoyable, Sicarius is still unbelievably glum (and forgiven for trespasses too easily), and Maldynado is still my favorite shameless pretty boy. Yara is back from the last book and is paired with Maldynado for some of the best laughs in the book. The Emperor has been seen before, but he really shows some personality here and he is a very convincing character. Strong and sure at times as the leader of the land should be, hesitant and even scared at times as a young man with hell thrown at him would be.
The book ends on a major cliffhanger. While the Akstyr plot line is given some closure, nothing else is. In some ways this is a good thing, by meeting the Emperor this series is leaving the “wacky adventure of the month” serial it was in danger of becoming and plunging into an over arching plot line. But this isn’t a minor cliffhanger we are left on, but rather a season finale type that makes me glad the next book is already out (actually the whole series is done, good for fans).
Another fun entry in the series, still something a recommend, but something about the first third just didn’t jive with me. Still, once again it was a book I couldn’t put down and read in 2 days.