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Book Review: The Emperor's Edge
Introduction and Summary (Spoilers)
The Emperor's Edge is a book that is the first installment in a series bearing its name. It takes place in an industrialized empire where magic is considered suspicious and foreign, and most people even doubt its existence.
But this assumption is challenged when a sorcerer from another land is hiding among the top ranks of the military, plotting against the emperor. Female enforcer (basically, police officer) Amaranthe has to track down and stop this threat. At all costs, her operations must remain a secret. She has to put together a small, elite team of individuals with the skills she needs. And one such member of her team, a deadly assassin with a huge price on his head, might just be more than she bargained for.
As "team Amaranthe" bonds over nearly getting killed multiple times, they begin to uncover more and more secrets and discover more and more about who's behind the plot to basically drug, control, and eventually kill the emperor. But he's a top general, and has powerful magic he can wield. He also controls a kind of familiar, a great magical beast (I pictured it as being like a bear).
The fact that they're able to defeat him and remain secretive is nothing less than stunning. In the end, Amaranthe and the gang decide to keep on working in the shadows against plots against their beloved emperor. Information they've gathered suggest that while they've put down one threat, others might be lurking around the corner. Thus this series begins, with Amaranthe's group calling themselves "The Emperor's Edge".
The Emperor's Edge was a page-turner, and I liked that it's a setup for more and better things down the road. What I like is that it's about curiosity and investigation. The heroes win not just because they're strong and brave, but because of their intelligence and the fact that they did their homework. Amaranthe's main strength is in forming plans, and coming up with emergency backup plans as needed. She also knows the strengths and limitations of each of her group members well, what they can be relied on for and what they need help with. The one person she has real trouble working with is Sicarius, the assassin. He's a powerful resource and she's more than glad to have him on the team, but he's independently-minded and hard to talk to.
So, while this is a story about a righteous female hero kicking ass and taking down a conspiracy against the Distressed Dude, which is great, what I really like it for is its focus on relationship building, on recognizing that no one person can handle everything by themselves. Every character has to learn trust to accomplish the group's missions, and trust comes easier to some than to others.
While it's obviously the first in a series, meaning you know that you're only getting hints here and there about some greater truths about the world in this first book. But as a first installment it did what the author wanted, which is pique my interest enough to get me to want to read more. I liked it because it was focused and uncluttered, easy to get through, and centered on a few cool characters and their relationships that form with one another. Solid B.