Last week, as I exited the exciting villainous world of Vanity Fair, I was desperate for an easy breezy novel. A simple story, which would fuel my imagination and yet calm my horrid soul.
With this intention, I gleaned through the huge kindle edition list available on amazon. As I aimlessly wandered from one title to another, The Emperor’s Edge arrested me with its unusual name. The cover page described it as a high fantasy novel in the era of steam.
Till now I had only heard about steam punk fantasies, but never had the fortune or even intention to read.
However, the appealing cover page, attractive tagline and a gripping blurb proved too hard to resist. And to make my decision even simpler, the novel was available absolutely free of cost. Without thinking twice, I plunged into an exciting web of fantasy, action and drama, brilliantly executed by Lindsay Buroker, an indie author.
But, before I give free vent to my feelings and smother you with details, let me tell you a little about the story, inviting you to a unique country, the Empire of Turgonia, where steam rules the world.
Dueling and sword fighting are preferred sports. Science is the buzz word and Magic is a third world heretic, limited to the neighboring state of Nuria.
The city is abuzz with ice factories, fish canneries and metal smouldering. And, strangely, most of the businesses are run by women, while men are supposed to be protectors, glorified warriors.
But, despite being the major controller of economy, women are considered slightly inferior to men as far as bravery and loyalty is concerned!
And, in this paradoxical society, Corporal Amaranthe Lokdon is trying hard to prove her worth as a Law Enforcer. She is more of an oddity than a norm and is often subjected to harsh criticism and gender bias by her superior officers.
However, one night, while on patrol, she gets involved in a skirmish with robbers and is noticed by the young Emperor Sespian Savarsin, who is smitten with her beauty and bravery.
The very next day, she is summoned to the palace by Commander of the Armies, Hollowcrest, the loyal Regent, the right hand of Sespian.
Hollowcrest tells Amaranthe about the possible attack on the Emperor by a cruel assassin Sicarius and asks her to seduce and eliminate him to save the righteous Sespian.
But, as she combats with the dreaded villain, she realizes that the muck runs much deeper and perhaps Sicarius is more a victim than a culprit! In a sudden turn of events, Amaranthe herself is arrested on treason charges.
Will Amaranthe Lokdon be able to save the Emperor? Or will she be let down by her own colorful team? Can really a team be formed with out-caste magician, dandy male escort and frustrated drunk Professor or is the Lady just deluding herself?
As I grappled with these questions, Lindsay weaved a dramatic tale of magic, loyalty and treason, taking me on a pleasure ride for almost a week.
The Emperor’s Edge is a fast paced thriller, where each chapter ends in suspense. With each sentence, I thought I have unraveled the mystery and yet the very next phrase rekindled my curiosity to discover the unknown. I could hardly contain myself from reading just another page, before turning off the lights and waited impatiently to know the next twist. In short, I had sleepless nights and enjoyed myself thoroughly.
The book is wonderfully deceptive. The heroine Amaranthe comes across as an ordinary though ambitious woman. She is fidgety, chews her nails and is compulsively obsessive about cleanliness. She looks defenseless and innocent.
But, the moment she lands into some trouble, she metamorphoses into a Superwoman. She jumps off the third story, chases a monstrous creature, fools the villains and sweet talks people into submission. And, yet comes across as a simple woman, who has nothing but her common sense to wiggle out of tight situations.
I absolutely loved her and found her quite similar to Agatha Christie’s Tuppence. But, while Tuppence did not have any moral bindings, Amaranthe is honest and tied to strict laws. And, I was quite surprised whe she decides to topple the economy of her country.
Though, I found her schemes presumptuous, the planning haphazard, and execution far off the perfection, yet the plot did work.
Till now, I had believed that a gripping story is the backbone of a great mystery, but here I learnt that the characters are also equally important. More than the terseness of the story, I think the magic lies in the freshness of narrative and the real life feel of characters. Kudos to Buroker for creating realistic, lovable men and women, who made me laugh and think.
Be it Lokdon’s tactful yet artless leadership, Sicarius’ cold agility, or Maldynado’s bawdy gestures, each one of them added chutzpah to the story.
Though, I did not quite like the effeminate character of Sespian. He seems to be in love with the idea of development rather than being actively involved in his subjects’ welfare. I could hardly envisage any romantic relationship between him and able bodied Amaranthe.
If I was Amaranthe, Sicarius would have seemed a better choice (I am more of a conventional school and want my man to protect me instead of the things being the other way round :)) and yet the burly man is of such a formidable nature that I am not really sure of any liaison.
Lindsay, very smartly, has created enough ground for a possible triangle in the first book itself that would be interesting to explore. As I am reviewing Buroker’s first baby, she is on her way to plan her sixth! I am sure, all the characters would grow and become even more interesting with each successive book.
However, as far as the story is concerned, I did feel it was slightly loose in some places. I could hardly digest the fact that Amaranthe, Sicarius and Maldynado could walk with their heads high, totally unnoticed, despite bounties on their heads.
Amaranthe’s escape from prison seemed too easy and her first meeting with Sespian equally unconvincing. In short, the plot had more than a fair share of chance and unexpected timely help, which gave it a slight unrealistic flavor. But to give due credit, Lindsay did carry the story forward with confidence.
I had selected the book on seeing the pun on Steam, but strangely the settings did not convince me. The city came across as an ordinary town, with nothing special to add to the charms of a special era or period. I was expecting a unique fantasy town, somewhat on the grounds of Malgudi, that seems realistic, but has its own identity. However, here this element needs much improvement. Hopefully the next in series would convince me more.
But, despite these aberrations, I feel, the novel does have immense possibilities.
Buroker’s style is unique. In mysteries, every twist is kept hidden, so that the reader may be surprised with the sudden revelation.
But, in Emperor’s Edge, the moment Lokdon gave voice to a sentiment, it became true. Initially skeptical, I actually begun to love this unique play on thought process. It added the essential ingredient of intuition and sixth sense, required to fight the formidable adversary of Magic.
Had the story ended with the saving of Sespian, I would have still liked the novel, praising the positives, lashing out at the shortcomings.
But, the climax actually made me a fan of Emperor’s Edge series. Lindsay bowled me over with her lovely twist in the end. The title acquired a whole new meaning, and this fantastic strategy ensured that the book can be developed into a full fledged series.
The book has all the elements of a Blockbuster movie and a bestselling novel. Though I can hardly pin point the exact reason why I loved the story despite some obvious flaws, the novel on the whole is really good.
Quite an impressive, expectations defying book by an Indie author.
So, have you read a Mystery recently? What did you like about it? Feel free to comment and share. Happy Reading:)