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I didn't know what to expect - but I got a great world and a great story
am 7. August 2012
Synopsis [by Goodreads]:
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.
Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.
I don't remember how I stumbled upon this book, but I do remember seeing the book on Ilona Andrews' blog after deciding to read it - and since I love Kate Daniels and the "Edge"-series that was a "ok, definetely to-be-read" for me. I love steampunk and fantasy of all kind: high, dark, urban you name it. But I have to admit that it was impossible to deduce what to expect from a "High fanatsy novel in an era of steam" as is stated on the cover.
Now I know and it's fabulous.
As is stated in the Goodreads-synopsis, the main character is a female law enforcer, Amaranthe Lockdon. As a female enforcer [aka policewoman], she is an exception and suffers from being ignored by superiors as far as promotions are concerned. She struggles not to let the constant dicrimination kill her motivation and when the chief of the army wants her to go on a secret mission to assassinate the number one enemy of the empire [a killer himself], she does not see a way to decline the job, since she sees it as her only way ever to get promoted.
What I really liked about Amaranthe is that she knows that assassination is murder and that it is not backed by empire laws - and that there are moral implications she will have to deal with. But nevertheless she reacts as most "real people" would: yes, rationalize the yes, no, yes... and so on. In other words, she feels real, because she is neither the heroine whose killings are all totally justified, nor is she the moral example that never even considers doing anything wrong. She is just totally relatable.
The story is told from Amaranthe's and the young emperor's POV [but I just started to read the next installment - and in "Dark Currents" it's Amaranthe's and Book's [a character introduced in "The Emperor's Edge"]POV - so I guess there is constant change in the second POV as the series continues] and although I preferred Amaranthe's, it was a good means to let the reader know what is going on in the palace, since it boosts tension, when you as a reader know that the developments the emperor and Amaranthe start, are likely to collide and create havoc...
There are other characters around Amaranthe and although they are not as well developed as Amaranthe, we get to know them and I got a feel for all of them. Someone at Goodreads stated that the bad guys were to one-dimensional, being only and blatantly bad, but I didn't think so. Especially the "main adversary" is more of a "good intentions gone bad" kind of guy. This is the first in a series so I'm sure we get to know much more about the characters.
I would like to write more about the story, but I really don't know how without being spoilerish. What I can tell you, is that Amaranthe loses a lot during the course of the story and as a result is thrown in a totally new life and excels at manageing chaos.
This is a fantasy adventure-story, kind of "mission impossible" in a fantasy-empire, with Amaranthe as the quick-witted boss that comes up with a plan whatever is thrown at her and is great at talking others into anything. The steampunk-feel is somewhat lacking. You get it when the clothes are described, the buildings or the machinations or automations. In the description of the empire versus the other countries surrounding them it sounds like "technology against magic" and the world-building, although not entirely new, is very artfully done and I expect more details to come in the next installments. Besides being the first in a series, there is no cliffhanger at all, which I really appreciate. There is room for more adventures, but the story is brought to an satisfying end and the questions that came up during the story are answered.