Saturday, September 24, 2011

“The Emperor's Edge” by Lindsay Buroker (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “The Emperor’s EdgeHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Encrpted

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Lindsay Buroker is a writer who was influenced by J.A. Konrath to become a self-published author. She has a B.A from the University of Washington and also served in the military. Nowadays she works as an independent Internet professional and lives in the greater Seattle area. She has written six books so far including Encrypted and Flash Gold.

PLOT SUMMARY: 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.

FORMAT/INFO: The Kindle edition 318 pages long divided over twenty-one chapters and an Epilogue. Narration is evenly divided in the third-person omniscient chapters between Amaranthe Lokdon and Emperor Sespian Savarsin. The plot is completely self-contained, but is the first book of the Emperor’s Edge series.

ANALYSIS: Liviu Suciu previously reviewed Lindsay Buroker’s novel Encrypted on FBC, which is how I became interested in the author’s work. So when I heard about The Emperor’s Edge, a fantasy-steampunk hybrid, I immediately bought a copy on Amazon.

The Emperor’s Edge is set in the capital city of the Turgonian Empire, which is ruled by science and refutes magic as an unworthy practice. It is also facing tension across its borders from the country of Nuria where magic is given free rein. Into this backdrop, reader are immediately introduced to Amaranthe Lokdon, a lowly corporal stuck on patrol duty with her lazy partner Wholt. Readers are also introduced to Emperor Sespian Savarsin, who is trying to get back on his feet, while Commander Hollowcrest helps him rule the empire. During a routine patrol, Amaranthe and Wholt discover a suspicious fire that spirals out of control. Soon after, events occur which pull Amaranthe from her normal duties as an imperial enforcer to hunting down Sicarius, the most dangerous assassin in the world. And thus the plot to this fantastical story begins...

Instead of going for an all-original idea, Lindsay Buroker has taken an oft-used concept and presented it with her own additions. So even though The Emperor’s Edge is described as a “high fantasy novel in the era of steam”, the book comes across as a campy fantasy adventure hybrid . In fact, what I liked most about the novel was its campy feel, which includes characters and situations often cropping up to delude the protagonists of their well thought-out but slightly improper plans. This kept me chuckling constantly as the humor quotient is kept at a remarkably steady level. Granted, the story sometimes takes silly turns, but the plot twists and Lindsay Buroker’s writing make these moments entertaining rather than overtly stupid.

Another important factor for me was the great characterization. Even though there are only two POVs in The Emperor’s Edge, there are several supporting characters involved in the main plot and the author makes sure each one is unique, if not a bit stereotypical, but I think that was more for comedic effect. Amaranthe though is the most well-rounded character in the book, as readers are shown a close look at her down-to-earth, hard working personality; her thoughts; and using her tenacity and gift of persuasion to overcome the challenges in her life. Not only that, but Amaranthe is the emotional core of the book. Be it her interactions with Sicarius, Books, Maldynado, etc.; her calm nature; or her deductive ability; Amaranthe comes across as a heroic persona.

Sicarius is another intriguing character, but not many details are revealed about him. Hopefully the author will rectify this in the sequel. World-building is also very impressive with the world of The Emperor’s Edge brought to life through vivid descriptions. Lastly, there’s no quasi-European feel to this novel. So instead of the usual medieval routine, Lindsay Buroker offers readers a more tropical setting highlighted by racial diversity.

Not everything about The Emperor’s Edge is rosy however. The plot for instance, is very linear, not to mention predictable, while secondary characters possess clear-cut agendas and are pretty much black and white.

CONCLUSION: After reading just one book—the very fun and entertaining fantasy adventure hybrid that is The Emperor’s Edge—I’ve become a Lindsay Buroker fan and can’t wait to read the rest of her series. For anyone who loves David Eddings, Terry Brooks and Rachel Aaron, The Emperor’s Edge is a book I heartily recommend to you...

"A Shore Too Far" by Kevin Manus-Pennings (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Kevin Manus-Pennings Website
Order "A Shore Too Far" HERE or HERE
Read 20% of A Shore Too Far HERE

INTRODUCTION: Here at Fantasy Book Critic we get tens of indie review queries a week, some with the full ebook included, some with samples and I dutifully open all that are not UF or YA but very rarely something hits the special combination of content/style I look for in any book I try. Usually the indies fail on content since there is so much "ancient evil, destined boys/girls" or their science fictional analogs coming in that I almost stopped opening such, but in the few cases a book has an intriguing blurb, the writing style needs also to hit it with me and that is a very subjective thing.

When "A Shore Too Far" popped in the inbox, the blurb below was interesting enough to make me take a look and it turned out that the novel was a first person narration which a bit to my surprise grabbed me from the first paragraph you can also read in the sample linked above.

"Kara Asgrand, daughter of the king, is the greatest military mind of her time, but now a wondrous fleet has approached her people’s shores. When this new people arrive, the visitors’ tale of woe doesn’t add up, and their plea for help may be a prelude to invasion. Kara must decide if her warrior’s instincts are keeping her cautious or are they betraying her and endangering thousands."

"A Shore Too Far" is advertised as the first book in "The Daughters of Damendine" series.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "A Shore Too Far" is a very entertaining series debut which takes place on a secondary world with the usual pseudo-medieval society but with no magic so far. The novel is a first person narration from Kara Asgrand, daughter of the king of Avandi and commander in chief of the army.

Kara is also a rival to her two brothers, Eric, a very able administrator and current ruler of Abrigol, the most important city outside of the capital, and Kollus who is mostly a scholar, though as royalty he also rules a province - one of the conceits here is that in Kara's country the succession is decided by the king stepping down in favor of a successor that may or may not be one of his children - this is really unlikely to work and would lead to countless civil wars as history shows in any society without clear and accepted lines of succession and sometimes even in those, but that's more of a plot device so far to motivate the rivalry and subtext between Kara and her older brother Eric.

When a strange fleet is sighted close to Abringol, Kara summons her fastest cavalry and rides there to strengthen Eric's defenses, while the king and the rest of the army will tae some ten days or more to get there. What follows is a story of first contact between the Avandi and the mysterious strangers that call themselves the Kullobrini and claim they were blown off course to a colonization mission on some remote and less hospitable areas of the continent, while now a sickness developing on their fleet forced them to come ashore in the Avandi kingdom. Any misstep can lead to a deadly confrontation and Kara has to make the decisions as her father puts her unexpectedly in charge of the "alien diplomacy" over her governor brother

The main strength of the novel is in the first person narration of Kara. While the novel is predictable to some extent, the tension is maintained to the end and the pages turn by themselves since you do not want to stop until you find out the implied secrets of the Kullobrini and how things will turn out for both people.

As an added bonus there is some backstory recounted and we understand more about Kara's relationship with her siblings too. In addition to Eric, there are a few notable secondary characters - the Kullobrini leaders, a young ambitious and very wealthy merchant of Abrigol who is an on-and-off flame of Kara, while grizzled veteran Gonnaban plays well the role of the princess' master at arms and all around skeptic.

Overall, A Shore Too Far (A+) is another very promising indie series debut which I recommend for a fast and very enjoyable read. I also want to note that the novel wraps up its main storyline so it's a standalone from this point of view, but of course more is promised in the interesting universe created by the author.