Review: The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker

I haven’t done a review post in a while. Since I just finished Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge last week, it seems like as good a time as any.

I find that since I started writing fiction again, I can’t read the same way. Now, in addition to figuring out if I’m enjoying the story, I have to figure out if it’s “well written.” And I have to wrestle with the “is this person better or worse than me?” question, which is awful. I’m like every woman that walks into a party and immediately starts trying to figure out where she ranks in the hotness scale of the room. Gah.

I’m going to completely avoid that last part, because frankly you don’t care, do ya? You just want to know “Is The Emperor’s Edge worth downloading onto my Kindle (or other ebook reader)?”

To which I would answer “Absolutely.” First, the book is free, so what do you have to lose? Second, I found the book totally enjoyable. Not to mention really hard to classify.

A lot of steampunk fiction is very British Victoriana (think the Robert Downey Jr. take on Sherlock Holmes). Some steampunk fiction is Weird West (think Will Smith’s Wild Wild West). The Emperor’s Edge is neither. It’s more like Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air, because it’s in a completely different world than ours, with different geography, history, etc. Buroker’s world is reminiscent of the Roman Empire, ancient Egypt or Czarist Russia, upgraded with steam-powered technology. The cover blurb calls it “high fantasy in an age of steam” and that’s about as accurate as you’re probably going to get. It’s also like The Court of the Air in that there’s a lot of intrigue and spycraft.

Also, it reminded me of The A-Team, the 80s television show with Mr. T and George Peppard. I can’t speak to whether it resembles The A-Team movie, because I haven’t seen that in an attempt to preserve whatever remaining respect I have for Liam Neeson as an actor. The main plot is a caper story, like The A-Team or Ocean’s Eleven. You’ve got a Big Con Job that needs a group of specialists, none of whom get along or really want to be involved at the beginning, but who eventually coalesce into a semi-functional team.

Are there some inconsistencies? Yep. Was the plot sort of unrealistic? Yes. But that didn’t really take away from the enjoyment of reading it for me. It’s really one of those “just go with it” books. I liked it because it was so different from everything else out there. I can understand both why she’s been so successful self-publishing this series (at this point, there are five), and why a commercial publisher would have a hard time knowing what to do with it. Because it’s a mash-up of so many different styles of story, with so many interesting and fairly original elements thrown in, I never felt like I was reading a rehash of some other story. And at the bargain price of free, you really have no reason not to download it and see if it’s to your taste.

I also realized after the fact that I’d already read another of Lindsay Buroker’s books, Flash Gold (also free, and the first of a series), which is more of a traditional Weird West steampunk tale set in the Yukon. I enjoyed The Emperor’s Edge more, simply because the setting and characters appealed to me more. YMMV. My friend and co-Quibbler Carol Preflatish reviewed Flash Gold on her blog recently.

Aside from enjoying the book as a reader, it was encouraging to me as a writer. I think Lindsay Buroker is a good example of how digital self-publishing works best. She’s written some entertaining books that appeal to a specific kind of reader who is underserved by commercial publishing. Kudos for her success. I’ll be picking up the second book in the series soon.

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