Anke Wehner

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Smashwords book reviews by Anke Wehner

  • The Emperor's Edge (a high fantasy mystery in an era of steam) on March 27, 2011

    I had a lot of fun reading it thanks to witty dialogue, interesting worldbuilding, and, oh, the plot... What happens, in one sentence? A former police officer and a hyper-competent assassin (and a few other misfits) try to stop a plot against the young Emperor by counterfeiting money. It makes more sense in context. I love stuff like that. I'll mentally shelve it along with "military-school dropout becomes admiral of a space mercenary fleet by accident" (The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold). The book has a subtitle/tagline of "a high fantasy mystery in an era of steam". The setting is a nice blend of genres, this book taking place in or around the capital of a militaristic and industrial empire where things just happen to be run by steam (occasionally involving punchcards), without the preoccupation with gadgetry that I associate with Steampunk. Magic does crop up, but isn't common - the Empire's official position is that a) it doesn't exist and b) it's banned. What makes this take on saving the country interesting is the perspective. Amaranthe, who is our viewpoint character most of the time, nearly finished business school before entering what the Empire has for a police force, which informs a lot of her actions, such as recruiting a male escort for her cause on the basis of "someone that good-looking is bound to get good deals from businesswomen. (By the by, I think by making running businesses "women's work", Lindsay Buroker nicely balanced the "What, a woman Enforcer? How cute" chaff Amaranthe catches early on.) Amaranthe is rather on the idealistic side, and her greatest strength seems to be talking people into things. Sicarius, the assassin she is sent to kill but teams up with since he seems to be on the Emperor's side, by contrast is practical, amoral, and emotes about as much as a rock for most of the book. (We also don't get into his head.) He's so hyper-competent when it comes to killing people that he gets away with dressing in black accessoried with an armoury of knives in plain view, which I find rather hilarious, but may say more about the setting than anything else, come to think of it. The second viewpoint character is the young Emperor. There are considerably fewer scenes from this perspective than from Amaranthe's; it seems to work rather well together. The plot is fast-paced, somewhat twisty, and well interwoven, and thus for me a joy to follow. The book is a bit on the zany side, so I'd say it needs some more willingness to suspend disbelief in favour of rule of cool/rule of funny than some other books out there. Content warnings? There's violence of various stripes (between an assassin and an evil empire, to be expected) and an attempted rape. Proof-reading and formatting? I spotted something like three typos (and that the writer prefers "a couple [things]" over "a couple of [things]"). A few chapters had, on my reader and at my chosen font size, an empty page before the start of the next chapter. I'm quite sure that has to do with following the Smashwords Styleguide, which concerns making one master file to be converted into several formats, not all of which honour page breaks. The book also has the neccessary meta-info that lets me jump to chapters through my reader's "table of contents" function. That makes this book better proof-read and formatted than at least half the titles I got from big publishing houses. Bottom line: Under aforementioned caveat, I recommend it highly. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.
  • Sonant on April 24, 2011

    I needed a bit to get into it, but after a while it became a pageturner I couldn't put down (despite editing flaws). The viewpoint characters are Aerie, a bassist joining a rather strange band, John, stay at home stepdad and neighbour of that bands usual "stage", and Donnie, the priest that ends up, at John's wife's insistence, to get rid of the demons that must be behind that horrible noise... The book keeps the question which side is right - has Aerie been drawn into Bad things, or is the religious faction hysteric? - open for a long time, and even at the resolution doesn't reduce either to cardboard-cutouts. Thhings that I found really fun to read were the pragmatic attitudes of most of the "exorcists" to their holy-magical job, and the interaction between Aerie and her bandmates; generally there's a neat cast of secondary characters with personality in this book. I had the feeling it let up a bit towards the end; mostly a romantic subplot I'm not sure was supposed to be absurd and funny, or taken seriously. Anyway, romance doesn't take up much of the book. The book should have had someone else proofreading. There are missing quotation marks, comma mistakes, dropped words, or the kind of mistakes you get when you have two possible versions of a sentence in your mind and write down a combination of both. However, this wasn't so common and bad that the "I want to know what happens next!" factor didn't pull me through. Formatting was neat for the most part; one page or so towards the end had a slightly bigger fontsize, and there was an empty page before each chapter heading. Being not a music buff myself I have no idea if the parts of the book talking about music and instruments sound well done to someone who is familiar with the subject. Apart from the very start, I did not find them distracting or in the way of the story despite my unfamiliarity. I'm pretty sure I'm going to re-read this, and would pick up a sequel if it happened.
  • The Best Revenge on July 06, 2011
    (no rating)
    I couldn't get through this on my first attempt, since I did not carefully memorise the conlang vocabulary provided in the front matter, which caused me to stumble over made-up words quite frequently. I've read and rather enjoyed "Uniqueness Counts", featuring some of the same characters, and will give this one another try some time.
  • Finished on July 12, 2011

    Aldin (our viewpoint character) is an art thief one job away from retiring and getting his sex reassignment surgery finished. When needing to evade authorities, borrowing transportation including driver at gunpoint seemed like a good idea... Suspense, action, and a little commentary on gender change. Content "warning": Starts off with a short section of pillow talk shading into foreplay, before that's interrupted. There were no spelling, grammar or similar issues that jumped out at me. Worth a read.
  • Midnight Fireflies: 3 Tales of Speculative Fiction on July 14, 2011
    (no rating)
    Aliens talk about how special humans are. An old woman uses VR to sit in a nursing home. Technological advancements destroyed civilisation. Each of these stories comes across to me as primarily written to convey a certain message or moral. I'd recommend people who do not like "interpreting" texts stay away.