This is the first in a series, the others of which aren't free but if they are as entertaining as this they are probably worth the price. This is the second by this author I've come across and I'm convinced that she's as good as all but the very top of the paid sci-fi market, especially today. This is similar to the other I read, 'Balanced on the Blade's Edge' in that it takes place on a planet in the steam age where there is magic but in a society that does not use magic and where it is a capital offense to do so. This is not the same location as the other, but could very well be on the same planet, which could be Earth because it's all Earth based life, or could be one which was colonized and terraformed by Earth folk in the past. Also like the other, this story takes place in the cold and snow.
The plot is about a plan to subdue and/or assassinate the Emperor of the nation where this takes place and put a more compliant person on the throne, one who will not be trying to give the common people a fair deal and even bring about democracy. The plotters all know that democracy is impossible as long as there is greed, alpha males and testosterone in the world. Our own problems in 2020 may be proving them right, we'll see how it plays out but democracies are failing the world over at this time. The main characters are a policewoman who uncovers the plot, a deadly assassin who has worked for one of the conspirators and the young and idealistic emperor himself. There are several others that she recruits to help her defeat the conspiracy that are also quite realistic. In this story, as in the other, the 'bad guys' are a little stereotypical and unremittingly evil, like the satan-spawn who attempted to destroy our democracy recently.
The other characters in the story are often just cannon fodder. If there was less violence I would have given this four stars but there are hundreds dead both from interpersonal violence and attacks by a magical monster. Some of the scenes are pretty gory, not as bad as some others I've come across but more than I personally like to read. Also the story isn't violence for the sake of violence like in 'Chasing the Jeweled Throne' or 'The Psychian Chronicles' for instance. Unlike those, the violence here is used to heighten the tension in the suspense. There is one major twist in the story but unfortunately there were too many clues that it was coming so the reaction when it happens is more like 'finally!' instead of 'WHAT!?'
Unlike 'Balanced on the Blade's Edge,' there isn't much sex in this story. The main character notices some feelings and one of the guys she recruits thinks he's God's gift to women but nothing actually happens. The prose and proofreading are excellent, professional grade thruout. I noticed only one case of two words being repeated. This story had a couple passages that might be construed as a message, the line about democracy being impossible, and the observation that extreme wealth is never enough and in fact only seems to breed more greed. Neither of these is really developed and I'm recommending this only for its entertainment value.
(review of free book)