In the sequel to Lindsay Buroker's excellent, The Emperor's Edge, we're presented once more with the point of view of former Imperial enforcer, Amaranthe Lokdon, and as an unexpected treat, we now have the secondary point of view of Marl "Books" Mugdildor.
I must admit, I was expecting the adorkable Sespian to feature again, but the story was so engaging that I didn't miss him overly much. At least we could see that some of his lofty laws were being implemented - and thwarted by conniving bad guys.
Although, the bad guys don't seem completely bad when we see them through Amaranthe's eyes. She has the remarkable trait of seeing good in almost anyone. It's what makes her so charming and a large reason why such antagonistic team members are able to work together without abandoning such a crazy cause.
Once again, each character wormed their way into my imagination and made me laugh and fret over their adventures. The true beauty of this series is how endearing the characters are. Each character has grown since the first novel, but we're not thumped over the head with their changes. The growth is subtle and can be seen in the little gestures just as much as the grand ones.
I'm so eager to follow the characters that I often forget about the plot, which - you'll be pleased to know - is every bit as hair-raising as the first book. I can't help but notice how much fun the author must be having writing this series. The dialogue is snappy, the description is engrossing, the conflict is palpable and, at certain moments, the challenge ahead of this crew just seems too huge to surmount (But, darn it, I am rooting for them! They are too lovable and determined for me not to).
Despite Amaranthe's plan to use good deeds to win redemption for them all (at least this was partially successful for one character, and I'm absolutely pleased that one of her plans bore fruit), I couldn't help but see doubt trying to push its way through the cracks of her certainty. She is saddened by the life that was taken from her, and I'm sure after meeting Sergeant Yara, she must realise that even if she gets a pardon, she can't wipe away everything else that has happened since she started handing around a certain assassin.
And then there is the matter of Sicarius himself. Life *would* be easier without him around. He has done some truly monstrous things in his life, and maybe, just maybe, redemption isn't possible for him. I think it's incredibly noble and maybe a little naïve of her to stick by him and try to see his "dream" through, despite the mounting cost against her own hopes for the future. While she clearly does have feelings for him, I wonder if they are as deep as she suspects. How can one really know a man like Sicarius? He is quite wise to keep a safe, professional distance from her.
The authors note mentions that she isn't quite sure if she'll couple Amaranthe and Sicarius. I'd like to state that I'm quite happy for them not to, at least, not yet. He is a bit of a emotional brick wall and she is far too open. Plus, Sicarius himself pointed out some very good reasons. Their interaction right now is hysterical to watch, and I'm not sure I'd like to lose that just yet. Maybe Mal is right, and she does need to meet other fellows. Only time will tell and I'll be watching closely for the next instalment in this addictive series.
(reviewed 37 days after purchase)