High fantasy in an era of steam? An ensemble cast with a strong female lead? Recommended by a friend? I was definitely excited to delve into this one. Do you think I was thrilled or disappointed? Let’s take a look at the usual book stats then jump into my reviews.

The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Book 1 of 9
Published: December 22, 2010
Amazon: 2,898 ratings; 4.4 avg
Goodreads: 14,337 ratings; 4.04 avg
1st person, limited dual POV

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.

The Emperor’s Edge is approximately 105,000 words.

FYI – I used the audio book cover as it was the one that matched my paperback. You’ll see different covers for the ebook now.

As always, repeated criticisms of our fellow readers will be the starting point. And, as always, no book is for everyone so despite the high ratings, there were some common themes in the 1-2 star reviews. 

–campy/ unrealistic
–didn’t pull me in

This is one of those odd ones where I technically agree with the criticisms, but I still enjoyed the book. Let’s get to it though so you might be able to decide if this book is for you!

Campy/ unrealistic
I almost always chuckle when I read reviews noting that a fantasy novel was unrealistic. I don’t know about you but my reality doesn’t include vampires, magic, ancient curses, or any of the things I seek out in my need to escape with fantasy. However, there is a more serious side to this criticism and I do think it applies here. 

The cover notes it is a high fantasy novel in an era of steam so I had certain expectation regarding world-building. I never had a clear image of the world and didn’t see how steam really made an impact. The world simply was without real reason or explanation (though it is only Book 1). It was also over-the-top for both the plot and the characters (we’ll address the character side a bit more later on). I fell on the side of viewing it as campy fun while other readers noted it was unforgivably unrealistic.  

Admittedly, even the ‘found family/ team of misfits’ thing was rather unrealistic, but again, I enjoyed it. I have a soft spot for that trope and love cheering for the good guys. I also found their interactions amusing regardless. 

If you are looking for a serious or dark read with a complex world, this might not be a great start for you. If you do enjoy a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then keep reading!

You can get the plot basics in the blurb [bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor – empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town], but Amaranthe’s a little more of a mystery. Considering her education, I did assume she was in her twenties, but it does read younger than that. There were also many reviews calling her a Mary Sue (unrealistically perfect character). There is no denying that the results of her plans and other characters’ responses to her far exceed her skill set and personality. She truly is unexpectedly and inexplicably good in dangerous situations and jumps into a leadership role easily.

Again though, the over-the-top nature of the book made it easy to read fun for me. I will admit that I did my usual thing and skimmed a few times which brings me to the next criticism.

Didn’t pull me in
This is always a bit of a vague criticism but that doesn’t make it less powerful. As readers, we want to either connect so strongly with a character that a few plot issues won’t bother us or to get so lost in a fantasy world that a few annoying character traits can be forgiven. I’m typically on the character side which is why I often favor paranormal romances, I think. I will also say that I expected more on the world building side for both ‘high fantasy’ and ‘steam’. If other readers had similar expectations, I can see why this one fell flat for them.

My overall rating is 3 stars – I enjoy light, easy reads so this one was fine for me! I have no immediate plans to continue the series at this time, but I would read others from this author. Depending on your mood and/ or preference, I hope I’ve shared enough to help you make your own decision. In case you’re still on the fence…

The friend who loaned me this paperback also recommended Leigh Bardugo so I wasn’t surprised to find some fun quotes. I’ll share some non-spoiler favorites which might help you decide!

Their humorless expressions were so similar Amaranthe wondered if it was part of their training. Disapproving Stares, the Advanced Course.
The need to justify her decision was trampling all over her thinking.

It’s your turn now, fellow readers. Have you read this book/ series? Do you plan to add it to your TBR pile? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. The writer’s POV will be next so you can keep reading or scroll down to the cute cat picture (it’s Leila just time and she wasn’t happy about it) for books links.

Fellow writers, are you ready to take a look at The Emperor’s Edge from this side of the coin? There is always something to learn from other authors.

This is often the hardest thing for most of us to do. Scroll back up to re-read it once more as I think there’s a lot to talk about for this one.

First, I think the campy style of the book is reflected in the blurb. The list of plot issues? The snarky tone? Both foreshadow the book style as well. While every reader might not note it, I think it’s a clever way to stop some readers from continuing if they aren’t the ones who enjoy it.

We often talk about our blurbs (and covers) being the way to pull readers in. However, I think it’s also important to realize they can also push the ‘wrong’ readers away. Wrong is obviously misleading, but we have to admit that our books aren’t for everyone – NO BOOK [not even our personal bookbaby] IS FOR EVERY READER. 

There’s a reason for the multitude of sub-genres in the fantasy world as well as styles. There’s also a reason for trends. It’s not just about pulling in good potential fits for our book. I think we have to consider if we are warning off readers who might not enjoy it (I’ll confess this is the first time I’ve really thought about it in this light). I have preferences as a reader and there have been books I didn’t enjoy – I must assume the same is true for readers considering my books.

Why repel readers when a sale is a sale and any publicity is good publicity?

You don’t have to – shock and awe might be part of your strategy. You might be one of those clever authors who use negative reviews or live to argue with reviewers. That’s not me though and it’s not what I want. I want to build a brand that readers can recognize and count on. That’s the kind of reader I am so it makes sense to me. This means I don’t want to pull in a reader who hates my book, leaves a horrible review, and trashes it on social media. I don’t want that kind of publicity even if it results in some sales.

I’ve mentioned this in other Book Chats, I think it’s important we know ourselves and our books. Marketing is tough at the best of times. It’s harder when we lack knowledge and misstep. Maybe we discover a negative review devastates us and makes us give up? Maybe we end up being the target of trolls and decide to avoid social media even if we once enjoyed it?

Again, no book is for everyone and no writing/ business strategy either. I am only sharing my own worries and hoping to encourage fellow writers to consider themselves and their goals more carefully. We need more books and authors in the world and I do want to give back to our community with this blog. I want to support fellow writers by sharing my journey. 

Let’s keep going by jumping back to that blurb once more. Did you notice that final line about the word count?

Have you added such language? I have seen it for shorter works which I also assumed was a writer’s way to discourage the ‘it’s too short’ reviews and low ratings. This is the first time I’ve seen it in this way though. I have always heard that ‘high fantasy’ includes higher word counts though and meeting readers’ expectations is another thing we’ve discussed here rather often. 

What steps are you taking to find/ encourage the right readers to buy your book? Are you doing anything to manage readers’ expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts and always welcome guest posts so please do comment or reach out to me.

This brings another Book Chat to an end, my friends! Below are the links to this month’s read and next month’s as well as a link to our 2023 schedule post. I hope to see you next month for more Books and Cats fun!


US Amazon Book Links:
The Emperor’s Edge
Dragons are a Girl’s Best Friend

One thought on “2023 Books 2: The Emperor’s Edge

  1. I don’t enjoy epic fantasy as much as other genres, but I will read it from tome to time. The steam element of this one attracts my attention, but I do like a good world that I can imagine in my mind as I read it.


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