Free books can be a rather perilous venture. Eh, okay, "perilous" is hyperbole. I mean, yeah, it's "free?" But if you value your time, then slogging through a sucky book is a mild ..."risk?"
The Emperor's Edge is fast-paced romp through a vaguely Victorian, steampunkish world, centered around a young emperor who struggles to assert his right to rule in the face of a conniving oldster regent who doesn't want to retire. Enter into the picture, Amaranthe, a female enforcer (read: "cop"). The social structure in her country is interesting in that while women aren't encouraged to do male professions, like law enforcement, they can run businesses and apparently have a higher degree of autonomy than those in the usual Victorian/Regency steampunk boilerplate ethos.
Amaranthe is a dedicated enforcer, rule-oriented and a bit of a neat freak. She's always willing to jump into the fray, even when she's over her head. Honestly? At times, she borders on Too-Stupid-to-Live, but she's likable enough, never given to whining or angst about her sad, sad, sad past (because she doesn't seem to have one), so her impulse control can be overlooked.
The inciting incident occurs when she encounters the young emperor at a crime scene. He's smitten and goes home to gush to his traitorous regent about the amazing female enforcer. The regent, who wants the emperor to marry a blue-blooded young lady, make royal babies, and then die from the poison that the regent is currently giving him, isn't happy about the crush.
So the regent arranges a special mission for Amaranthe, promising promotion if she assassinates the notorious assassin, Sicarius. (This seems like a major overreaction to the emperor's mild case of puppy love, but, uh, okay.) As you might expect, Amaranthe, for all her dedication to duty, is hopelessly outmatched against Sicarius.
But...Sicarius doesn't kill her and for his own reasons, decides to aid her in bringing down the treacherous regent, as well as a business coalition known as the Forge (also intent on killing the emperor; it's not good to be king).
To accomplish her mission, Amaranthe must establish a rag-tag team -- sort of the A-Team, but less competent, but just as funny -- and try to get everyone to play nice together. The supporting cast is delightful; Sicarius an intriguing and vaguely sexy mix of amoral with a possible heart of gold far beneath; and the world building, is not extensive, but believable.
The pacing is fast, almost non-stop. But, at times, Amaranthe's MacGyver-esque solutions are too improbable, or at least, too reliant on convenient coincidence. But when a story is this easy to fall into, details of that sort don't nag as much as they would with a less engaging read.
A hint of attraction between certain characters, but at this point, no actual romance. I enjoyed the very subtle sexual tension. But as my other reviews suggest, I get bored with over-the-top Insta-Lust.
Fun stuff for those who don't take their fantasy too seriously.