A pile of reviews: Ladies with Blades

It’s ladies with blades in this stack…or guns and sidekicks, as the case may be!

emperor's edge coverThe Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

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.

I have to admit, I found it hard to get hooked into this – but it’s very definitely me! The writing is good, and the tensions and interactions between the characters are very nicely done. The world’s got nothing particularly unique, but this doesn’t really matter, as the fairly simple set-up allows for more detail of the political tensions and intricacies of the plots. It’s got a relatively quick pace, and I think if I’d been more invested in the characters then I would have enjoyed the pace…but eh, it’s just me. So if you like fantasy intrigues, assassins and plots, politics and puzzles…give it a try.

when dark falls coverWhen Dark Falls by Pippa Jay

In a city where Dark Technologies Inc. now runs the show, Kadie Williams has more immediate concerns than the fall of Blaze, their guardian superhero. Almost every morning for the last few months she’s woken up with cuts and bruises on her body, and no idea how she got them. There are no nightmares. No evidence that she sleepwalks, or any sign of a break in. And nothing to tell her who’s been cleaning up after her. As just one of thousands of civilians conscripted to slave away in the labs of Professor Dark, she knew there’d be trouble ahead. But she never expected it to be so bad, or so personal.

Desperate for answers, Kadie looks to the new defender of the night, the only person who can hinder the total domination of Professor Dark—Nocturnelle. The mysterious vigilante superhero came from nowhere with her cybernetic sidekick Shadow, set on putting an end to the brutality of Dark’s regime. But as his laboratories work on a new secret super-weapon, Nocturnelle and Shadow may not be enough to save Nephopolis…or to save Kadie either.

Interesting mix of steampunk, superhero romance and urban fantasy! I liked the industrial element to this, along with the dystopian edge and the fact that the bad guy had previously won – and also destroyed the superheroes in the process! There’s mysteries all the way through this, which adds to the tension, and I did like the twists at the end. A different take on the superhero trope, and not too overwhelmingly romantic.

Steel PrincessThe Steel Princess by Amy Sanderson

Skye was never meant to rule. The third child of Eskeleth’s king, it’s her place to practice the skills of war and death, to protect her country and the older sister who will be queen. She’s spent six years learning the ways of an assassin, preparing to do just that.

Disaster has befallen Eskeleth’s royal family, though, and Skye is next in line for the throne. For the sake of her people, she must return to a land plagued by ghosts – and bordered by a rapacious empire – to fight for her crown against a council that will do anything to keep her from it.

Because if Skye is to rule, she must overcome an ancient prophecy, one that promises Eskeleth’s end in blood and fire. To save her kingdom, she will need to be princess and assassin both, or everything she’s ever known will be destroyed.

A nice YA, coming-of-age and learning-to-rule book. I liked the range of characters in this; none feel cliche or stale, and the plot – despite sounding routine – isn’t at all. Skye is an interesting character, trying to find her way in a new world, and her emotions and choices all the way through feel very authentic. The plot is compelling, with one problem after another, all winding in to the end – and even then not solved, as this is only the first book in a series. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next or not, but it’s certainly a good read.

Amy Sanderson also has fiction on her website and Wattpad, which is worth a read!

conspiracy of alchemists coverA Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

A mix of gothic fiction, steampunk and supernatural romance! I hadn’t expected the romantic element to be as strong as it is, but there you go. I liked the industrial aspects of the world in this; I have to admit that as soon as the supernatural element became stronger I lost a little of my interest, but I think that’s a personal preference. The plot combines intrigue with romantic tension, and chases the protagonists from England to Venice and onwards; the world is mostly steampunk, but with some interesting additional aspects.

This is the first book in a series; I’m not sure if I will pick up the second or not, but if you like steampunk romance with a gothic and supernatural edge, give this a try.