Sunday, 16 June 2013

Review: Forged in Blood I

Forged in Blood I
Forged in Blood I by Lindsay Buroker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's always a pleasure for me to read a new Lindsay Buroker. She is one of the authors that, if Amazon had an "automatically buy everything this person writes" feature, would be on my autobuy list. The combination of humour, action, decent editing (though not perfect; see below), quirky and interesting characters and unpredictable plots is a winner for me.

I'll talk about the imperfections first, though. By indie standards, the books are well edited, as well as many big houses (and better than HarperCollins, of course), but there are some errors. In this one, besides a few more minor issues (typos, punctuation, sentences with missing words and the like) I spotted several homonym problems and other word confusions: "ducks" for "ducts" (yes, really), "fortuitous" for "fortunate", "apt" for "adept", "who's" for "whose" (which I've also noticed in an earlier volume, fortunately only once per book), "success" for "succession", "site" for "sight", and "breech" a couple of times for "breach". There's also an instance of "trolley" spelled without the "e".

The names irritate me a little, particularly the noble families' names, which always seem to reflect something about the current family member who is being introduced. For example, a character sees an artwork by "Ansil Inkwatercrest", reminding me of Ansel Adams and also containing the word "ink", as in art supplies.

Aside from these irritations, the main problem I have with this one is the useful coincidences. One of the characters picks a meeting place for no particular reason except that it's a landmark she's familiar with, and another character therefore randomly happens to be in a position to intercept a secret communication from their enemies that enables them to infiltrate. Later, while shopping, a character randomly finds herself in a position to eavesdrop on the leader of another enemy faction, who happens to be shopping in the next-door shop.

The reason I don't facepalm and swear off Lindsay Buroker is that these opportunities are not used to get the characters out of trouble, but into trouble. It's still cheeky, but it's not lazy. The second one, with Amaranthe hiding under a rack of clothes, trying not to get spotted while also cleaning up dust bunnies, is both suspenseful and funny, which is a difficult combination to pull off.

There are some wonderful lines, or rather conversations, as always in these books. "Droll" is the word that comes to mind, though they also reveal character and develop relationships. The way in which there's always a second viewpoint character (apart from the team leader Amaranthe), with a different one in each book, works well to round out the secondary characters, and this time it's the turn of the taciturn assassin Sicarius. It's well-timed that this is his book, not only because leaving him mysterious was a good move for the first few books, but also because he's now reached a point where he's actively attempting to develop relationships with two of the other characters. He's not very good at it, which works well, because he's inhumanly competent at everything else.

The Emperor's Edge series is definitely on the "cinematic" end of the fiction spectrum, with human biology straight out of a Michael Bay movie. I'm choosing to consider that a trope rather than a fault. There is, at least, a recognition that training and practice enhance skills and abilities, though all the characters shrug off injuries to an unrealistic degree.

Imperfections aside, though, I do enjoy these, and it'll be bittersweet when the final volume comes out soon. I look forward to whatever the author does next.

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