Blood and Betrayal
, the fifth in Lindsay Buroker's The Emperor's Edge series, picks up right where Conspiracy
lets off, with our intrepid band of questionable heroes veering off towards opposite sides of the country.
Having successfully kidnapped Emperor Sespian, our team is on the way to collect their reward when an unfortunate encounter with a massive enemy airship causes their ship to crash. Amaranthe, our silver-tongued team leader with an inordinate fondness for explosions, gets hurled off and captured by the enemy. The rest survive the crash and Sicarius, after considering all his options in typical stoic assassin fashion, leaves the foppish Maldynado in charge of the group escorting Sespian and takes off to rescue her from the Imperial torturer's dubious ministrations.
Lindsay Buroker doesn't go into too much detail, but reading about Pike torturing Amaranthe raised all the hair on my arms. It's awful and speaks volumes about Amaranthe's mental fortitude that she holds out for so long in such terrible circumstances and, with a little help, manages her own escape, thank you very much. Of course, it helps that Sicarius shows up in time to pick off her remaining pursuers and to deal with his own personal demon.
Sicarius has made great strides during the course of this series towards humanity -- okay, maybe not so great, but enough -- and he finally shows it in this book. He doesn't hesitate to show his concern for Amaranthe, and it's immensely satisfying to see him with his walls slowly coming down. I don't think the crazy squee factor of their relationship needs to be mentioned anymore, because it's always going to be a given.
Maldynado may not yet have his statue, but he finally gets his chance in the limelight. Having been an aristocrat and an extremely attractive man all his life, Maldynado is accustomed to having everything go easy for him without having to lift a finger. But with Sicarius leaving Sespian in his care, responsibility is finally thrust upon the big charming lunk and he reluctantly leads the group. It doesn't help that his brother's involvement in the conspiracy against Sespian causes everyone to question his loyalties. For the first time in his life, Maldynado has to take charge of his own life and cast off the indolent aristocrat. Despite my avid interest in the goings on between Amaranthe and Sicarius, I was always quite eager to return to see how fared the fabulous Maldynado.
In the course of this book, there are the usual daring escapes, underwater lairs, nefarious gatherings of morally questionable evildoers, booming explosions, vehicle thefts, and disastrous cave-ins that one has learned to expect from these books, but despite the constant appearance of all these tropes, it never is any less thrilling.
Yet another five star book.