Thursday, 20 March 2014

Dark Currents by Lindsay Buroker

Dark Currents is better than the first book in the series, which struck me as okay, but weak. But it isn't a lot better. The Emperor's Edge was interesting enough to make me this self-published author a second chance, but while this does represent a step forward, it's not enough of one to make me enthused about the series. And so, I think we're going to part ways here. There isn't anything I'm hanging fire on finding out, so while I find them moderately amusing, I think I'm good. There are a lot of books out there. I feel I've given these a fair shake.

These are the continued adventures of the Starship Enterpr, er, Amaranthe, former city enforcer, and her motley crew of mercenaries/compatriots/vigilantes/do-gooders. Yeah, that's a little messy. And so is this, honestly. We're still in the fantasy/steampunk world, with a huge emphasis on the businessworld of this kingdom of...oh damn. I don't remember the name of the Empire. Whoops.

Both books have focused around businesspeople and their negotiating of imperial economic legislation, including tariffs and restrictions on foreign-owned businesses. It isn't that the roots of those ideas aren't interesting, but they're largely kept at the theoretical level, instead being connected viscerally to the characters.

Yes, there is a foreign businessperson being forced out of business, but it's more background dressing than anything else. So, why the subplot about the emperor's economic policy? The book is actually about a threat to the main city's water supply, by local businesspeople and foreign shamans, intent on poisoning the water (literally) so that the city will be forced to turn to another source that, coincidentally, they own.

Amaranthe and her crew are intent on stopping it, as part of their ongoing efforts to do good in the city and come to the attention of the Emperor, who will then fold them into his fond embrace. That's the plan, anyway. She has a master assassin, a bookish teacher, a male model sword-wielder, a street rat/magician and a former slave. And the supporting cast are okay, but again, it lacks the exxtra level that would really grab me.

And that's what the problem is here. It's not that anything is particularly wrong, there's just not enough right. The writing is okay. The plot is okay. The characters are okay. But okay isn't good enough. One of the three needs to rise to a different level, and although Dark Currents is a bit better, it's still not enough for me.

If you're looking for a fun fantasy that doesn't really add anything new, this is not the worst way you could spend your dollars. Maybe they get a ton better, and I do see improvement between the first and second books. Hopefully she continues to develop her chops. But I think I'm done.

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