Book Review: Steel’s Edge

Steel's Edge

Ilona Andrews is another one of my favorite urban fantasy authors. This husband-wife writing team caught me in their snare when I read Magic Bites shortly after its original release. Since then, I’ve watched for all their new releases, and haven’t yet been disappointed. I took advantage of my Amazon Prime status, and received this final installment of their Edge series on the day of its release.

And then I had to sit on my hands, with the book on a shelf, while I finished this semester’s last class.

Not to say I didn’t manage to sneak a peek. The blurb on the back was enticing:

Charlotte de Ney is as noble as they come, a blueblood straight out of the Weird. But even though she possesses rare magical healing abilities, her life has brought her nothing but pain. After her marriage crumbles, she flees to the Edge to build a new home for herself. Until Richard Mar is brought to her for treatment, and Charlotte’s life is turned upside down once again.

Richard is a swordsman without peer, future head of his large and rambunctious Edger clan—and he’s on a clandestine quest to wipe out slavers trafficking humans in the Weird. So when his presence leads his very dangerous enemies to Charlotte, she vows to help Richard destroy them. The slavers’ operation, however, goes deeper than Richard knows, and even working together, Charlotte and Richard may not survive…

What I didn’t realize was that the deep, emotional turmoil Charlotte faces is related to her diagnosis of being barren. The pronouncement tears down the carefully established parameters of her life, and she discovers the monster side of being a healer–very much in the tradition of Chinese martial artists, who understand that the difference between a killing and a healing touch all comes down to intention.

Because she’s seen her inner darkness, she flees the Weird to make sure she’s never tempted that way again. She builds a new life, then faces destruction again as she intervenes to heal an Edger who’s made it his purpose to eliminate the slave trade in the Weird. The connection between them is strong, immediate, and dreamlike on Richard’s side:

Her eyes were just as he remembered: luminescent with power and heartbreakingly beautiful, but this time he saw no concern in their depths. His cage had changed owners. Whether it was for the better remained to be seen.

Richard weighed his options. One of three things would happen: she could kill him; she could walk away, letting him die slowly; or she could let him out. If he had any hope of getting out of this mess alive, he had to talk her down. He had to survive and finish what he started.

The dark currents of her magic licked the bars of the cage, sparking with red on the metal. Richard braced himself. He could tell by her eyes that whether he left this cage a free man or died of starvation and thirst inside it depended on what he’d say next.

The fast-paced action pulls the reader from one tragedy to the next, with the reader rooting for both protagonists to find their way out of the hell that surrounds them. Both the Edge and the Kate Daniels series deal with worlds that are ugly, dark, and very dangerous. These are not places I would want to call home (other than, of course, the ubiquitous magic in them) and they leave their mark on all the characters within them. What I find fascinating is that the disturbing surroundings both highlight the inner demons the protagonists face, as well as make a stark contrast with the fully luminous qualities of goodness they also embody.

The authors’ ability to weave a complex storyline across so many pages makes for a multi-layered reading experience. I really want to go back to the beginning of this series to pick out the hints they drop about the agents of the Mirror and the varying levels of evil that permeate each of the story arcs.

In the end, I can happily recommend this to any urban fantasy fan, but also to those who like to read about something akin to a murder mystery, or about political intrigue–or even are looking for a meaty romance. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the authors built the happily ever after required in the romance genre out of the ashes of some truly horrific experiences; it’s non-standard, and not something the reader will necessarily see coming.

Your Two Cents

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