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REVIEW: Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Dear Ms. Andrews,

I’m a fan of your Edge series so I was very sad to hear that it’s likely that Steel’s Edge is the last book set in that world. Steel’s Edge begins in the Weird, a fantastical world that mirrors our own, where Lady Charlotte de Ney discovers that her husband Elvei does not love her in the worst possible way.
Steels-Edge Charlotte and her husband have been trying to have a baby for a long time, and when the news arrives that she will never be able to give him an heir, Elvei asks Charlotte for a divorce. Charlotte is not just a healer, but the Healer – she possesses the most powerful healing abilities of anyone in the Weird. But she cannot apply those skills to herself.

When Elvei drops the pretense of having loved her and reveals that he married her for other purposes, Charlotte does something no healer is supposed to ever do: she turns her healing abilities to the dark arts, and uses them to hurt Elvei. Charlotte quickly reins herself in, but only after nearly losing control of herself.

Dark healing magic is seductive and difficult to control, and losing control of it again could turn Charlotte into a plague bringer. When someone has as much power as she does, it means she could annihilate the world’s population. To avert that possibility, Charlotte travels to the Edge, the dimension between the Weird and our own world.

In the Edge, Charlotte’s magic is weaker and a descent into darkness is less likely. Charlotte can still heal there, but not as powerfully. Even with reduced power, Charlotte is still a better healer than anyone else in the Edge. But the Edgers don’t know that, so when Charlotte’s money and horse are stolen, they turn her away from their doors or worse – all except Eleonore Drayton, who takes one look at the bedraggled, hungry Charlotte and more or less adopts her.

Three years later, Charlotte, now living in the house that Eleonore’s grandchildren vacated in On the Edge, is almost an Edger herself. One day, a wounded man is brought to her house. The man is Richard Mar, Cerise’s cousin from Bayou Moon and brother to Kaldar from Fate’s Edge.

Richard is being chased by slavers, people who kidnap Edgers and turn them to slaves in the Weird. Richard has been hunting slavers for a long time, using his ability to extend his magical flash to any weapon made of metal. He is determined to eradicate slavery because he and his loved ones have suffered at the slavers’ hands.

Richard’s efforts have met with some limited success, but what he really needs is to find out who leads the slavers’ ring. He will see those people exposed and dealt some justice if it’s the last thing he does, because if he doesn’t, his fifteen year old niece Sophie may get herself killed attempting to do so in his stead.

Charlotte heals Richard to the best of her abilities, and almost falls in love with him in the process. But the slavers know that Richard is hunting them. In a bid to capture him, they attack Charlotte’s house.

And then something very bad happens – something that leads Charlotte to reenter the Weird. She joins forces with Richard in pursuit of revenge.

Dangers lie in wait for them, including from Charlotte herself, since her determination to take out the Slavers means she will put her plague-bringing power to use.

Will Charlotte be able to do so without either killing innocent people? Will Richard be able to kill her if it comes to that point? Will they succeed in destroying the slavers and those behind their ring? And even if they do, how will they overcome the differences in their social rank?

Steel’s Edge is competently written, but lacks the same magical spark that animated the earlier books in the series. As I tried to think about why it did not work equally well for me, I came up with the following thoughts.

Although this book is called Steel’s Edge, most of it is actually set in the Weird. I don’t find the Weird nearly as interesting as the Edge, so that was a letdown.

Charlotte’s character was another problem. She was elegant, noble, and eventually, driven by revenge, but compared with the heroines in the earlier Edge books, she didn’t have much personality. Richard’s niece, Sophie (formerly known as Lark) was a lot more interesting.

I liked Richard better than Charlotte, because in addition to being equally elegant, noble of heart, and driven by revenge, he had his Edge rat past and an interesting backstory. He was also part of the Mar family, and while I wish Cerise had made an appearance, it was nice that Richard’s presence pulled in his brother Kaldar for a few scenes.

We got George and Jack appearances as well, for which I’m grateful since I really love these two, but they were less entertaining here, perhaps because they are getting older. Or maybe it was because in earlier books their presence is associated with humor, but in this book, they had to deal with heavy issues and that made them more serious.

The romance between Charlotte and Richard was mildly enjoyable. There was a blandness to it, perhaps because the characters were almost too perfect and too alike. They had few flaws and outside of the class difference between them and the obstacles they faced as part of their mission to stop the slave trade, no issues.

In On the Edge, Rose had a chip on her shoulder about guys from the Weird. In Bayou Moon, Cerise distrusted strangers and William hid his changeling nature. In Fate’s Edge, Kaldar was a con-artist and seducer, not someone Audrey felt she could settle down with.

In this book, though, there were no such trust issues. Richard and Charlotte see each other and fall in love almost right off the bat. Late in the book, Richard gets jealous over Charlotte’s necessary attentions to another man, but this was brief and felt manufactured. Richard and Charlotte have to face a lot of things that have nothing to do with their relationship, but for most of the book the relationship itself isn’t tested and doesn’t need to be. That’s great for them, but not as interesting for me.

Speaking more generally, this book also did not have the same sense of humor I loved in the earlier Edge books, and I felt it wasn’t as entertaining. Some scenes involved a lot of attention to fashion and slowed the book down.

There were some scenes in this book, especially on the slavers’ island, that showed tremendous writing skill, but on the whole the book didn’t have enough zing. There were also inconsistencies, for example:

[spoiler]If Richard’s purpose in fighting slavers is to keep Sophie from doing so, then why is Sophie more interested in another target?

Sophie’s fighting abilities are said to rival Richard’s, but in her climactic fight scene, that ability didn’t manifest as previously described.

And while I’m hiding spoilers, I was also bummed that once again we didn’t learn the ultimate fate of a major villain.[/spoiler]

I was disappointed when I heard you would likely not be continuing the Edge series because I do so love the world of the Edge, and characters like Jack and George, but maybe it’s for the best. Maybe this series really is tapped out. Thankfully, I can always revisit the Edge in books like On the Edge, Bayou Moon and Fate’s Edge. In the meantime, Steel’s Edge gets a C-/C.

Sincerely,

Janine Ballard

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Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

28 Comments

  1. Brie
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 12:16:23

    I didn’t read the spoiler, but I wonder if we get a satisfactory resolution to the Hand subplot that has been a part of all the books. I’m really sorry the series is ending, but we can’t force authors to write more. This is the one series that I feel is getting a premature ending, but I guess that’s better than a never ending series.

  2. leslie
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 12:32:18

    I am sad to see a C review. I really like Andrews’ Edge series and have big hopes about this last one. Will read Steel’s Edge this weekend and get back to you.

  3. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 12:40:35

    @Brie: I thought so too — that this one was getting ended early — but when I read the book and felt the Andrews magic was gone I wondered if maybe a lack of enthusiasm for the Edge was behind it. You may feel differently when you read it, though.

    Re. the Hand — yes and no. Not enough for me.

    @leslie: I was sad to write it. But I saw on Goodreads that many readers liked this more than I did, so it’s very possible that you will too.

  4. Rebe
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 13:24:41

    I would probably rate it a bit higher – I was more sold on the romance between Charlotte and Richard than you were. They felt like a more mature couple than, say, Audrey and Kaldar. That said, it definitely lacks the humor of the earlier books, and I suspect I won’t re-read this one the way I do the others in the series. Also, I felt that the denouement was a bit rushed, perhaps even tacked on last minute because the authors decided to end the series. Still, I found it a compelling read.

  5. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 13:44:59

    @Rebe: I agree Richard and Charlotte were a more mature couple, and I believed that they loved each other, I just wasn’t as excited to read about them. I feel that the sparks in a romantic relationship come from the characters’ issues. Characters so good that they have almost no personal issues that throw a spoke into the wheel of their relationship, so to speak, aren’t as interesting to read about. If a couple can be too compatible (at least in a book) then that’s what Charlotte and Richard were.

    Re. the humor, Andrews is one of those authors (or in actuality author pairs) who are only in competition with themselves. If the earlier books hadn’t been so entertaining, I might have approached this one with lower expectations. But at Andrews’ best, there are few authors I find more entertaining.

  6. jennifer
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 14:09:50

    Well, I liked it. And if Jack and George’s story can continue in some form I would be really happy. I always find myself wishing that Andrews’ supporting characters had their own stories!

    Vague Answer to Spoilerly Q……….I thought Richard’s motivation was in guilt for what happened to her.

  7. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 14:17:22

    @jennifer: I would love to read more about George and Jack too. They’re my favorite characters in the series. Maybe I should amend my earlier comment and say it’s good the authors are taking some time away from this series. They may come back with fresh, exciting ideas.

    SPOILER
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    I wasn’t questioning Richard’s motivation — he had sufficient reasons. But he told Charlotte that he feared Sophie’s determination to go after the slavers would get her killed if he didn’t get to them first, and then when Sophie showed up she was much more interested in Spider than in the slavers. What I’m questioning is how Richard could have misread Sophie to such a degree. On further thought, this seems like an attempt to make Richard’s quest seem nobler, but it fell flat when Sophie showed up and her motivation was different than what Richard had said it was.

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    END OF SPOILER

  8. hapax
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 14:19:11

    Argggh! I am the one always complaining about series going on long after they should die, and how much I hate sequel bait…

    …but we’re never going to see Jack and George get books of their own? [Darth Vader] NOOOOOOOOOOO! [/Darth Vader]

    Ah, well, I shall just have to enjoy the Edge stories we got.

  9. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 14:24:00

    @hapax: Well, it’s not totally clear that this series is 100% over. You can find out more here.

    ETA: I added the link to the top of the review, too.

  10. Ilona Andrews
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 15:09:16

    Hey Janine, thank you for the review. Sorry the book didn’t work for you. :)

    We intend to continue the stories of George, Jack, and Lark, but it won’t be in the same format. The Edge series is an anthology in a sense that each book follows a separate couple and each book is different in tone, because of that couple. It is also a bit formulaic: person from the Edge meets person from the Weird, they have an adventure, fall in love and end up in the Weird.

    We would like to switch gears and do something different for the kids, more of a continuous storyline with a reoccurring main cast. It would let us stretch a little in terms of having a strong ongoing conflict and character development. Because all the kids are magic, such series can’t be set in the Edge, as there are simply not enough people there for someone like George to really shine as a character. He is a spy and a diplomat. He needs intrigue and both Lark and Jack need dangerous powerful opponents to fight.

    So right away we would have to 1) switch the structure of the novels from self-contained romance to a longer story and 2) set it mostly in the Weird, which is a departure from the current series. That shift would probably be too radical for the fans of the existing series. And then there comes the question of branding. Would it be more of a fantasy? More of a UF? Is it more of a romance? Where would something like that fit?

    Sadly, none of this will happen in the near future, as we have commitments to the other series and we’re overbooked. But the series has solid sales and lots of fans, so our publisher assured us that if we reach a point where we wanted to continue it, in one form or another, they are on board. Honestly, right now we’re both kind of done with it, and while I whine and be conflicted about walking away from a successful series, I think quality should take place of quantity. I wouldn’t want to throw out something half-baked and slap Edge 5 on it for a quick buck. I’d want it to be fascinating.

    We’d have to really think about the entire new series overall for several months before we ever started writing, and right now there is just no time. I hope that makes sense.

  11. Joy
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 15:12:05

    I did like the romance, actually – I thought they were well suited for each other, and that really came across well. But there were too many loose ends for me – first from just the plot of this book, we have villain number one (Elvei) at the beginning, then villain number two as the main arc, which gets resolved, but then right at the end we are suddenly facing villain number three who hasn’t appeared for the whole book, and I thought it would have been a lot more satisfying to circle around and trounce villain number one at the end, instead. Also from a series perspective, so many characters were left at loose ends.

  12. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 15:14:45

    @Ilona Andrews: Yes, it makes sense and since George, Jack and Lark/Sophie are among my favorite characters in the series, I’m glad to hear it.

  13. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 15:31:37

    @Joy: Agree Richard and Charlotte were well suited to each other, but they were pretty much perfect people. I needed more flaws.

    That’s a good point about the villains. I expected Elvei to show up again and was surprised when he didn’t.

  14. sue
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 19:20:54

    steels edge was not my favorite, I definately like Roses book the best in this series. I did however really like the authors other recent release, gunmetal magic. I also love their current blog serial. I also have to say its refreshing to have such a professional and positive response to an honest review of a book

  15. Janine
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 19:50:52

    @sue: Rose’s book (On the Edge) is my favorite too. Agreed on the author’s response.

  16. leslie
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 22:44:38

    I have to say I would read a shopping list written by Ilona and Gordon and probably enjoy it. They are a talented class act.
    Rose’s book is my favorite too.

  17. LisaCharlotte
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 07:36:12

    I’m almost finished with Steel’s Edge. I would rate it higher also. One of my favorite passages is Charlotte telling Jason Parris why they wouldn’t work out as lovers. I like the older age of the H/h (I can’t believe I’m calling 32 “older”!) and am enjoying watching George, Jack and Sophie/Lark as they grow up. I like it more than Kaldar’s book which took me forever to finish. I think that is due to my own H/h type preference. That said, I’ve never been disappointed by an Ilona Andrews book. This is the only author I buy pre-sale and would also fork out $ for hardback.

  18. Knstrick
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 08:34:39

    I also would rate it higher but I’m a die hard Andrews groupie so take that with a grain of salt.

    I’m surprised that we didn’t hear about how much darker this book is (IMO). I thought this was the darkest and goriest book of the series, with Bayou Moon a close second. I think that directly effects the romance of the book, which I admit didn’t feel like the centerpiece of the story.

    I can honestly say that I probably won’t be rereading this book as much as of the others because it got downright depressing in some parts. That being said, Charlotte is my favorite Edge heroine because I loved her dual nature. She’s not a badass like Rose, Cerise, or Audrey, yet she could kill them faster than they could realize she was a threat. She is surrounded by death, decay, blood, and gore routinely, but she understands and appreciates the simple but shallow beauty of a well made dress. She has the power to kill thousands of people or use her magic for any gain, but her greatest desire is to simply have a child.

    I really loved her developing relationship with Lark and I’m looking forward to the kids’ book to see them interact again.

  19. hapax
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 09:23:29

    Thank you, Ilona Andrews, for your response — it is a treat to see author who both respects their fans and honors their first duty towards their art.

    No wonder all of your books are such treasures…

  20. MrsJoseph
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 09:32:58

    @Ilona Andrews:

    Jeeze. I had to stop sqeeeing there, lol.

    I appreciate your dedication to both your fans and your art. So, I’m sad that The Edge will end but I’m excited about the upcoming Kate books and I ADORED Julie’s story. Can’t wait to see what’s going to happen for Julie and I’m LOVING Dina and Sean.

  21. Janine
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 12:11:12

    @Knstrick: For me Bayou Moon was gorier (or at least, more violent), but you’re right, this one was the darkest, and I should have stated that more explicitly.

    I do think the darkness was one of the reasons it took me a while to finish, esp. combined with the absence of humor. I don’t think this one was darker than Bayou Moon in terms of violence and gore, it was more that it was violent, gory and had a lot less humor to help mitigate that.

  22. Janine
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 12:16:33

    @LisaCharlotte, @Knstrick: Glad you guys liked the book more than I did. I can see what you’re saying about the characters’ maturity.

  23. cbackson
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 13:36:14

    I was never so into this series after On the Edge, which I loved to a crazy degree. I would *really* like to see more of Alphas (because of the unvarnished darkness of it) and the Kinsmen, though. I love Silver Shark, and actually re-read it with some frequency. Kate is my favorite (and not just because I’m an Atlantan) – the mix of epic scope and human scale in those books is pretty brilliant, and uncommon. Karen Marie Moning’s Fever books have touches of it, although I find that series fairly self-indulgent; Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series is in the same vein, and actually reminds me a lot of the Kate books.

  24. msaggie
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 20:55:24

    I just finished reading Steel’s Edge, and while I agree with Janine’s points, I would grade it higher (at least B). This is definitely the most serious of the Edge books, and for the majority of the time, not set in the Edge. And not so much an automatic re-read for me like the others were.

    I thought the handling of Charlotte’s infertility was well-done – this is usually such a no-no for romance genre books. There is conflict, but not really between the hero and heroine. The issues George and Jack had to face up to were also very well-done. Perhaps we were expecting too much zing and derring-do, what with the last book (Fate’s Edge) being such a wild ride and LOL moments. But this book just has a different tone altogether.

    I wish Ilona Andrews would get a contract for a YA series featuring Lark, George and Jack (hey, they are the right age group too) – a bit like Harry Potter where the protagonists are followed on their adventures from their teenage years until they get married etc, and they could even go on having adventures after that (think of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody).

  25. Janine
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 23:23:37

    @msaggie: That’s a good point about the infertility. It was well handled — no miracle pregnancies. I didn’t think of it as a conflict because, although Charlotte desperately wanted a child in the prologue, by the time the story shifted three years forward to the current time of the main storyline she seemed to have accepted her infertility.

    I like the idea of a YA fantasy with George, Jack and Lark. I understand why the authors have to move the story out of the Edge, but I think the Weird needs more grounding and development. It doesn’t feel as real to me right now, and therefore it’s not as compelling.

  26. msaggie
    Dec 06, 2012 @ 04:21:49

    @Janine: I am really warming to my Harry Potter analogy. The Hand/ Spider can be the Voldemort, the recurring villain in a YA series starring George, Jack and Lark. The series already has a dedicated fan base – almost all reviews (and comments from blogs, etc) of the Edge books I have read love these kids. I actually quite like the Weird, and think it is an interesting world, where the magic and gimmicks can be developed more. Despite what I wrote earlier, I am re-reading Steel’s Edge right now!

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