The Forgotten Ages series consists of two books and a novel set in between: Encrypted (reviewed below), Enigma, and Decrypted, playing about 20 years before the events in The Emperor's Edge series in the same universe.
Encrypted - which I read (almost) in one go, interrupted only by work and very little sleep - is a delightful story that reminds me strongly of two very beloved books: Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor (the first issue of her famous Barrayar series) and the more recent steampunk magic novel Havemercy by Jones and Bennett. However, "Encrypted" manages to avoid the issues found in even those books, making it a truly enjoyable read with complex plot, believable (and captivatingly flawed) characters, a truly unique setting and storytelling that matches the fast pace of the events to a proverbial T.
It is difficult to sum up its content without spoilers, so I decided just to give a list of tags I use to describe it: science fantasy, military scifi, romance, naval steampunk, cryptographics.
At the end of the first book, I mourned the death of one character, wished for more on the two main characters, and looked forward to what happened to another character, who appears grown-up in the The Emperor's Edge.
As of now (January 2018), the Emperor's Edge series consists of 9 books (with a firm finale after book 7 and a subsequent new spin in the following books) and at least seven short stories set in between. I recommend Goodreads or Lindsay Buroker's homepage to keep up with the developments.
The first - and series titular - book of "The Emperor's Edge" series is a fast-paced, character-driven page-turner which - together with the related short story collection Ice Cracker II and EEs just published sequel Dark Currents - literally gobbled up my last weekend, including the nights.
The imaginative - and neatly anal-retentive - female (former) police officer Amaranthe and the taciturn, mono-if not no-syllabic (not-quite-former) assassin Sicarius (yes, the one from Encrypted, but as a grown man now!) are an irresistible composition.
The setting is a refreshing genre mix with elements of steampunk, cop story, military and fantasy rolled into one to form an utterly compelling, self-carrying world that reminds as much of 19th Century London as of 19th Century Moscow.
Language and the style of the story-telling remind me of Lois McMaster-Bujold's early Barrayar books (most notably Shards of Honor), but the dry wit & humor shown by the well-defined characters are utterly unique and not to be missed.
Deadly Games is the third book in the series and quite frankly, I found it very, very difficult to write a review for this book without repeating everything I said about The Emperor's Edge above. It's as fast paced, as character driven with dry wit and humor as the other installments of the series, and - at least for me - even more gripping than the second book Dark Current (though that might be partially due to road stories not being my preferred brand of tea and the fact that the character developments from the previous books come to -partial, mind you!- fruition here (no, I will not tell you, how. Read for yourself!).
Forced to also mention the downsides, I can list only two:
First, the book is too short (its 110100+ words were over much too fast), and
Second, it ends on a cliffhanger (no, two cliffhangers actually: there's the emperor's note and the labyrinthine developments!) that makes you itch for what comes next!
The fifth installment Blood and Betrayal sees a good deal of character development and a holds several crucial moments for the plot, notably a cathartic experience for the main couple and a critical step with the Imperial family conundrum (Note: Amaranthe and Sicarius-shippers do not want to miss any of this!).
However, be warned that some serious dark topics, including violent interrogation, only ever hinted at in previous books are put into the spotlight in this one. Ms. Buroker certainly pulls no punch here. The aftereffects, while shown, are less prominent than I would have liked, given the severity of the experiences described before, though they are partially addressed in books 6 and 7.
Luckily, Blood and Betrayal does not end with a cliffhanger like the fourth book Conspiracy (I'm sorry, I didn't get around to write a review for it) but it certainly kept me at the edge of my seat for the next book(s)!
The series has a formal finale in book 6+7 (Forged in Blood I + II), which touches on most if not all the important plot-defining tropes from the previous installments (and even the short stories in between them). A fulfilling closure for a breathtaking ride of seven books with just enough sadness filled in to avoid any sticky sappiness feeling from marring the experience. I seldom use the words "perfect" for a book series, but The Emperor's Edge series series deserves it. Perfect!
The series continues since in a merger with protagonists from the Forgotten Ages series (Encrypted, Enigma, and Decrypted) involved as well as the group members on new quests, which I have yet to follow.