Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!This quickly shot to the top of this series for me. The fourth installment in this quick and easy, fun and sexy series is by far the longest (despite fluctuating page counts, The Champion had the largest word count of all four novels), and most developed addition. In addition, this most recent novel actually takes place outside the established realm of New Europa's lands and waters; instead the action takes place in the heart of the enemy's desert. Jacob Kessler, the eponymous champion, is "the wrath of the most powerful King in the known world", King Edward XXII, is sent to the enemy's lands to assassinate the Sultan for the attack on the island of Kiris during the course of The Aviator. Discovering that all is not as it seems within the Sultanate of Ruman, Jacob is in for a hell of a surprise during the course of his all-important mission.Unbeknownst to our hero Jacob, the dread Sultan Osman, a paranoid and hateful man, has been dead for years. Instead the part has been played cleverly by a concubine, a slave scared for her life named Nadira. One thing I like about this author so well is that she consistently places independent, strong female characters in positions of power or influence (Jia and her entire tribe from The Admiral, Gilda is the owner of a powerful corporation in The Aviator, etc.) Nadira, though very different from any character before, is an intelligent, determined and relatable protagonist. And I have to say, that was one plot twist I did not anticipate at all for this book. I rooted for Nadira the instant her backstory was revealed; she sold as a child to slavers from the open desert but refused to lose her spirit and fire. Nadira does not encompass many of the ideals one would expect from "an enemy" of New Europa; instead she is the most forward-thinking Sultan ever, and thus beloved by the entire kingdom. Jacob, though not my utmost favorite, runs Tristan Satorin a close second for my favor. Jacob's a nicely conflicted man, with a compelling and interesting history. He's clearly dangerous and capable of great violence, but it is his humanity that draws me to him as a character. The interesting paradox of an assassin paired with the sensitivity of a lover, he draws attention whenever he appears. He's willing to stand up for what he believes in and loves (to the Duke of Sutton from The Aviator, no less!) at the detriment of himself. He's also pretty sexy - I'd have to rate his and Nadira's long-anticipated copulation and Nathan Lanchard/Gilda as having the hottest sex scenes so far this series.The fantastic uptempo pacing, the action-packed scenes, the volatile chemistry between Jacob and Nadira all serve to keep one's eyes glued to the action, with pages flying by. There is an nice blend between the genres: it's not too steampunk-y (in fact I'd say that element of the story figured the least in this installment), and it's not too caught up in the romance and sex. I can truly appreciate the longer length; it allows for a fuller storyline and more depth/feeling for the characters involved. The setting, especially, flowers under the extra attention and truly came to life for the first time for me. I was also much more emotionally invested in the love of the two main characters; their romance was written particularly effectively and well. My favorite so far, with the happy mentions of previous players in this world (Ian Anderson has a pivotal role, as does the madcap Gilda Sinclair) I enjoyed this immensely. At only $.99 how can you pass this up?!