Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Sword-Edged Blonde - Alex Bledsoe

Just finished reading and all I have to say is wow, a very impressive entry from a newcomer. First let me give you the brief, relatively spoiler free background.

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey(read PI) living over a tavern that's seen better days. A routine assignment to find a wayward princess turns his life upside down as he's pulled into a murder mystery that spans across decades. Eddie must now try to save the wife of his best friend while confronting his own past, which may just be more horrifying than the apparent grisly murder.

Now that's just scraping the surface, to tell more would definitely edge into spoiler territory, but how its written is something to behold. The book reminds reminds me of Glen Cook, if he had written his Garrett PI books in the same manner as The Black Company. Grim and bloody detective noir mixed in with a liberal dose of fantasy and magic. People die bloody and sometimes senselessly, and trusting in the kindness of strangers is a good way to end up with a dagger in your guts. The good guys have feet of clay and the bad are downright nasty, and sometimes there's a reason.

Eddie is very much in the mold of a grim fantasy hero, old and scarred enough to have gained a healthy dose of cynicism, but still noble where it counts. And we come to see his inner journey, reliving his history and coming to terms with what he's done, is just as important as the present predicament. The rest of the cast comes through in spades, full of interesting individuals whose personalities shine through whether they are a recurring character or ones that only pass through, leaving their indelible scars upon the story. The characters were definitely the high mark of this novel, and I hungered for more.

As for the setting, it takes a bit of a backseat to the journey. It's also filled with some rather anachronistic elements, which I found humorous but other people might find rather jarring for their fantasy. These included things such as; nametags for tavern girls; customs at the border crossings; and swords being issued model names. Again, funny, but a little bit jarring if you're expecting straight up fantasy. But if you're used to the cross genre detective fantasy present in, say, the Garrett or Thraxas series, then this is definitely on that vein.

In all, this is an excellent example of its type, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed, pulling me in so fully that I only lifted my head up hours and hundreds of pages later. There are a few points where willful suspension of disbelief is necessary, but other than that I found no real problems with it, and hopefully we'll soon see more of the Eddie LaCross series.

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