Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe

Dark Jenny is the third in Alex Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse series, now I've actually been thinking about how to review this, since to really delve into it runs the risk of spoiling all the little twists and turns that Bledsoe has added. On the other hand, given that the novel is a pastiche of Arthurian legend as seen through the eyes and grit typical of a LaCrosse story, we all know how it's going to end.

Alex Bledsoe set out to retell the King Arthur(Marcus Drake) story and fit it into the Eddie LaCrosse universe, where good women die and sell swords get the short end of the stick. Which really creates the conundrum of whether to take this as a story of Arthurian legend in LaCrosse's style, or an Eddie LaCrosse novel that takes place in its version of Arthurian legend.

Taking it as the former makes for a good story. Some of the tension is lessened by the framing device and the fact that we know the general results of the fiasco, however it's the journey that matters, and it's one hell of a journey. Although it seems that every author takes their shake at rewriting the myth, what shines here are the well written characters that evoke love, hate, or awe, which are one of Bledsoe's strengths. These characters that we know from the legend are brought to life in a way that is quite fitting with the atmosphere of the LaCrosse universe. There are of course the trademark anachronisms that populate the LaCrosse universe, their version of Merlin for example throwing in a nice bit of levity into the book. And the twist on the tale that is woven into it is both respectful to the tale and logical to the fantasy noir nature of the novel. By itself, and in that respect it is well written and a novel take on the King Arthur mythos.

Viewing it as an Eddie LaCrosse novel is where I have a few issues with it, if only in comparison to contemporaries and to the other books in the series. The genre of fantasy noir, or the dark mirror of urban fantasy(perhaps fantasy urban? urban elements in a fantasy world) has certain authors that have put their mark on it. Glen Cook's Garrett PI series for example, or Martin Scott's Thraxis series, a benchmark that the first two Eddie LaCrosse books have met or exceeded. One of the features that crop up however, is a general progression of world and story, an accumulation of allies and enemies, and by virtue of the framing device of Eddie telling the story over drinks, we really don't see much of that. It's a recounting of a chapter that is now closed, and as such feels almost independent of the greater Eddie LaCrosse universe. In another series I would say that this makes it a good entry point for new readers, but the first book of the series is simply so strong that I would always recommend them to start there.

In the end though, it is a strong retelling of the Arthur tale in a fantasy noir style and with a good dose of both grit and playfulness. On the other hand it doesn't actually advance Eddie's life much and can likely be read out of order without too much worry. If you've been following the LaCrosse series then go ahead and get it, you'll enjoy it. If you haven't been following the series, start at The Sword Edged Blonde, and move on from there.

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