Friday, 17 July 2009

‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ – Alex Bledsoe (Tor)


I started this week off by looking at a crime and detective stories and I thought that it would cool to round the week off in the same manner! There’s a slight difference here though. While the streets, in ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ are just as mean as those of New York etc you’d be hard pressed to walk them in real life. Yep, we’re straying into fantasy fiction territory here...
‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ was a book that came along just after I started running the blog. Nightshade Books published it originally (I think) but when I picked the book up, last week, it was to find that it had made the journey over to Tor. It’s another relatively short read (weighing in at a slender two hundred and ninety six pages long) but don’t let that fool you as there is more to this book than you think. Even if the thunderstorm (sat right over the top of our house) hadn’t kept me awake last night I would have still stayed up to finish this one off...

Eddie LaCrosse is a private investigator who solves other people’s problems so he can get on with the business of ignoring his own; this is a man with a very painful past... As is the case with most detective fiction (that I’ve read), the case where we first meet him isn’t the one that forms the bulk of the plot. This new case involves a queen accused of killing her son and is set to plunge Eddie back into the past that he swore he’d leave behind. If that wasn’t bad enough, Eddie is about to find himself in the middle of a revenge plot stretching back centuries...

While there is more often than not a mystery to be solved, in fantasy fiction, I haven’t really read much fantasy where the emphasis is on a private investigator as the main character. In fact, the only other ‘detective fantasy’ I’ve read was Glen Cook’s ‘Whispering Nickel Idols’ (part of his ‘Garrett P.I’ series) and I wasn’t so keen on this. ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ was a whole different deal though; I’m already looking forward to the next book!

Before I go any further I should note that I did find this a hard book to get into. The use of present day names, in a fantasy setting, was a bit jarring to start off with but the ebb and flow of the story soon got me past that. What I did find difficult though was that the balance between ‘fantasy’ and ‘hard boiled American detective novel’ occasionally swung too far towards the ‘hard boiled’ end of the spectrum. When this happened I lost the sense that this was essentially a fantasy novel and when that happened I was left wondering why a whole bunch of New York cops and private eyes were running around waving swords at each other...

Despite all this though, ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ was a still a hugely enjoyable book that I got a lot out of. The book is full of clich├ęs from fantasy and detective fiction but I got the feeling that Bledsoe was playing to these deliberately, with tongue firmly in his cheek, rather than using them to churn out something that was ‘by the numbers’. The end result is a fast paced ride of a mystery that unfolds at just the right tempo, raising even more questions as it does so. Bledsoe presents us with an intriguing mystery that kept my attention but isn’t afraid to up the tempo with fight scenes that are real page turners!

Eddie has to go up against some real nasty villains but it’s his character that I found the most interesting. LaCrosse is a typical down on his luck private eye (familiar enough to make it easy for you to get to know him straight away) with a lot more to him than you would think. This is a guy whose past is so painful that he has done a great job of hiding it, even from himself. The moment where I found out the real truth, of his past, made me blink and do a double take! Eddie’s not a nice guy but this somehow makes him more vulnerable when you see that he is trying to do the right thing. I’m looking forward to getting to know him more as the series progresses.

I’m a little shamefaced that I didn’t get to ‘The Sword Edged Blonde’ a lot sooner. Very enjoyable stuff indeed, I’m hoping the next book is just as good...

Nine out of Ten

9 comments:

Kat @ FanLit said...

I really enjoyed this novel, too. I listened to it on audio and the reader, Stefan Rudnicki, was perfect. I highly recommend that format. I'm looking forward to the next book!

Emdy said...

I loved this book too. I read it when Nightshade had it and nearly put it right back when I saw the really bad cover art. For your reference: http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Edged-Blonde-Alex-Bledsoe/dp/1597801127
Glad I ignored the cover. The Tor cover is much more appealing.

Jeff C said...

Nice review, Graeme. Looks like we had mostly the same thoughts on this one.

Memory said...

I've heard tons of good things about this one, and I don't feel like I can hold out any longer. Onto the wishlist it goes.

impossiblewriter said...

Thanks for the review! Great stuff!

God bless,
Taylor J. Beisler

www.taylorbeisler.com
http://www.eloquentbooks.com/ArintSaratir-WarriorsLight.html

ediFanoB said...

Good review. Second time this week with a recommendation of The Sword Edged Blonde. Jeff C over at Fantasy Book News & Reviews and you have a lot of similar thoughts.
Will buy it next month :>)

bubbasmom said...

I'm going to give this one a read! Also, have you read The Plutonium Blonde, by John Zakour? It also has a private eye as the main character, and is funny to boot!

Graeme Flory said...

Emdy - Funnily enough, the Nightshade cover put me off as well...

Bubbasmom - I haven't read 'The Plutonium Blonde', I've got a lot of books to get through but I might just give this one a go...

Graeme Flory said...

Whoops! Forgot to say...

Jeff - Nice review as well! :o) I liked the interview too...