The Sword-Edged Blonde review

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Sword-Edged Blonde is the first published work of author Alex Bledsoe (released in November 2007). The follow-up is named Burn Me Deadly and is also available, this time since November 2009. The third book, titled Dark Jenny is in the work. This novel was a real pleasure and I wonder why it didn't get more attention. I'll jump to the next one as soon as I can.

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey for hire in some backwater town. While doing his job as a PI, he stumbles upon Mike, one of the special agents of his former friend, King Philip of Arenthia. He informs Eddie that Rhiannon, Phil's new queen, has been arrested for the monstrous murder of their child. Even though this new job will make Eddie's past come back to haunt him, he can't refuse his old friend. He will then embark on an incredible quest to find a truth linked with his former life and an incarnated deity.

Eddie LaCrosse is a kind of roguish James Bond with a sword and an hatred for horses. Therefore, let's say that The Sword-Edged Blonde is a funny, gritty, action packed detective fantasy adventure (noir has been put beside the description of this book and it's somewhat true even though it's not what stands out the most). This change of tone is refreshing from the more serious and intricate fantasy I'm used to read. Eddie's so easy to love. One of the reasons is obviously the narrative mode, the tale being narrated by Eddie himself.

The guy is not only easy to love, he is believable. Under the harshness of his profession, there's a vulnerable and insecure man with a tendency toward the 'princess and orphan saving knight'. Eddie wants to help and he gets easily into trouble but luckily he gets by still alive. Reading about all his head traumas and the repercussions of the wounds he receives from several blows throughout his adventure makes him more human... Indiana Jones-ly human. A great hero without special talents aside from witty remarks.

The narration of the story is intermixed with flashbacks of Eddie's past. The change in pace seemed like a dubious idea at first but eventually I thought that it created a great rhythm, 'page-turning wise'. Anyway, since Eddie's history is part of his investigation, this was quite necessary. I don't know if the author will be writing all his LaCrosse's novels this way but this sounds good. Learning that much from a character in a well-established setting has its value.

I had some problem with the names of the characters (and I think I'm not alone in this). With names like Eddie, Michael and Philip, sometimes I lost a bit of my focus on this medieval fantasy setting. The more so since most of the names of the locations sound fantastical enough.

Since this is a "detective" story, the plots needs to be solid, with a touch of mystery and just enough clues to make you guess until the end. Although this is not the greatest puzzle wrote to this day, I think the plot is enigmatic enough to keep people attention high enough until the conclusion. I appreciated the fact that there's not incredible discoveries or implausible surprises. In any case, the important part is what's happening to Eddie. In a short novel with not much space for secondary protagonists, the guy ought to be compelling.

We get to see a couple of locations in this interesting, accessible and rustic world. Most of the traveling ground is back-country but I felt dragged in immediately. The first person perspective helped me get the bearings of what the hero what experiencing.

You can read a short story to get a taste of Eddie in Things that fit here.

Technically, I'm not too sure what to think about the covers. The newer Night Shade / Tor Books cover (the second image in the post) is king of ugly but I like the old fashioned fantasy cover (at the top). The narration of the audiobook is done by Stefan Rudnicki (first book I listened from him) and it's the perfect choice for Eddie! The hardcover edition of the novel is 256 pages. Sadly, I found no map on the web...

The Sword-Edged Blonde audiobook review score :

Characterization............. 9 /10
World building............... 8 / 10
Magic system................. N /A
Story.............................. 8.5 / 10
Writing........................... 8.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 8.5 / 10


Alex Bledsoe page


Simcha said...

I had read this books a few months ago after seeing a few other book bloggers rave about it. I had the same issues about the name, though it was the ending that bothered me most. There is very little magic in the book but then in order to make the mystery make sense the book suddenly calls on the fantasy elements. But other then that it was a fun read.

Phil said...

I agree that the fantasy elements were not widely used but I think they were part of the mystery before the ending, although I get your point.

Did you read the follow-up?

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I read the review over at Simcha's blog and with this one, I have to get this book. You all are making my poor little book shelf sag. :) I am surprised like you said, why this book didn't get more attention. It does sound like a great read. Thank you!

Simcha said...

Nah, I started listening to the audio version of the sequel but got bored with it. I'll probably read it at some point in the future but it's not priority for me.

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