He Drank, and Saw the Spider review

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

He Drank, and Saw the Spider is the fifth book for Eddie LaCrosse, the sword jockey who investigated the downfall of a horse goddess, discovered a dragon cult and offspring, saved the Excalibur-like wielding ruler of an Arthurian-like kingdom and tackled famous pirates. This sword and sorcery mystery novel was released earlier this year and there's still no word from Bledsoe on Eddie's next story. I'm glad to say that Mr. LaCrosse is still going strong!
After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life. 
Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can’t resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant. 
He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help. 
They say a spider in your cup will poison you, but only if you see it. Eddie, helped by his smart, resourceful girlfriend Liz, must look through the dregs of the past to find the truth about the present—and risk what might happen if he, too, sees the spider.
I have grown very fond of good old sword-jockey Eddie LaCrosse. It's the kind of character you can't feel indifferent about. He's a genuine honest bad ass with many flaws but much experience and a knack to find himself in front of a punching fist for the sake of his job or of those in need for whom he can't refuse some help. Add to this a tendency toward witty remarks and a girlfriend who's probably the only person in the world who can really get the best out of him and you get closer and closer to Eddie. To top it all, Mr. Bledsoe chose to write his books in the first person perspective, the best choice to make us enjoy the man's adventures, investigations and ruminations to its fullest. This novel is testament enough.

The story starts with one of the tales of Eddie's past life as a mercenary. He stumbles upon a baby in the arms of a dying man and gets her to the nearest small town.  He meets a woman would could have been the love of his life (even after his previous tragic lost love) and leaves the little girl, who bears a strange tattoo on her back.... anything strange or foreboding here? Indeed. When the story jumps back to the present, what do you think will happen? Will the little girl reappear in Eddie's life?  Don't worry, I'm not trying to subtly say that the story is predictable. It may seem so at first but the author won't leave it at that save for a few hiccups.

Eddie is then following his beloved Liz in one of her deliveries.  After stumbling upon a presumably mad king and his sorceress, they decide to roam the countryside for a little vacation.  Most of the tale of He Drank, and Saw the Spider actually happens in a backwater country town and scenery. Even if it's less spectacular or grandiose, what matters is the interaction of the protagonists and the mystery behind Isadora.  A couple of secondary characters are thrown into the mix, a young incognito prince and his father, a Frankenstein monster-like experiment, a whole family of peculiar farmers turned rich, you name it. With fertility festival just around the corner, the right mix for an intrigue mixing the mighty and the commoners is created.

Sadly, the whole resolution of the secret of Isadora's true identity and past isn't handled has deftly as the author has accustomed us to. It's a denouement for the not so complex plot with some action involved and some surprises but it's not what I will remember the most from the tales of Eddie.

Another element nicely woven into each of Eddie's stories is magic.  There's no "magic systems" to speak of but there's always some witchcraft involved that may look like tricks from charlatan or become incredible supernatural representations. It's often just a touch and the characters are usually oblivious of it but for the most part, Bledsoe isn't getting out of tricky situation with a twist of unexplained magic. In the book, it's the sorceress who plays that role and even if at first I thought that this tale in particular wouldn't be based upon some common trope, it still is, in part. Still, Eddie has to save the day even if it's not really his life who's in danger.

Eddie's true to himself for the whole endeavor. He's as funny as usual (cynical and sarcastic), has the right amount of brawling, shows his wits and gets emotional.  He takes it very personal to find out what happened to Isadora and even if in retrospect I think that the story may be less breathtaking. However, it has all the charms to make it a nice page-turner, with Bledsoe usual straightforward prose and nimble pace. So, not the best LaCrosse novel but a nice addition to the list.

If you haven't read any LaCrosse books... shame on you!!! :)... you should pick up The Sword-Edge Blonde first. Here's my favorite LaCrosse books so far:
  1. The Sword-Edge Blonde
  2. Wake of the Bloody Angel
  3. He Drank, and Saw the Spider
  4. Burn Me Deadly
  5. Dark Jenny
Cover: I love the font used and the return of the same "guy" for Eddie but he still doesn't look like the man I imagined... too young maybe?  Anyway, it's a good fit with the previous books.
Release date: January 14th 2014 (Tor)
Map: No
Number of pages: 320 (hardcover edition)
Other: No appendices, dramatis personae or glossary

I liked...Was disappointed by...
Eddie's backstory explorationThe scope of the tale
An adventure with LizThe denouement
Eddie's drunken sequenceSome lack of peril

He Drank, and Saw the Spider review rating :


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