Friday, July 4, 2014

Fun, But the Edge Needs Sharpened

The Sword-Edged Blonde (Eddie LaCrosse #1)
by Alex Bledsoe
Published by Tor Fantasy
3 Out of 5 Stars

In the medieval kingdom of Arentia, Queen Rhiannon has been charged with a particularly horrific case of infanticide. King Philip desperately believes in his wife's innocence, despite all evidence to the contrary. His only hope? Eddie LaCrosse, the tough as nails sword-for-hire investigator and the king's childhood friend. Having spent years trying to outrun his past, LaCrosse begrudgingly returns home and is forced to confront his demons while trying to unravel the mystery of whether or not the beautiful blonde bombshell actually killed her own son.

The Sword-Edged Blonde is the snappy title for this noir/fantasy mash-up that's light on the noir, easy on the fantasy, and not as snappy as I wanted it to be. This is a bit of fun and forgettable reading, perfect for vacation but little else. While I enjoyed the book as a light, quick read, I could have loved it if it weren't for a few peeves:

--First off, that cover. Ye gods, that cover. Even by the artistically lacking and inept standards of mass market paperback sci fi/fantasy covers, that is one fugly cover. And wtf it has to do with the novel, I have no idea. It appears as though a giant troll king will manifest somewhere in the novel, and it's difficult to tell if he will be friend or foe based upon the back-to-back stance with the protagonist. Is he being sneaky-sneaky, trying to catch our hero off-guard, or has he simply got his back, bro? You know what--doesn't matter because this character and this scene never appears in the novel, at least not in any recognizable form.

--Ditto with the title. Sure, there's a blonde, but nothing about her is particularly "sword-edged." She's basically clueless and pouty. The reality is that she's more of a butter-knife-edged blonde. Or maybe a spork blonde, kind of confused and essentially useless.

--The protagonist, Eddie LaCrosse, is a bland character. He's not hard-boiled enough. I expected a world-weary, wise-cracking antihero (maybe a character like Ash from Army of Darkness). But LaCrosse is basically just a good guy who wanders around while clues smack him in the face. The only real nod to noir is that he has a suitably tragic past, but it doesn't seem to have shaped his character in any significant way. He occasionally ruminates on his past woes, but then snaps back to the present and soldiers on.

--Ineffective use of the locked room mystery presented as the crux for the case. I won't say much regarding this since I don't want to ruin anything, but a locked room can have so much potential for an unexpected twist that The Sword-Edged Blonde never capitalizes on.

While I didn't particularly like the objectified female characters, such is the territory with a noir-esque novel and there's nothing here that suggests Alex Bledsoe harbors misogynistic tendencies; instead, he's just tipping his hat to one of the defining characteristics of the genre. Still, it bothered me a bit that so many other noir tropes were dodged, but this was the one that was adhered to. 

Essentially, this book is like a cheap and ugly hooker. Pay your $10, try not to look at it too hard, and you might have a relatively good time. 

(That's right, I went there even after my little speech about objectifying women--hypocrisy, thy name is Amanda.) 

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