Sarah Beauhall, heroine of Black Blade Blues, was a woman after my own heart from the very beginning. Not only is she a lesbian and a blacksmith — traits that set her apart from the Standard Urban Fantasy Heroine — she also attends sci-fi conventions and hangs out with Ren Faire and SCA enthusiasts. This isn’t just a character I’d like to have a beer with. This is a character I feel like I’ve already had a beer with! Like lots of her compatriots in urban fantasy, she does have anger-management issues, but there are reasons for this.
I have to admit, though, that I didn’t quite understand Sarah’s decision, at the beginning of the book, to let her prized antique sword be used in a friend’s B-movie shoot. Other characters said she was crazy to do it, and I actually kind of agreed with them. She’s a blacksmith, after all; why not make a convincing fake and keep her prized possession out of harm’s way? The plot requires that the sword be broken, and the movie shoot does achieve this aim, but it just doesn’t seem like the most realistic way of getting it broken.
Sarah decides to reforge the sword, and in doing so, attracts all sorts of supernatural attention. Turns out it’s a magical sword linked to the god Odin. Now Sarah has a stubborn dwarf trying to convince her to use the sword for heroic purposes, a couple of dragons (disguised as humans) who will stop at nothing to keep her from using it, and all sorts of mythical nasties threatening her friends.
And as if this weren’t enough trouble for one woman, her girlfriend Katie wants to take their relationship to the next level. But Sarah, who was raised by a Fred-Phelps-esque father, has lots of lingering angst about her sexuality and isn’t quite comfortable with who she is.
I really enjoyed the blacksmithing scenes. J.A. Pitts shows us how much Sarah loves the work, and how much work it really is. The battle scenes are also excellent, in a horrific sort of way. Sarah teams up with a group of SCA fighters to combat the villain, and the violence is rendered incredibly gritty by the fact that the heroes are all just humans, with no magical powers, pitting their courage and skill against dragons, trolls, ogres, and giants. People die; people suffer ghastly injuries. If Sarah and her friends were superpowered, these scenes wouldn’t be nearly as wrenching.
The climax comes earlier in the book than one might expect, followed by a rather long denouement. I kept thinking I was about to reach the ending, only to find another chapter of conversation. But Pitts ties up all the necessary ends, gives Sarah some great character development, and sets up a tantalizing plot hook for book two. I’ll be looking forward to it!