The Sword-Edged Blonde: Sword-and-sorcery genre + hard-boiled whodunit = great debut

Eddie Lacrosse Mystery book review 1. The Sword-edged Blondebook review Eddie Lacrosse Mystery The Sword-Edged Blonde book reviewThe Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

A foaming tankard for public libraries. If mine hadn’t featured Alex Bledsoe‘s engrossing debut novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, I doubt I’d have ever discovered it.

Granted, I only discovered it because of the quasi-garish cover and title (neither of which has much to do with the actual story), picking it up just to shake my head at one more piece of fantasy trash. But then I read the cover blurbs from Charles de Lint and Orson Scott Card, which were positive enough to overcome my natural revulsion to pulp detective stories in fantasy settings (which usually aren’t half as clever as their creators think). The author should buy them tankards, too.

The plot of the The Sword-Edged Blonde is deceptively and satisfyingly complex. Eddie LaCrosse is an aging mercenary who tends to take jobs that require more mind than metal (though he’ll gladly use both). He accepts a job to find a missing princess, but one thing leads to another, and soon he’s in his homeland, which he left years before after a personal tragedy, and investigating an increasingly wide-ranging mystery at the behest of his childhood friend, King Phil. (Yes, he’s the actual king, and his name is Phil.)

The tale is too complex to discuss in a brief, spoiler-free review. (Its influences appear to include hard-boiled detective stories and low-fantasy fare, such as Simon R. Green’s tales of Hawk and Fisher.)  However, on the side of its strengths are the author’s natural wit and storytelling ability; his gift for the creation of memorable minor characters; and the lightly — but effectively — described setting reminiscent of a medieval civilization in the Mississippi delta. (The author grew up in western Tennessee.) And its greatest strength is the (apparent) ease with which the author weaves the numerous plot-threads into an intellectually and emotionally satisfying conclusion.

On the side of its weaknesses are some overly neat coincidences (seen mostly in hindsight) and the use of unoriginal profanities, anachronisms, and real-world names (which often had the effect of an otherwise-excellent actor repeatedly pausing to wink at the audience). (Some oddities in the setting: matches, nametags for tavern waitresses, and parking tickets for horses.)  Happily, these didn’t intrude at the most poignant moments.

Overall, Mr. Bledsoe deserves cheers (and readers) for penning a fast-paced, enjoyable, satisfying tale. (And kudos to Night Shade Books for publishing it.)  Recommended for mature fans of pulp mysteries and/or sword-and-sorcery (especially as a vacation or travel book). Four stars as bright as heisted jewels.


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ROB RHODES was graduated from The University of the South and The Tulane University School of Law and currently works as a government attorney. He has published several short stories and is a co-author of the essay “Sword and Sorcery Fiction,” published in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. In 2008, Rob was named a Finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Rob retired from FanLit in September 2010 after more than 3 years at FanLit. He still reviews books and conducts interviews for us occasionally. You can read his latest news at Rob's blog.

View all posts by Rob Rhodes (retired)

One comment

  1. This story fell flat for me. Mostly because the ending kind of seemed to be … well, perhaps it was the “neat coincidences.” I enjoyed the personalities at first, but by the end was no so enamored.

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