Ex-mercenary Eddie LaCrosse is a private investigator in a small backwater town, where he has taken refuge in hopes of escaping his mysterious and tragic past. He’s just wrapping up a case when he’s approached by a secret agent with a message. King Phillip of Arentia needs an expert to investigate the brutal death of his infant son, who was supposedly killed by his mother and Phillip’s wife, Rhiannon. The king needs the best, which means Eddie LaCrosse. However, Eddie is also the King’s childhood friend.
If this synopsis sounds like a hard-boiled P.I. thriller to you, you’d be dead-on, except this one is set in a sword & sorcery tale. It’s Sam Spade with a sword and leather tunic instead of a gun and raincoat.
I’d never have given The Sword-Edged Blonde a shot if Kat and Rob hadn’t written such good reviews about it. While I do love a seasoned, world-weary private-eye character – I grew up enjoying TV shows like Rockford Files and Magnum P.I., after all — I’m usually no fan of genre mixing when done this way. My thinking is, if you’re going to write a detective novel, then write one instead of repackaging it in a traditional fantasy story. So it’s a significant achievement that Mr. Bledsoe won me over with Eddie LaCrosse.
That’s not to say that finding many modern “real world” elements — names like Phil and Eddie and swords with model /maker names like “Fireblade Warrior” monogrammed on the blade — in a traditional fantasy setting doesn’t come across as a little corny. But where a less talented writer couldn’t have pulled that off, Bledsoe makes it amusing. This is fantasy after all. No rules apply here in our beloved genre, nor should they.
While fantasy authors do have freer rein than in other genres, the bottom line is: you’ve still got to be a good storyteller. Good storytellers sell us the unbelievable. They make us anxious to turn the next page and create interesting characters that have their own individual stories — just like real people. Good storytellers know what mysteries to solve, what to leave unsaid, and what to leave their readers pondering over after the book is closed. Alex Bledsoe is a good storyteller and in The Sword-Edged Blonde he does all these things in a fun way.
The Sword-Edged Blonde does not have the deep, multi-layered plotting of epic fantasy. While it is sword & sorcery with its fair share of violence and jaded characters, it’s not quite “dark & gritty” either. It’s the type of book I’d call a guilty pleasure or a “popcorn” read. (Who doesn’t like a fresh, buttery tub of popcorn?) I had a great time reading The Sword-Edged Blonde, and I’m definitely on-board for the rest of the EDDIE LACROSSE MYSTERIES: Burn Me Deadly and the just-released Dark Jenny.
Note about the Amazon Kindle version: Tor Fantasy needs to get with it when it comes to their eBooks. Other publishers realize that eBook readers still enjoy a good cover. (The Kindle books I’ve gotten from PYR even contain the maps.) Tor just uses a bland, generic title page for theirs.