Before I lavish praise all over this novel, I'm going to bash the cover art. It features a barrel-chested guy with badly-drawn musculature awkwardly wielding a sword while a blonde woman lays on the ground beside him, her bosom spilling out of her blouse. It looks like the guy has a peg leg. Either that, or something is shoved up his posterior. Plus, it looks like he has a skin disease.
To top it off, I can't imagine what scene this is. The only scene likely to have featured such a blonde did not have armored thugs. And another fight that featured a girl had her doing most of the fighting.
Eddie LaCrosse does not have a peg leg, nor does he have a skin disease. But he ain't good-looking either. The artist probably at least got the barrel chest right.
The novel begins with a simple case that Eddie had practically solved before he walks out the door. The case goes much the way he suspects, with an unexpected twist. However, it leads to a sticky situation, which Michael Anders helps him out of. It turns out that Mike wants something. He gives Eddie a message, and they both high-tail it to the land of Eddie's birth, Arentia. There, Eddie runs into his old friend, whose wife is in considerable trouble. The reunion scene between the two friends was great, and reminded me why I enjoy reading novels by authors who have at least reached the age 35 or so. No way a twentysomething author would have thought of that.
From this point on, Bledsoe starts weaving two stories together, one from the past and one in the present. And he does a superb job of it. Not only that, but midway through the story, I ran smack into a sense of wonder that I never expected in a hard-boiled detective fantasy.
I don't want to give too much away, because there are some great surprises all through this novel. For almost half of the novel, you probably would wonder if this is even a fantasy at all. Rest assured that it is.
My complaints are few. Sometimes, events work out to be a bit too much in Eddie's favor. If he could have had a few more complications, the novel could have been a bit longer. A major female character--who is supposed to be a protagonist--does something horrible for no reason that I could understand. A random battle that happens in the woods seems to be a bit too random--almost as if it were a random encounter from Dungeons and Dragons.
My biggest complaint is that there was entirely too much blood and gore. My husband assures me that for a guy, blood and gore is not a critique, but yikes! Why must a head fly after every battle? Or something happen that is almost as gory? The last three male authors I've read have had excessive amounts of blood and gore. Bledsoe is the only author whose book I managed to finish. At least he had no gouged eyeballs. (And hopefully this post won't give him the idea.)
Squeamish as I may be, it did not keep me from turning the pages long into the night last night. The reason I did finish it is because unlike the other two novels by male authors, this book has a lot of soul. It didn't bring me to tears, but it came close. I fully expect the next book in the series to succeed. On his website, Bledsoe says that he got the idea of an "interior journey" as well as an exterior from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Now I have a new classic to pick up. (Ooh! The full text is available online!)
I've read a lot of debut authors over the past year, and most of them I've enjoyed. However, few of them left me actually looking forward to the sequel. Burn Me Deadly is coming out next year through Tor books. And I want a copy.
Eddie LaCrosse Short Story: "Things That Flit"