Publisher: Tor Books
Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group.
The lead actor breaks Sarah’s favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who claims to be a dwarf, offers to help. And that’s when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as the “dwarf” claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters?
And as if things weren’t surreal enough, Sarah’s girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase… “I love you.” As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom. It is at this moment, when she has lost everything she has prized, that one of the dragons makes their move.
And suddenly what was unthinkable becomes all too real…and Sarah will have to decide if she can reject what is safe and become the heroine who is needed to save her world.
[Originally posted on Amazon 8/24/10]
I read the reviews on Amazon first before buying Black Blade Blues and tailored my expectations accordingly. I don’t need wham-bam pacing at the start of a book and I don’t mind inner turmoil or self-doubt, as long as it doesn’t go on forever and ever. But even with that in mind, I still felt the book had some problems it should have overcome before being published.
I think overall that the book would have benefited from a stronger hand from the editor. There were some issues of vague locations, such as not being specific as to what towns the main characters lived in or where the blacksmith shop was located. At least, it was confusing to me since I live in Seattle and was startled to find the characters were actually in Kent (I think?), which is several miles and a few suburbs south. And while anyone can have a brain fart and type “Cascade Peninsula” instead of “Olympic Peninsula” into a rough draft, someone really should have caught the gaff before the book went to print. There were other issues with structure, especially in the first third of the book, that really needed a stronger editor to help tighten and focus.
I didn’t mind that the book switched between first person point of view and third person. That’s supposedly something that shouldn’t be done, but in this case the author was clear enough in the transitions that I was never confused and in principle it would have worked fine for me. However, the major strength of first person is being able to get deep into the protagonist’s head. In this case the author didn’t really take advantage of that. I felt as if there was still a barrier between me as a reader and Sarah as a character. I think the book would have been much better, and I wouldn’t have felt that distance so much, if it had been written entirely in third person.
Many times Sarah didn’t seem to react much at all to things that would bring out strong emotions in most people. (And in a couple cases reacted strongly when it wasn’t at all clear why.) I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I’ll just say there was a thing with runes on skin that certainly deserved a major freakout, but it was shrugged off.
I felt the book got stronger, more coherent, about 30% into it and I began enjoying it more, but I can’t really say that it totally took off at any particular point. At least, not on a consistent basis. Black Blade Blues did have its good moments though.
The best thing about Black Blade Blues is that it brings new material to the urban fantasy genre. I love that Sarah is a blacksmith and involved in SCA. I wasn’t sure that the Norse mythology elements would appeal to me, but they are worked fairly seamlessly into the story and they provide a rich background for this series. The dragons are fascinating and in this first book you know that only the surface has been scratched and there is much more to be revealed about them. The secondary characters are interesting and there’s a lot of potential for growth with them. And of course, as a lesbian reader it’s a treat to read a book in my favorite genre with a lesbian protagonist, even if she still has some internalized homophobia to work out.
If this had been a stand alone book I would probably have only rated it with 2.5 stars. But as the first book in a series I’m giving it a 3, because there is enough to build on and enough potential to make reading it worthwhile in the hopes that the next book succeeds in putting it all together better. After all, this one is the first published novel by the author.
Kindle Note: The Kindle edition was well done with chapter marks showing on the progress bar.