RogerBW's Blog

The Sword-Edged Blonde, Alex Bledsoe 11 October 2014

Hard-boiled fantasy. Down the mean streets goes Eddie LaCrosse, a swordsman who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

I admit, when I'm reading fantasy I don't expect to come across characters called things like Eddie, Cathy, King Phil and Princess Janet. This is much more a noir book with fantasy trappings than the other way round, and when the barmaids have name tags and our hero mentions "my new Edgemaster Series 3 dark-steel sword" it certainly sounds more like a society that's gone through the industrial revolution than the actual world that's presented here.

But unlike most fantasy this isn't a story that's keen to show off its worldbuilding; we already know what a noir world is like, and so all we really need to know here is that in spite of occasional bits of magic the swords work like guns, the horses work like cars (to the extent of getting parking tickets), high society is just as corrupt and cynical as the gutters, and in spite of his dark past the hero is the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

Even so, in spite of one moment of surpassing ugliness, it's pretty lightweight stuff, never really pausing to examine its ideas beyond the basic juxtaposition of genres. Our hero leaves a trail of dead women in his wake, but it's never his fault, and the narrative is all about his pain and suffering. The women are all rather objectified, and the single homosexual character seems to be there primarily as a reminder of The Maltese Falcon; one can claim that these are necessities in noir, but I'm not completely convinced. There are little bits of entirely gratuitous nastiness by our supposed hero that rub me wrong, even as a fan of Chandler. And the detection happens more by being in the right place at the right time than by any particular skill.

All right, it never drags, but it still left a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

Follwed by Burn Me Deadly.

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