I feel like I need to preface this review with a caveat – I adored the first 250 pages of Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts. Utterly adored it. The last third of it, however, was not as good. Allow me to explain.Sarah Beauhall works as a Blacksmith doing whatever odd job she can get. Stints in the Renaissance Faires have attracted admiration of her swords craft which, in turn, has landed her a job in the movies. Working as a prop manager she attends to all of the weaponry needed for a medieval period drama type piece. When the main actor’s sword gets cracked Sarah has to repair it, gaining the attention of one of the Extras – Rolph. Rolph claims to be a Dwarf. He also claims that the sword Sarah is reforging is the legendary Fafnir’s Bane from an old Nordic tale. Sarah thinks he’s insane, and writes him off.
But things begin to happen to test Sarah’s conviction. Runes surface from the skin on her leg and more and more things begin to go wrong. Her relationship with her girlfriend, Katie, falls into jeopardy and the only thing Sarah can do is believe the unbelievable, but is she strong enough to accept everything based on faith?
Like I said, I adored the first two thirds of this book. The dialogue is snappy and the characters are fun to run around with. Sarah’s journey makes for an interesting character to read. She’s gay and hates herself for it. She was raised in a very religious household and can’t seem to get over the notion that anyone who is gay is “unnatural” or an “abomination”. This undermines her own self-esteem to such a degree that it threatens her inter-personal relationships with everyone, least of all her girlfriend. This twist on the Urban Fantasy/Damsel-in-Distress romance is dynamic and fresh.
My problem came in with the latter part of the book where Sarah has galvanized herself to accept the quest. Throughout the book we have shifting narratives from first person (Sarah) to third person (anyone who is not Sarah). The third person shifts become confusing in the later part of the book, and somewhat unnecessary. Pitts could just have easily turned all of the third person to first person, or vice versa. I’m not sure that he is a strong enough writer to pull off both with a degree of success and this book proved it. The first chunk is largely Sarah’s part and very engaging. The rest is meh. Also, the battle scenes were overlong. I grew bored reading them, and began to skim.
I was all interested to see where Sarah went so the possibility of reading the sequel Honeyed Words appeals to me on some level. The fact that I didn’t even finish this book, however, speaks volumes as for my interest. I think Pitts strength lies in character driven stories but he sucks at the dismount, to put it bluntly. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll see if my curiosity demands it but I don’t typically read sequels if the end of the first book was driving me crazy. I would only be reading it for Sarah’s relationship. Frankly.
3 out of 5 stars. I really did love the beginning. That alone is worth the read.
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