Review: Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe

Friday, September 7, 2012
Title: Burn Me Deadly
Author: Alex Bledsoe
Genre: fantasy, mystery
Series: Eddie LaCrosse #2
Pages: 352 (paperback edition)
Published: September 2009
Souce: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 4.5/5

Above Angelina’s Tavern in down-and-dirty Neceda you’ll find the office of Eddie LaCrosse, a freelance sword jockey who, for twenty-five gold pieces a day, will take on any task short of murder for hire. Eddie’s on his way back from a routine investigation when his horse almost runs down a half-naked blonde in serious trouble. Against his better judgment, he promises to protect the frightened young woman, only to find himself waylaid by unknown assailants and left for dead beside her mutilated body.

Eddie isn’t the kind of guy to just let something like this pass. But who killed Laura Lesperitt? Eddie’s quest for payback leads him to a tangled mystery involving a notorious crime lord, a backwoods dragon cult, royal scandals, and a duplicitous femme fatale who has trouble keeping her clothes on. As bodies pile up, attracting the unwelcome attention of the king’s guards, Eddie must use all his wits if he hopes to survive…

These books have been an unexpected treat so far. The mix of medieval-lite fantasy and hardboiled noir detective is a surprising and unique one, but one that Alex Bledsoe manages to meld together seamlessly. Strong in both the fantasy aspects - more prevalent here than in the first - and the twisty mystery, this is an author that can and does manage to surprise you as a reader.  Much like the first one, I was kept guessing until the final pages and Eddie's big reveal. Compared to Jim Butcher's Dresden series in terms of tone, if not execution, the Eddie LaCrosse novels are inventive, fun, and a lot of that is down to how thoroughly awesome Eddie himself is. I find these novels to be more violent than Butcher's (though not really gorey - just full of typical fantasy world distasteful things.) He's a charming bastard, and one I find myself enjoying more and more as the books and pages go on and more is revealed about this smart, caustic mercenary turned sword jockey. 

An immediate sequel that could easily work just as well as a standalone, Burn Me Deadly is just as immersive and hard to put down as its predecessor, The Sword-Edged Blonde. Entertaining and original, this homage to the classic Kiss Me Deadly reads both quickly and well. The detailed, complete world shown in the first book is further built upon and expanded. Eddie's voice is the exact same as in the first - hard but still likeable in all his faults, mistakes and errors with a twisty mystery to unravel. His hard-edged charm works through his tough-guy exterior more and more and the same tone, vice, and overall feel I had for Eddie before comes through in spades. Building on the hints and foundations of book one, everything from the world he lives in to Eddie's own personal history is detailed more. Alex Bledsoe's talent as an author is clearly growing steadily, and as it does, so does his characterization of this quasi-anti-hero protagonist. 

This is not your typical fantasy novel. I wouldn't classify it as high or low fantasy, because it rally does mix both the fantasy aspects and the mystery elements to a highly original degree. Before this series, I'd never thought to combine them, nor would I have expected them to be so fun if I had. The plot of Burn Me Deadly has its infusion of fantasy (a dragon cult, patronized by royalty) and noir (one that is sponsored by a crime lord/smuggler), and boasts an elaborate setup. This sequel just feels more fantasy-esque than the first - it's still heavy on the whodunit, but peppered with more fantasy tropes. The mystery took a little longer to really heat up (hahaha) than it did for book one, but the ending payout is just as rewarding. This is a fast-paced read, one without the time-line jumps that could be a bit confusing in the first novel. It's a tad simpler, but no less involving or entertaining. 

If you're looking for a fresh take on fantasy or mystery-genre, this noir sword-and-sorcery novel (and series) is exactly what you need to try. Burn Me Deadly is equal parts funny, dramatic, and filled with the same humor and danger that I came to expect from The Sword-Edged Blonde. With a clear writing style, an even hand at pacing and creating tension, and ability to craft a good mystery, Alex Bledsoe proves that his success with book one was anything but a fluke. I especially loved how the ending wrapped up and tied so neatly into book one (a great way to tie everything thus far together), and I finished eager to continue my adventures with Eddie. Burn Me Deadly may be my favorite of the series, but there are still two more (so far) adventures to go on and mysteries to unravel in this easily-envisioned world with this charismatic narrator. Sign me up. 

Many thanks to the kind people at TLC Book Tours for sending me this novel in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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