Review: The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

Thursday, September 6, 2012
Title: The Sword-Edged Blonde
Author: Alex Bledsoe
Genre: fantasy, mystery
Series: Eddie LaCrosse #1
Pages: 310 (mass market paperback)
Published: first 2007
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4/5

It should have been a case like any other: a missing princess, a king willing to pay in gold for her return. But before he realizes it, sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse is swept up in a web of mystery and deceit involving a brutally murdered royal heir, a queen accused of an unspeakable crime, and the tragic past he thought he’d left behind.

In order to uncover the answers he seeks, Eddie must delve into the dark underbelly of society while digging deep into his own private history, drawing past and present together. Vast conspiracies, women both beautiful and deadly, and a centuries-old revenge scheme are only a few of the pieces in a lethal puzzle.

The Sword-Edged Blonde does something new and interesting - it merges two genres I love - fantasy and mystery - and spins them together in a highly fun and unique way. With a main character like investigator Eddie LaCrosse, who manages to inject a bit of wry, world-weary humor into a dark toned and murder-filled novel, there's a lot to enjoy in this first of a newish series. Both the fantasy aspects and the 'whodunit' more than hold up under the pressure of three hundred pages of revenge, fallen Goddess, and surprise revelations. Neatly and engrossingly told, this debut novel is hard to put down as the reader and Eddie race to figure out what happened to both Prince Pridiri and Epona Gray.

I'm a big fan of the way Alex Bledsoe writes about this alternate but familiar world, filled with 'sword jockeys', exiled nobility, and magic. Though I had never heard of him before Audra's wonderful review of this exact book, he steadily impressed me with his original storytelling ability and talent for crafting concrete, realistic, and flawed characters. Bledsoe also has an adept way of setting the scene - from the first sentence of the novel ("Spring came down hard that year. And I do mean hard, like the fist of some drunken pike poker with too much fury and not enough ale, whose wife just left him for some wandering minstrel and whose commanding officer absconded with his pay."), the voice of protagonist Eddie is uniquely his own and captivating, as is the imagined world he lives in. Consider me a fan of this author just after this first novel - I can only hope the rest of this semi-medieval fantasy series lives up to the standard of The Sword-Edged Blonde.

Main character Eddie is my favorite part of this slightly supernatural mix of mystery and fantasy. He's presented as a wholly flawed man with a dark and mysterious past all his own. Though the focus of the novel is more on unraveling the twisty web of political intrigue and revenge around Arentia's royal family, the tidbits that sneak out about Eddie's personal history added ever more depth to the hard-bitten and snarky man. I also loved his sense of humor from the outset. ("Okay. I'd found a clue. But it told me nothing. Actually, it took away some certainties, so it was more of an anti-clue. Eddie LaCrosse, reverse investigator." and "Always pay the insurance" - Eddie's version of the double tap.) If hardboiled, noir detective types are something you enjoy reading about, don't let the slight fantastical elements of The Sword-Edged Blonde scare you away. Lies, vendettas, secrets, twists, turns, and murder - all are part and parcel in this able and talented swordsman's daily excursions. 

I vastly enjoyed the world Bledsoe has crafted. With obvious nods to the genres he melds so well, there is a bit of exposition to get through in the first hundred or so pages before the story really takes off. I'm not one to nitpick fantasy exposition as long as it's done as well as it is here. It/the flashbacks to Eddie's former life didn't choke up the storyline, but managed to actually add to the complete feel of the story/world created. I loved the infusion of Celtic and Welsh mythologies - fantasy as a genre tends to stick to mining the same ground for inspiration of gods and goddesses, and it's always refreshing to read a new take on the same old same old. The mystery element gets a bit muddled when the odd, remote character of Epona is introduced, but Bledsoe happily manages to clear it up with ease soon after.

I do have a few caveats, despite how thoroughly I got sucked into Eddie's story and world. I got a bit tired of how many women were blonde and attractive in this novel - there were so many mentioned that I lost count. There are many token women characters and none of them are characterized to the same degree as Eddie - which bothered me more and more as the trend continued throughout the novel. I also have slight issues with just who the woman appearing to Eddie at the end is, because it can come across a bit like women are replaceable versions of one another in this world. It's a minor complaint, but I wasn't happy with how that particular plotline was executed.

The Sword -Edged Blonde boasts a well-crafted mystery, a likeable if gruff and imperfect lead, a solid plot, and several truly unexpected twists and revelations. While the females of this world could do with some time and work, it is main character Eddie who commands attention and keeps the fun coming. There's tons more good than bad to be found in this first novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience with The Sword-Edged Blonde. It's a "tongue in cheek" look at sword noir, and it works well across the board; inventive, fun, if superficial. I am a fan, and upon finishing, I was eager and excited to see what this author has cooked up for the second novel in the series, Burn Me Deadly

Many thanks to TLC for sending me this novel!


  1. I didn't mind the ambigu-blond-ness of the women in this book -- it reminded me of the pulp genre -- but I tooooootally agree with you about the woman at the end. That bothered me a bit and felt weirdly tacked on.

    1. Ah, I don't read a lot of pulp novels. Maybe that's why it seemed so odd to me that nearly every woman is blonde and super attractive.

      And yes! It was just so odd and random! I finished book two (and am planning to start #3 today! These books are addictive) and the character has grown on me, but I do not like how she was introduced.


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