by Alex Bledsoe
Hardcover, 320 pg.
Tor Books, 2014
Read: August 6, 2014
After a couple of adventures which aren’t quite typical in their nature, Eddie La Crosse gets back to basics with a fairly straightforward case. Well, that’s not exactly true — it ‘s just that the last two were more outlandish, more grand-adventure-y, less LaCrosse-as-sword-jokey. This is Eddie doing what he does best. Yes, there’s magic, and monsters, and all the other trappings that keep this from being something that Sue Grafton or Dennis Lehane would’ve written.
Sixteen years ago, Eddie promised a dying man on the run that he’d take care of the baby that the other man was running to protect. He found a seemingly-trustworthy family willing to take the infant in, and went on his merry way, and actually forgot all about the incidents surrounding that. Until years later, when Eddie and his girlfriend, Liz, are on vacation in that area, when suddenly it all comes back to him and he decides to try and track down the (now) young woman and see how she’s doing.
Naturally, things start to go poorly about there. He does find her — pretty easily, too — it is a small community, with an economy largely-based on sheep-herding and farming, so it’s not really a bustling metropolis where no one knows anyone else. But there’s a whole lot of interesting things happening around the young woman — royalty in disguise, a meddling sorceress, an untrustworthy mercenary-type, an over-protective mother, a dose of sibling rivalry, and some sort of articulate and super-strong inhuman creature with a healthy interest in the girl.
Even though he was just supposed to check on her and not interfere with her life — he had no intention of even introducing himself to her. Eddie can’t help himself, and before you know it, he’s neck-deep in intrigue, and danger.
On the whole, this is a fun, brisk novel — a lot of humor, some good action, nice banter and interaction between the characters (especially Eddie and Liz). A good change of pace over Dark Jenny and Wake of the Bloody Angel, which tended to be more on the serious, emotionally-charged side. Yet, even as the answers to the questions surrounding the girl’s mysterious origins become obvious, and some of the characters get to the point where they seemed a irredeemable, Bledsoe (as he can every so well) keeps you completely drawn in and even tugs the heart strings a bit as the truth is revealed to the characters. Just really, really well done.
There’s a lot of nice little touches along the way. For example, towards the end of the book, Eddie and those he’s traveling with encounter a preteen who joins their little band for a while. She’s pretty new to swearing and tries to get in as much practice as she can while with them. At first, I thought she was an odd (but entertaining) and pointless distraction. It didn’t take too long to see she was a perfect tension-breaker, just what that part of the novel needed to keep from being too tense and so much more serious than what had come before.
Eddie’s narration has never been better — humor-tinged and hard-boiled, a medieval Philip Marlowe or Elvis Cole. I liked all of these characters, and really wanted to spend more time with each of them — I don’t know how Bledsoe could’ve pulled that off without getting the whole thing to slow and ponderous (which would’ve sucked the fun out of 60-70% of these characters). This is really such a well-done and fully realized series. I can’t wait to see what happens next.