The Key to the Coward’s Spell by Alex Bledsoe

The Key to the Coward's SpellThe Key to the Coward’s Spell

by Alex Bledsoe
Series: Eddie LaCrosse, #?

Kindle Edition, 27 pg.
Tor Books, 2016

Read: September 3, 2016

This over-before-you-realize-it short story is a welcome dip of the toe back into the world of Eddie LaCrosse, sword jockey (i.e., medieval private eye). Bledsoe’s Tufa series is one of the best things around, but man, I enjoy this series so much.

LaCrosse has been hired by a local blacksmith to find his kidnapped son. LaCrosse is sporting a broken arm, so he’s going to need a little more help than normal, Jane Argo, for one — and some new faces, too. There’s really not a lot to say, here — half of the action takes place before the story starts. LaCrosse gets a little more intel, and then jumps into action.

The action is brief and to the point — with a nice twist or two along the way. Nothing special, but it’s a good couple of sequences. And a brief reminder that no matter what you dress it up in — modern time/tech/clothing, generic fantasy tropes, SF, whatever — there are some forms of evil that transcend those details and are just evil that need to be fought in whatever little way we can.

Yeah, it was fun to spend some time in this world and with LaCrosse and everyone. But man, just as you get into it, the story’s over. Just not enough to really satisfy, but it was a fun taste. I don’t know that this is a good intro to the character (it might be), but it’s a good reminder for those who’ve met him before that they want to read more about him.


3 Stars

He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe

He Drank, and Saw the Spider (Eddie LaCrosse, #5)He Drank, and Saw the Spider

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.


4 Stars

Wake of the Bloody Angel by Alex Bledsoe

Wake of the Bloody Angel (Eddie LaCrosse, #4)Wake of the Bloody Angel

by Alex Bledsoe

Paperback, 350 pages
Tor Books, 2012
Read: May 28, 2014

I looked up at the stars. Finding one pirate after twenty years was a lot like picking one star out of this sky. Just when you thought you had it, a cloud slid by and you had to start all over when it the passed.

Yet that’s just what Eddie LaCrosse sets out to do — find the unfindable, track the untrackable. For those of you who don’t know — Eddie lives in a fairly standard fantasy realm, and makes his living as a “sword jockey” — what we’d call a P.I. in our world. These books are first person narratives and read a lot like good detective novels — but with swords, horses and the occasional dragon or whatnot.

Eddie doesn’t go alone on his search for a pirate — he brings along his old friend/colleague, Jane Argo. Jane’s a former pirate turned pirate hunter turned sword jockey and is as tough as that résumé suggests. Having her come along on this adventure as the Hawk/Joe Pike figure was a great addition to a series that I didn’t think required it. But now, I want more of her — back in Eddie LaCrosse #6, or in Jane Argo #1. I could be pleased either way, as long as it’s soon.

There’s adventure, piracy, sword-play, banter, friendship, and a bit of betrayal. Enough to keep you engaged, if not turning pages as quickly as you can. Every now and then, in the middle of this fun read, Bledsoe reminds you he can do more than tell a fun action story, and drop a sentence, or phrase that shows he’s just a good writer, period. One such line that stood out to me, and I’ve tried to find excuses to use in the last couple days is:

Hawk’s been called many things over the years, but you know what captures him best, in my opinion? That he’s simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.

You get a real clear idea about this Hawk guy, the image is pretty creepy in and of itself, and yet, it looks and sounds breezy unless you think about it. I like Eddie and the rest of his world plenty — but it’s that kind of thing that keeps me coming back to Bledsoe.

Part of me is glad I read Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies before this, if I hadn’t, I’d have spent too much time comparing the pirate-y bits between the two while reading — and I think Lynch would’ve come up short. Bledsoe did a great job of nailing the life of a ship (says the guy who gets too seasick to even contemplate a day-long voyage) — both the tedium of day-to-day and the excitement of the boarding.

The last thing I can think to note, is that this book briefly features the creepiest little girl I can remember since Let the Right One In. I really can’t talk about her without ruining too much, but let me just say that absolutely loved the way that Bledsoe used her.

I couldn’t have seen the ending coming, nor the details it revealed. But it worked, it absolutely worked both as an interesting plot development, and as strong character moments. So well done. Shame on me for putting this off for so long — not a mistake I’ll make again.*


* and I mean that — book 5, He Drank, and Saw the Spider came out this year, and is on my hold list at the library.


4 1/2 Stars