A large crow cawed from a limb overhead and flew away into the forest. My eyes inadvertently followed the movement, which seemed to sparkle like the birds I'd seen on Rhiannon's window sill. On the tree he'd vacated, a trail of silver-tipped moss grew in a narrow thick line down the trunk, in the dead center of a burn scar from an old lightening strike. It, too, disappeared under the leaves. When I kicked the litter away, I saw that the moss continued in an unbroken line along the ground, green and alive despite being covered. I followed it, knowing it would eventually turn into the trail of gray clover. It did. 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. So, divorced from context, what did this tell me? Something apparently came down the tree, across the ground and landed on the very spot where my pal Phil had found his bare-assed bride, and left a trail conducive to the growth of slightly off-kilter flora. Had the lightening scar been there before the moss? Could whatever left the trail also split the bark of the tree? I'd seen burning rocks fall from the sky; I'd seen lightening. I'd encountered all manner of animals that flew. What combination could result in what I now saw? Nothing came to mind. Except the obvious idea that Queen Rhiannon herself had left the trail after she'd fallen from the heavens and came out into the sun. But I wasn't ready to put my weight behind that.
~Excerpt from The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe
When I'm looking for something to read, I most frequently look for books in two genres: fantasy & detective fiction. Naturally when an author tries to fuse these into one story, I'm interested. Simon R. Green and Jim Butcher have probably been the most well known authors selling the hard-boiled detective in the fantasy milieu, but up-and-coming author Alex Bledsoe has brought a strong entry into the mix with The Sword-Edged Blonde.
Eddie LaCrosse is a 'sword jockey' who works out of an office above a tavern in a run-down town known more for its criminal enterprises than anything else; but it keeps a private investigator like Eddie busy enough to keep from dwelling too much on his past. But when his childhood friend, King Philip of Arentia, asks for help, Eddie doesn't hesitate. Philip's wife Rhiannon, a mysterious beauty with no memory of her past, is accused of killing their child in a bloody ritual. When he sees the Queen for the first time, Eddie is suddenly confronted with a face from his past, and he realizes that unraveling the mystery surrounding the apparent death of the prince will answer questions about his own past--as well as Rhiannon's.
"The Sword-Edged Blonde" defies a neat characterization because it has elements of modern fiction and traditional fantasy in a kind of mishmash of genres: Eddie carries a sword, though he switches out the models for different occasions; His sense of humor definitively has a modern edge to it; and the character names are blessedly ordinary and easy to pronounce. Unlike the books by Green and Butcher, this story doesn't take place the modern world, but exists in a Medieval setting. So the modern sensibility can be disorienting until you get into the rhythm of the story.
The action has a kind of James Bond feel to it as it's bloody, brutal and swift and Eddie doesn't shy away from doing whatever the situation requires. Bledsoe really hits the ground running with "The Sword-Edged Blonde." Many reviews compare the book to a Raymond Chandler novel and it's clear that Chandler's a huge influence. The first person narrative of Eddie LaCrosse is wry and world weary. He's a guy with a bleak past and a conscience that won't let him forget. He's everything a protagonist should be and he has great one-liners. "The Sword-Edged Blonde" is one of those books that you'll stay up late reading and find yourself looking to see if the sequel is on the shelves yet (it is). In fact, I've already picked up the next Eddie LaCrosse novel, Burn Me Deadly and I'm at least half-way through that one already... How's that for a recommendation? Fun book that, for my money, is even better than Harry Dresden.