Monday, August 13, 2012

"Wake of the Bloody Angel" by Alex Bledsoe- Don't Let the Cover Fool You

     Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbor town fell for a young sailor who turned pirate to make his fortune. But what truly became of Black Edward Tew remains a mystery—one that has just fallen into the lap of freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse.

     For years, Eddie has kept his office above Angelina’s tavern, so when Angelina herself asks him to find out what happened to the dashing pirate who stole her heart, he can hardly say no—even though the trail is two decades old. Some say Black Edward and his ship, The Bloody Angel, went to bottom of the sea, taking with it a king’s fortune in treasure. Others say he rules a wealthy, secret pirate kingdom. And a few believe he still sails under a ghostly flag with a crew of the damned.
      To find the truth, and earn his twenty-five gold pieces a day, Eddie must take to sea in the company of a former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew…and his even more legendary treasure.

I'm a big fan of the Eddie LaCrosse series by Alex Bledsoe. I've said in the past, too many times I'm sure, that my favorite genres overlap in this series by combining fantasy and detective fiction.  However, it isn't just the melding of genres that makes this series special. Bledsoe also picks a theme for each book ranging, so far, from Mickey Spillane to Arthurian legend, and fuses the style with his story to form a unique creation. "Wake of the Bloody Angel" takes Eddie to sea for his version of a swashbuckling pirate adventure.

Eddie, who refers to himself as a "sword jockey," has a modern sensibility for a fantasy hero. He has a very dark past and he recognizes, and often forgives, that same quality in other people. So when his landlord Angelina asks him to find a lost love, an infamous pirate, he agrees to help her knowing that unresolved demons from a former life have a way of keeping a person from getting on with the business of living.

He hires former pirate captain Jane Argo to help him. Jane's an unusual character in that she's the muscle of the operation. Bledsoe lets her be tough without ever questioning her ability to be so. There's never a comment by another character that suggests she's strong for a girl. He writes her the way he writes all of his women- as individual people without any self consciousness about their gender. Jane is Eddie's go-between in the world of pirate hunting. Many of her former crew members help them in their search and it's fun to see, through their eyes, the terror of the sea that Jane must have been. But the elusive Edward Tew proves a unique challenge for Eddie, and one that not only endangers his life, but also his friendship with Angelina.

Like all the Eddie LaCrosse books "Wake of the Blood Angel" has a lot of action and there's nothing quite like taking a sword jockey and seeing him react to the special challenges of a seaborne adventure. Without getting too spoilery it must be mentioned that here, indeed, be monsters. And it is a very unique story from that perspective because Bledsoe brings modern elements into the ageless sea monster story and that part of the adventure is not something we've seen before.

 The only critique I have for "Wake of the Bloody Angel" is that there's never really a sense that Eddie or any of the main characters are in serious peril. We know Eddie is pretty essential for the series, as is the case with any book of this kind, but I still want to feel that he's facing someone, or something, that is really going to challenge him. Eddie is a bit of a wiseacre but it's not out of bravado but rather a been-there-done-that kind of thing. And his world-weariness almost works against him because nothing seems to startle him or knock him off his feet. Eddie's a guy who reels from the emotional punches more than the physical ones so he'd feel it if someone he loved were threatened, but "Wake" doesn't go down that path as much as it could have.

The strength of "Wake of the Bloody Angel," surprisingly, isn't the action. It's the way Bledsoe explores the emotional underpinnings of his characters. Eddie's past is a significant part of the narrative in all the books and he understands better than anyone that people do have the capacity to change.  But what he finds out about Angelina, one of his oldest friends, shakes him to his core and makes him wonder just how much a person can forgive. And, ultimately, it's this thoughtfulness that always brings me back to the Eddie LaCrosse series. Don't let the cover fool you into thinking this is some light weight romance (I don't get the new covers-- they don't convey the feel of the books *at all*). Bledsoe delivers, as always, an action packed, smart adventure that digs deeper than is typical of the genre. He is always on my 'must read' list and should be on yours too.

4 out of 5 stars


Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds really good, and I love that title. I've not read any of this author's work but this certainly catches my eye.

SQT said...

I can see you liking this series. Start with "The Sword Edged Blonde." That one also has a cover that makes sense.

Liesel K Hill said...

Sounds great! Great cover, too! I'll check it out! :D

SQT said...

Like I told Charles, start with "The Sword Edged Blonde." You can read each book on its own but I think knowing Eddie's history makes the book better.