|Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts
||[Aug. 13th, 2010|10:52 pm]
Just finished reading Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts.
The book follows Sarah, a young lesbian who's an apprentice smith. She reforges a magic sword and ends up fighting all sorts of mythical creatures in modern-day Seattle. Along the way, she fights her destiny, meets all sorts of interesting creatures, screws up her life good and proper, and almost discovers some very interesting things about her friends.
It's a first novel, as far as I can tell. (I suppose I could go read the cover blurb, I'm sure it would tell me.) It certainly feels like it. On a technical level, the writing's shaky, prone to wandering. The word choice is often just off that little bit, enough to set my teeth on edge and make me want to whip out my red pen and put on my editor hat. The ending in particular drags on interminably; many of the plot threads are tidied up long after the climax is over. At least ten pages, and probably twenty, could have been trimmed from the end with just a little more care.
One important thing you need to know is that the main character is a lesbian, and very conflicted about it. No really, look how conflicted she is! And she's a lesbian! Look, she's a lesbian and conflicted! ... etc, etc. In theory, it might make the character more interesting, but it was clumsy, overdone, and in a lot of cases it felt gratuitous (like the encounter with Gunnr near the end of the book). Seriously, Mr Pitts, we get it. She's a girl who likes girls. For the love of god can we move on please?***
Those complaints aside, I'm happy with the book. It's a fun read, lots of excitement and action. The characters are a little flat, especially if you compare them to Jenny or Valens from Elizabeth Bear's first books*, but they're solid enough to hang a story on. The battles are well done, quite fun when things go well and carrying some real emotional weight when things don't go well. There are a few too many plots going on, but not enough to completely lose track, and while the arc of the book is pretty clear from early on**, it's executed satisfyingly.
Overall, a fun read. It's popcorn, not a steak dinner, but good popcorn. For entertainment value, I'll give it a 4 out of 5; for quality of writing, perhaps a 3. This book isn't going to set your world on fire but in the end I found myself wishing the next book was out already, which is generally a pretty good sign.
* Valens is officially my all-time favourite character. He's just such a realistic, lovable, magnificent utter bastard.
** If you've read the Dresden Files, you can guess it even more easily. I just really, really hope that the next book doesn't reuse the same character arc.
*** I realise Sarah's issues around the whole thing are entirely realistic for some people, even in this day and age, but honestly it felt forced. If it had affected the core plot of the book in some way, then maybe it wouldn't feel so gratuitous.