I was a little apprehensive about reading Black Blade Blues after I took it home from Borders, mainly because I knew absolutely nothing about it. Of the three books I picked up that day, Black Blade Blues was the only one I didn’t even bother to read the back cover of. I pulled it off the shelf at random and took it to the check out counter as a last, futile attempt to honor the dying chain bookstore.
I put off reading Black Blade Blues until last just to give my brain some time to open up to whatever this overly sexy, white haired blacksmith girl story had in store for me. What I ended up with was a heaping helping of relationship drama, some confusing plot twists and some dragons, all of whom are total dicks.
On the upside, it also introduced Sarah Beauhall, who is probably one of the most well thought out female leads I’ve seen in a fiction book in quite some time.
Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith by trade and she absolutely adores her job. Every day sees her running around with her boss, Julie, and taking on whatever odd job she can find- everything from fitting horses with horseshoes to forging show blades for use at renaissance festivals. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the things we love to do rarely pay the bills, so Sarah also has a night job as a prop manager on a killer B movie titled Elvis Vs. the Goblins. The film calls for a black blade to be used, which Sarah reluctantly provides. It’s just one of many pieces she has acquired from auctions over the years, but she can’t help but feeling protective of it.
Of course, the ham-handed lead actor of the film smashes the damn thing, breaking the blade in half. Sarah doesn’t have another black blade they can use in the shoot, so she resigns herself to having to reforge the damn thing herself. But then one of the extras who is dressed in one of the hideous latex goblin suits approaches her. His name is Rolph, and he is, he tells her, a dwarf. He’s very interested about the blade, which he calls Gram, and in seeing it reforged. Something about a shapeshifting dragon masquerading as an investment banker from Portland…
From there, as all stories go, the shenanigans go full force. What I found interesting about Black Blade Blues, however, is for over half of the book Sarah is the main protagonist and is also the main antagonist of the story. She beats herself up about a lot of things.
As it turns out, Sarah is a lesbian, dating a totally hot bard in her local medieval reenactment group named Katie. Honestly, I wasn’t sure JA Pitts was a man until I found that out. That was the first in a long stream of subtle passages that screamed of “WOMEN, AMIRITE, GUYS??” that I found scattered through the book.
Anyway, Sarah loves being with Katie, but she has issues about that. She originally came from a severely religious family, the kind that hold abusive rallies against homosexuals and believes women should be seen and not heard. Sarah ditched the whole scene shortly after she turned 18, but to be honest a lot of the bigotry from her upbringing took a massive root in her head. She loves being with Katie, it’s just… well, she’s totally going to hell isn’t she? And she’s a freak and fat and omigawd omigawd.
Okay, yeah, the book’s not really that “valley girl.” I did like reading through Sarah’s thought process as she tried to reconcile what she was raised to believe with who she actually had ended up becoming. It was believable. That is, until she reforged Gram.
See, that black blade has a way of screwing with people’s heads, and with Sarah already in a hyper-emotional state (WOMEN, right guys??) she quickly starts to destroy every positive relationship in her life for no good reason. The tone changes during the last third of the book, when things stop getting so emotional and start getting more stabby.
Also, I think I should mention that the sexytimes happen in this book, but it’s never gone into detail. A lot of the time, Pitts writes something like “and then they totally DID IT and it was HOT LESBIAN SEX and it was basically awesome,” but of course, I’m paraphrasing. Turns out buying this book didn’t magically turn me into a skeezy pervert after all. Still, Sarah is awkward enough about the whole deal and doesn’t much like the public displays of affection, so it’s kept to a minimum.
It turned out Black Blade Blues was better than I thought it would be. Pitts promises an entire series dedicated to Beauhall sometime in the future, but honestly I don’t know if I’m sold on the idea, personally. Still, it might be something to pick up if you’re looking for a more modern day fantasy novel than the ones that always take place in feudal kingdoms, where people say thou and dost all the time.
The book does have a sense of humor about it too, something I find necessary in what I read. As random purchases from Borders go, I guess I could have done a lot worse.