The Sword-Edged Blonde is an impressive fantasy debut
blending detective stories and the sword and sorcery genre with a dash of the Western.
Eddie LaCrosse, a cynical sword jockey with a haunted past, works alone from his small office located above a tavern. He hates horses and prefers to walk whenever possible. He is hired to find a princess who was kidnapped by a group of ruffians
- at least that's how the official story goes. It might be that the sixteen-year-old princess ran away.
Regardless, Eddie takes the case. He travels to the nearest bigger town and finds the princess,
but she doesn't want to go back and the men with her aren't letting her go, either. The next thing Eddie knows, he is
fighting a handful of experienced swordsmen. A mysterious stranger comes to Eddie's aid, and together they flee from the town. The stranger turns out to be a secret agent
working for the King of Arentia. King Phil was Eddie's childhood best friend, so when Phil asks for help, Eddie can't turn him down. Unfortunately, if Eddie wants to solve his friend's problems, he will also have to confront
the past he has tried so hard to forget.
The wry first-person narrative is told on two levels: the present and flashbacks
to Eddie's past over a decade ago. The two threads work well and are easy to distinguish from each other. The story is written in a wry style in the first person.
The setting seems to be a Western without the guns. The technology seems to be about medieval level,
yet they have many things I associate with more modern times. For example, they seem to have clocks because Eddie can refer to the exact time of 19.30, and the bars are reminiscent of
saloons in Wild West movies, complete with gambling tables, bands, and dancing girls. Also, while there were "parchment books," serving girls hand out checks to their customers, and if you park your horse in the wrong place, you'll get a ticket. Most of the characters seem to be able to read and write, too.
The characters possess some modern sensibilities, as well. Fat is seen as bad and thin as good. However, in a society where the poor do the manual labor, the fat people are associated with wealth, because clearly the fat people can buy excess food and are not required to do manual labor. This is a cultural attitude
that doesn't change in just a few years.
Many of the characters are also reminiscent of Western characters; Eddie is the lone hero with the tormented past; there are some tavern girls and whores who either are quite mean or have hearts of gold in the end, and one of the towns Eddie visits has a tough law officer. The characters also have modern English names
- King Phil, Princess Janet, maids Beth and Sally, Commander Bernard, and Sir Michael Anders.
Still, most of the characters have their own quirks and do not remain archetypes.
The fast-paced plot revolves around solving the mystery. At the same time, Eddie is forced to confront his past, which provides clues to the current-day events. The
only real complaint with an otherwise fine debut is that some of the problems are resolved a little too easily.