Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guys Lit Wire Bonus Book Review: Check Out Alex!

Pssssst. C'mere. Shh—see that guy Alex Bledsoe? Did you know he's not just any old GLW contributor (not that ANY of our contributors are "any old" contributor) but an actual published author?

Yep, he sure is. And since Colleen just posted about a new noir graphic novel, I thought it would be a good time to let you know that Alex writes noir, too…noir FANTASY novels.

You heard me. I never would have thought a fantasy setting and noir detective fiction would make such a good blend, but they do. As someone who used to read a huge amount of fantasy series fiction (Piers Anthony and David Eddings, anyone? Don't laugh, this was a long time ago), I enjoyed seeing the classic tropes put to new and humorous use. Just listen: when your detective wields a sword and lives above a disreputable inn; when your dangerous dame has illicit magical secrets; when your bad guys are part of a mysterious criminal underworld of gamblers and hired killers; you've got all the elements of both a noir mystery AND a sword-and-sorcery fantasy. That's The Sword-Edged Blonde.

The writing style takes its cues more from the detective genre than the fantasy one, and though quirky, it works because it didn't seem overdone…just self-referential enough to be humorous. But although I found myself laughing out loud—a lot—the detective narrator, Eddie LaCrosse, is eminently sympathetic and a very rounded, real character. The locked-room mystery aspect might not offer an overwhelming challenge to mystery buffs, but that was only part of the fun, anyway. It's really the whole experience with this book. I think it's the kind of story you'll either love for its quirks and wholehearted willingness to play with genre conventions, or WON'T love because either you're not a fan of the genres in the first place or don't think the twain should ever meet. Personally, I thought it worked.

Fortunately for me, Alex has a genre-busting sequel, Burn Me Deadly. And my local library has it.


Ms. Yingling said...

I'll take a look at this. Maybe noir is something that I just don't understand, like Steampunk. I also think that both of them are for slightly more sophisticated readers than middle school students, but a noir detective with a sword-- have to read that!

Sarah Stevenson said...

This is definitely one for high school (and older) readers, unless they're particularly advanced middle-school students. Lots of fun, though.