01 August 2012

Review: Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts

The Book:

Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith, but since that kind of work doesn't really make ends meet, she also works nights as a props manager for her friend's low-budget fantasy film. When the lead breaks her favorite sword on set, Sarah agrees to reforge it so the shoot won't stretch on longer. One of the dwarf extras offers his help, but it seems he has a lot of incredible news for her, like the fact he is an actual dwarf. And her blade is magic. And she is supposed to kill a dragon. Before Sarah can say shape-shifter, things really start to get weird, and fantasy becomes fact as Sarah must go from behind the scenes to playing a very real role of heroine charged with saving the world.

The Yarn:

I was impressed with Black Blade Blues on a couple different levels. Pitts brings Norse elements into the storyline very cohesively. Sarah is a very fleshed-out character from the beginning, strong and sure in her work, but a bit hot-headed and struggling with her feelings. Being told that the fate of the world is in your hands would be difficult for anyone to handle. As a young woman who is a SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) member and who creates weapons for sale at fairs and cons, it would seem logical for Sarah to be a believer off the bat. But she doesn't buy in -- and that resistance mirrors the other thread of her story that goes through the book.

Sarah is a not-out-of-the-closet lesbian in a relationship with Katie, who is quite comfortable with her orientation. Sarah's outward life -- her work, her relationship -- is diametrically opposed to the her childhood belief system. Obviously this creates tension and clashes between Katie and Sarah. So, not only do we get to see Sarah work to believe in her role in the world's salvation, to believe that dwarves and dragons exist, but we also see her struggle with caring for another woman and the feelings she has to process to believe in her relationship with Katie.

Ultimately this is a story about being the heroine who is charged with "slaying the dragon." Sarah has more than just the live one threatening her world to deal with, however, she also has the one created from her fears. Pitts does a good job balancing this urban fantasy with Sarah's struggle to find her sexual identity, and neither storyline overshadows the other's importance. The book is the first of a series, and I have the sequel, Honeyed Words, sitting on my TBR Pile. Probably not for long.

The Ink:

Title: Black Blade Blues
Author: J. A. Pitts
Publisher: Tor
Date: April 2011
Read: Library Mass Market Paperback