Thursday, August 2, 2012

Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts

A lesbian blacksmith in Seattle, a black sword whose provenance goes all the way back to Norse mythology, dragons who shapeshift into modern investment bankers -- Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts has the ingredients that appeal to me. But that's not enough when the writing style is not to my taste. I was intrigued enough to get halfway through, then I skimmed, and then read the last few chapters.

Sarah Beauhall, the young blacksmith, is consumed with self-loathing. She has fallen in love with a woman for the first time and the sex is great but internalized homophobia is really messing up her relationship with Katie, a teacher. Among Katie's lesbian friends, Sarah "felt like a fish out of water. When the nagging voices in my head started up -- you know, those old teachers or cranky relatives that live in your skull and tell you how much you suck, or what an abomination you are -- those voices rose loud and clear when I thought about the public aspect of it all."

Sarah finds Katie "stunning in her teacher outfit -- black mid-length skirt and white short-sleeved top. Hell, she was stunning in nothing at all, but that's beside the point." Another day: "Katie had gone off to catch her bus decked out in her cute schoolteacher accoutrement." I found Sarah's schoolmarm fetish supremely annoying in the way it demeaned her lover's profession. Pitts' whole approach to lesbianism screamed straight male author, so I checked, and his first name is John. (Some men do write convincing lesbian characters, but not in this case.)

Continuity errors and inconsistencies abound, but it was the writing style that was the deal-breaker for me: "'Cut!' Carl called. Carl was the director." (Duh, who else would call "Cut!" on a movie set?) And this: "I woke at the butt crack of dawn."

If none of the above dissuades you, you'll be glad to know that there are sequels: Honeyed Words and Forged in Fire.

Rather than readalikes, I'll suggest alternatives.

Fantasy with a blade-wielding lesbian: Huntress (Malinda Lo)
Urban fantasy starring a lesbian: Santa Olivia (Jacqueline Carey)
Urban fantasy with a strong female lead (a car mechanic) and also shapeshifting: the Mercy Thompson books (Patricia Briggs)
Human who was once a dragon: Tea with the Black Dragon (R.A. MacAvoy)
Norse mythology brought into contemporary times: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Douglas Adams)
and a graphic novel send-up of the found-an-ancient-powerful-artifact-and-now-the-baddies-are-after-it plotline: The Helm (Jim Hardison and others).


Claire G said...

Why suffer through this book when we can be entertained by your review of it? Thanks, Lindy!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you. I loved the idea of a modern day blacksmith, who is also a lesbian, for the main character. Pitts had all the right ingredients, but just wasn't able to put them together well to make for a truly enjoyable read.

Lindy said...

Robin, I'm glad to know I'm not alone. Thanks for your comments.