Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Dark Jenny by Alex Bledsoe

You know, when I started the book, I was wondering if the medieval sword-and-sorcery crossed with hard-boiled noir was going to wear thin. I have enjoyed the first two books in the series a lot, but has I seen all I was going to see? Would sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse start to become less engaging, the deliberately anachronistic names and patterns of speech annoying?

The answer is no. It's particularly no because you don't have to get very far into this book to figure out that it's a humourous noir riff on Arthurian legend, and I am a sucker for anything that has to do with Arthuriana. Sure, here it's Bob Kay, and Dave Agravaine. But despite that tone, the story is a faithful but interestingly different adaptation, with a suitably noir twist thrown in for good measure.

(A little weird having the Morgan le Fay equivalent be given my first name, but hey. I can remember the days when finding someone named Megan was a rare thing. I was named Megan a few years before the Irish name craze, and at the time, it was uncommon. Then it became a thing for a while, with all the added letters to make it look more Irish. It's actually Welsh. But I digress.)

King Mark Drake has created quite the kingdom, with his wife Jennifer by his side. Someone (I wonder who, she asked disingenuously) tries to shatter the peace by framing the queen for murder. Unfortunately for Eddie LaCrosse, he gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and those who don't want to believe the queen guilty are more than willing to believe it's that foreigner sword jockey over there.

Rumours have abounded for years about the relationship between Jennifer and Drake's most accomplished knight, and the loving portrait of her in the entryway to his home hasn't exactly stilled any tongues. LaCrosse is sent to retrieve that knight to fight for the queen's honour, and discovers that there's more going on than one might think.

We also pay a visit to this version of Merlin, a very high semi-nudist with big dreams and bigger regrets about what those dreams had wrought. Bledsoe weaves in the darkest aspects of the Arthur legend, and I shall not say anything more than that.

Did I mention the dame? Eddie falls hard for the beautiful doctor who patches him up after he punches Agravaine right in the jaw (deservedly so). But like all beautiful dames in noir, can she really be trusted?

Framing this as a story Eddie is telling years later is a device that I'm not sure adds a ton to the story, although I guess, given that Eddie has now settled down with Liz, gives Bledsoe a way to still introduce a new sultry female complication into Eddie's life.

So yeah, I still like this series. A lot. Bringing in Arthur and his court at this point in the series was a very smart move.

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