Wednesday, 11 July 2012

'Wake of the Bloody Angel' - Alex Bledsoe (Tor)

In fantasy worlds where the focus is usually on warfare, magic or intrigue it makes for refreshing reading to see a 'down on his luck' private eye touting for business and, more often than not, getting into more trouble than he can handle. I like fantasy fiction and I love reading a little Raymond Chandler, every now and then, so I love to see the two collide and what this throws up. This is the big reason why I love Alex Bledsoe's 'Eddie LaCrosse' books.

Glen Cook may well have got there first, with his 'Garrett P.I.' novels, but Bledsoe seems more willing to 'welcome his readers in' rather than adopt Cook's 'take it or leave it' approach. Bledsoe wants you to enjoy his tale so gives it that extra degree of accessibility, it works for me :o)

Without too much more beating around the bush, I've been sat on an advance copy of 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' (not literally, you know what I mean...) for a while now, having reviewed the ARC of 'Burn Me Deadly' far too early and wanting to balance things out a bit. I've been in need of a good read just recently (long story...) and so it felt like just the right time to pick up 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' and give it a read.

Blurb copied and pasted from elsewhere (every second saved and all that...)

Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbor town fell for a young sailor who turned pirate to make his fortune. But what truly became of Black Edward Tew remains a mystery—one that has just fallen into the lap of freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse.

For years, Eddie has kept his office above Angelina’s tavern, so when Angelina herself asks him to find out what happened to the dashing pirate who stole her heart, he can hardly say no—even though the trail is two decades old. Some say Black Edward and his ship, The Bloody Angel, went to bottom of the sea, taking with it a king’s fortune in treasure. Others say he rules a wealthy, secret pirate kingdom. And a few believe he still sails under a ghostly flag with a crew of the damned.

To find the truth, and earn his twenty-five gold pieces a day, Eddie must take to sea in the company of a former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew…and his even more legendary treasure.

Summertime commuting in London is one of my least favourite things about living here. If you're wondering why; cram as many people as you can into a greenhouse and then stand in it while the sun is blazing down on your head. Don't step out for at least twenty minutes. That was my train outside London Bridge this morning. Roll on autumn!

'Wake of the Bloody Angel' came at just the right time for me then. It didn't make the commute go any faster but it made it a hell of a lot more bearable.

'Wake' doesn't really do anything new and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not (at least not for the long term readers)... On the one hand, there's no hanging around waiting for things to develop. You know what you're getting with an 'Eddie LaCrosse' novel and Bledsoe serves it up to you straight away so you can get reading. Eddie gets working on a case, he finds clues that only make sense after he's made some wrong decisions, a couple of nasty surprises later and Eddie solves the case. That's the previous three books in a nutshell and 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' is no different.

Now that's cool if that's what you're after. It certainly worked for me but only up to a point though... I like a story where things just happen, without having to be laboriously set up first, and that's what you get here with 'Wake'. A lot of room is freed up for the good stuff, all the more exciting as we're talking about a plot set on the high seas here. There are sword fights all over the place, hidden islands, ghosts and sea monsters where you least expect them. Bledsoe strikes a fine balance between moments of all out action (a keen eye for spectacle is on display here) and the moments of inactivity that you can't escape from when you're on a boat in the middle of nowhere. This means that you may not get a fast paced tale but it all feels very smooth in the way that the plot moves forward. It's a lot of fun to read on that score.

There are some surprises throughout the book but these are all found on the way and are incidental to the case itself. No big deal here but it does highlight the fact that the case doesn't spring any big surprises, not the kind that Bledsoe was looking to spring anyway. The resolution here feels mechanical and a little too smooth; everything slots together far too easily, early on, and you can see what's coming...

No big deal though surely? Like I said, 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' is a lot of fun to read and took my mind off some lowpoints of the day. My mind keeps coming back to the whole thing about 'formula' though. I've already said that this isn't necessarily a bad thing here but the point is that when you're writing to a formula things get a bit... well, formulaic. I'm starting to get a feel for what is supposed to happen where with Eddie LaCrosse and it felt like just a little bit of the fun had gone. I was reading for the pulp swashbuckling heroics (loads of these) but I found I wasn't reading to be surprised anymore. And I want to be surprised... Maybe that's the price we pay for books that are more accessible.

While I had a lot of fun with 'Wake of the Bloody Angel' it felt like things were starting to get a little too familiar in lots of little ways. No big deal if you're after a fun read, maybe a bit more of a deal if you're with the series for the long term and want to see things develop. This isn't going to stop me being around for the next book, I just hope that Bledsoe has a few surprises for me...

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten


SQT said...

I'm writing my review for this today and I think I'm on the same page, so to speak, as you are. Good book but not especially unique.

Unknown said...

I've heard mixed reviews for this one so far, so I'll keep an eye out for more on it.

I don't envy your commute, either, it sounds pretty horrific!

Liesel K. Hill said...

This actually sounds great to me. I've never read this author so the "his-other-books-are-the-same" things shouldn't bother me. I love a good whodunit mystery. Throw in pirates and ghosts and other fantasy elements and I can't help but love it! (Hopefully.) Thanks for the review!