Black Blade Blues
As fans of this column no doubt have noticed, I love novels that re-invent and re-imagine old myths. Some myths are more popular than others, of course – especially Greek myths – but other pantheons are gaining in popularity. Black Blade Blues takes readers into the world of Norse mythology, along the way offering lots of action and angst.
Sarah Beauhall, a propmaster on a B-grade movie, is less than thrilled when the lead actor breaks her black sword. A blacksmith by trade, she manages to re-forge the blade, and in so doing attracts the attention of one of the movie’s extras, who claims to be a dwarf. Apparently this sword is being sought by a dragon masquerading as a local investment banker.
When Sarah refuses to turn the sword over to the dragon, her life takes a sharp downward turn. Always unsure of herself and carrying a ton of mental baggage, she watches in horror as her world crumbles. Her only chance is to fight back, and to embrace a universe that seems impossible.
Pitts admirably created a heroine who is a total emotional mess: Readers will both root for and sympathize with her. Sarah’s troubles are the sort that anybody could come up against, given a bad enough run of luck. And Pitts is clever enough to have his bad guys play on those issues.
I also admire how everything doesn’t turns out all right for the main character. The book contains a lot of injury and death, as people around Sarah suffer for her involvement with the Norse gods. Where and how Sarah gets impacted makes for gripping reading.
I don’t recall reading another book that uses blacksmithing quite so prominently, and this profession is uncommon enough to provide another point of interest. Pitts works in some solid information without turning the book into a treatise on smithing.
On a related note, the story also includes a positive portrayal of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and what it does.
Black Blade Blues, fast-paced and unique, is a solid first novel from an author who I’ll watch with interest.
This review originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on June 17, 2010.