Black Blade Blues
by J. A. Pitts
Cover Artist: Dan Dos Santos
Review by Cathy Green
Tor Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765327932
Date: 27 April 2010 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
At the start of Black Blade Blues, Sarah Beauhall's life is finally on track. She's escaped from her fundamentalist christian family, gone to college, become a blacksmith apprenticed to master blacksmith and farrier Julia Hendrickson and has a fabulous girlfriend named Katie. In addition to her work for Julia, Sarah has a night job working as weapons and prop master on a local low budget film, Elvis Versus the Goblins.
When the idiot leading man on the film breaks her favorite sword, Sarah has to reforge it. Rolph Brokkrson, a man who plays one the film's goblin extras (and who may or may not be a dwarf) comes to the forge and asks to watch her reforge the sword. He informs her that the sword is Fafnir's Bane. Sarah, while acknowledging that the sword is, indeed Scandinavian, does not think that it is Gram, Sigurd's sword. Once Sarah has reforged the sword, he informs her that it is a Sword of Destiny, with said destiny now being hers, since she reforged it. And, oh, by the way, could she kick off the destiny thing by killing a Portland, Oregon investment banker because he's really a dragon, and because to finish the sword and give it the best edge “the optimum choice would be to plunge the glowing blade into the heart of her enemy.”
Sarah doesn't believe him and laughs off the destiny thing. Unfortunately, Swords of Destiny have minds of their own and can wreck your carefully ordered life until you do what the sword wants. It turns out Rolph Brokkrson was telling the truth--there are dragons disguised as humans walking amongst us as do Norse gods, and more than one faction wants the sword.
Sarah's sweet life quickly turns sour as she tries to cope with the havoc the sword and those who want it wreck on it. In short order she manages to lose both her jobs, her girlfriend and most of her friends as various factions vie for the sword and she tries to keep it safe. And she gets attacked by giants. Good thing she's got that sword. The novel climaxes with an epic battle involving giants, trolls, military helicopters, valkyries and Black Briar, a Society for Creative Anachronism style group that was preparing for the day sword was reforged and the cycle began anew.
This is an excellent first novel that should appeal to readers of both epic and urban fantasy. I particularly liked author J.A. Pitts's portrayal of the Valkyries. Pitts has created a great heroine in Sarah Beauhall. Her being a blacksmith with a fondness for old weapons means that she actually knows how to wield a big sword and has the strength to do so. Also, Sarah isn't perfect. She's confident in her skills as a blacksmith, but given her family background, she's anything but confident and comfortable in her relationship with Katie, which puts considerable strain on the relationship. I thought Sarah and Katie's relationship evolved in a naturalistic way as did Sarah's acceptance of her role as keeper of the sword. Pitts also did a nice job of developing the characterizations of the fairly large supporting cast and setting up plot threads for what will no doubt be several future novels in the series without leaving any important plot threads dangling in an annoying way. Highly recommended.