I’ll be honest, I’ve tended to avoid Swords and Sorcery tales – especially those set at sea. Having in a former life owned a yacht, I have very limited tolerance for tales that get the sailing wrong… So when my husband kept on recommending this book, I rather grumpily decided that I’d better read a couple of chapters to shut him up before returning to the next cool space opera beckoning. And then became hooked…
Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbour 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 the 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 go to sea in the company of a sexy former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew… and his even more legendary treasure.
If that sounds like a really cracking plot with plenty of opportunity for swashbuckling characters, a hatful of exciting adventures, plenty of humour and more than a slice of real heartbreak and horror – you’d be right. Bledsoe manages to weave all of that into this accomplished story. Told in first person viewpoint, Eddie LaCrosse is an excellent protagonist whose skill and experience take him into all sorts of unexpected and dangerous settings – but whose intelligent and humorous asides give the book a deft, light touch that brings to mind The Black Pearl, before the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise started taking itself too seriously. In fact, I’d love to see someone turn this book into a film – the twists and turns in the plot would make a superb screenplay and there are a cast of strong, eccentric characters that leap off the page.
As for the final showdown – I was fully expecting it to be something of a disappointment after all the excitement we’d encountered earlier and couldn’t see how Bledsoe would manage to equal or better it. He did. It is terrible and poignant and shocking – and I know that along with a small handful of books, this will be one that will stick in my memory.