Wake of the Bloody Angel is the fourth novel starring the famous (at least I hope he's becoming more and more so) sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse by author Alex Bledsoe. This sword and mystery novel, available on July 3rd, will be followed by at least one more tale for the devoted ex-mercenary turned detective.
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.
LaCrosse last adventure was Dark Jenny where the tale of King Arthur and Excalibur was revisited. Previously, Eddie also tackled a horse queen and a dragon and this time he's going out to sea for some pirate hunting. As with the sword jockey prior entries, a common trope is used for the background. Accordingly, what makes this interesting you might ask? Well, if you have already read some LaCrosse novels, you know by now that where Eddie's concerned, the usual and boring is thrown overboard (I couldn't help myself). If Wake of the Bloody Angel is you first taste of Bledsoe's Fantasy adventures, you will realize soon enough that a typical setting is only a mean to an end, that end being a mysterious, action packed and humor flavored experience.
One of the things I like about the author's work with Eddie is the way he always interweave the story with the protagonist's past. Usually it's mostly his own and sometimes it's a look back at the accounts behind his friends backgrounds. Layer by layer, we find out more about his compelling life story, what shaped the fellow. This time, it's Angelina's turn to hire his services. However, she doesn't have a huge part in this story. Eddie's sidekick for Wake of the Bloody Angel is Jane Argo, another sword jockey who previously earned her living as a Captain. If I could have imagined our beloved hero as a woman, Jane would have been close to the bullseye. So, try to visualize Eddie going on a job with his feminine counterpart and then spice her up a bit. Isn't it sweet? That's a great idea and it's well executed.
Then, there's the actual setting; a ship being challenging to use as a main locale. The guy's storyline, still written with a narrative form the first person perspective, has his share of ground covering to do to elucidate this mystery but most of the time, his search will happen on the sea. People who dislike seafaring in Fantasy may be put off by this. The characters surrounding him have to be even more captivating to keep close quarters interesting. Jane's one and Eddie even gets to have a trainee but the author has to go through the boundaries of reality to come up with some fresh company. Hopefully, weird encounters galvanize the tale, which tended to lag occasionally.
The story has some moments that can be anticipated but the element of surprise and puzzlement is always present, not as a big bang but as small encounters or enigmas where Eddie's wits and brawn skills find good uses. Add to this several kick ass moments, a well-researched pirate/ship theme (from what I can perceive as a non-initiate) and plenty of occasions for Eddie to be mutilated, one of the man's trademarks, and you're in for a treat. It's almost too bad that some characters clearly fall into stereotypical pirate fashion or that some dialogues fall short but isn't it the way we like the sea rover crowd?
Eddie wouldn't be the fascinating hero he is without much soul-searching, luck, hard choices and faith in himself and his friends/collaborators. The tale of Wake of Bloody Angel facilitates his work in order to achieve it. The mystery at the heart of the book doesn't bring the best denouement in term of detective work, but it creates more emotional foundations making Eddie's world much more vivid, even at a somewhat slower pace than the last books.
In a past review, I wrote this about LaCrosse:
What I liked about Eddie in the first two novels (as I mentioned in the reviews) was his skepticism, gruffness, loyalty, altruism, vulnerability, insecurity and kick-ass fighting abilities.
For a fourth time, Alex Bledsoe succeeded in creating an exciting tale where Eddie stays true to his nature, even if he's getting older. With four accomplished book to his credit, the Eddie LaCrosse series should become more notable and find its way onto more readers' hands. This last opus may not be the best of the lot (I think that The Sword Edged Blonde will be hard to beat) but it's a fast read that you have to pick up.
Technically, I have to admit that the cover (Tor) represent what it ought to, but still, a photo realistic cover is kind of tricky since it can mess up with the representation of the character we have made up in our mind. The paperback edition of the novel stands at 352 pages. Here again, no map is included. While it's not mandatory to the series, in this particular instance, it would have been appreciated.
Wake of the Bloody Angel review score :
World building............... 7.5 / 10
Magic system................. N / A
Story.............................. 8.5 / 10
Writing........................... 8.5 / 10
Overall (not an average) 8.5 / 10