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Black Blade Blues (Sarah Jane Beauhall) [Kindle Edition]

J. A. Pitts
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group.

The lead actor breaks Sarah's favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who claims to be a dwarf, offers to help. And that's when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as the "dwarf" claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters?

And as if things weren't surreal enough, Sarah's girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase… "I love you." As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom. It is at this moment, when she has lost everything she has prized, that one of the dragons makes their move.

And suddenly what was unthinkable becomes all too real…and Sarah will have to decide if she can reject what is safe and become the heroine who is needed to save her world.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 824 KB
  • Print Length: 404 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0765327937
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (27 April 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #270,894 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book via an interview with the author on the Seattle Geekly podcast - Google it! - and was pleasantly surprised to find a fantasy book that really connected with me, perhaps due in part to the way that J.A. Pitts takes the Urban Fantasy genre so popular in the last few years and does something new with it.

The settings are well-drawn, the characters are vivid and Pitts' ability to draw vivid action with words is enviable.

A promising start to a series and heroine that I will be keeping an eye on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When you become bored of the copy-cat Urban Fantasies, turn to this one 3 Sept. 2010
By Mrs. Baumann - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Plot Summary: Sarah Beauhall is a young woman making ends meet by working at two jobs that she loves. By day she is an apprentice blacksmith, and she's either shoeing a horse, or making a sword for the Renaissance fair set. By night she's the props manager for a low-budget fantasy movie, and in between her jobs there's her girlfriend Katie. Money may be tight, but her professional and personal life are going great until one night the idiot actor breaks her favorite sword in two. Sarah decides to test her skills and reforge the blade, and once it's whole again, everything in her world falls apart. Some huge guy claiming to be a dwarf talks to her about the sword's power, and he says she must slay a dragon, who just happens to be the guy financing the movie. Sarah can't seem to control her temper anymore, and when she holds the sword she feels something... but dragons, dwarves, and magical swords are just too much for anyone halfway sane to swallow.

I really wanted to read Black Blade Blues after I learned that it's about a female blacksmith who is also a lesbian, but I was dying to read it when I learned that the author, J. A. Pitts, is a man. I wanted to know, could he pull this off?

The answer is yes.

Furthermore, Mr. Pitts gave himself a considerable challenge because Sarah is not a strong, confident gay woman, like I assumed she'd be. Oh no. She's absolutely conflicted about her lifestyle, she's haunted by her strict religious upbringing, and she can barely stand to acknowledge her relationship with Katie. Sarah has practically barricaded herself in the closet, and watching her break out will be one of the things I look forward to most in this new series.

One of the great things about this story is that Mr. Pitts was not afraid to build a large ensemble cast, and then go beyond the cursory sketches and flesh each character out. There are so many strong female characters in this story! I have to get a little excited about this, because most urban fantasies shine the spotlight on one woman, and the other females are usually criminals, hookers, or victims. Sarah shares the stage with Katie, her girlfriend, Julie, her blacksmith mentor, Melanie, an E.R. doctor, and Jennifer, one of her bosses from the movie production. I could list a few more, but these were the ladies who stood out in my mind after I closed the book.

I wish it had been more of a page-turner. I read this one over a three day period, and while it was always a pleasure to come back to, I didn't feel that junkie craving that tells me I love it, need it, want it more than anything else. At times, the pace was too slow, but I'm almost loathe to make that criticism because the details were so lush. I liked seeing Sarah during some utterly mundane parts of the day, like when she went jogging, but it did slow the story down.

To grab my attention these days, an urban fantasy has to bring something fresh and new to the experience, and Black Blade Blues succeeds. Sarah's character is a work of art, but the folklore surrounding the sword and the dragons is going to dive into some good stuff down the road. I can just tell. The dragons have the world divvied up like a bunch of mafia bosses, and they pull the strings behind the scenes. Humans are nothing more than cattle in their eyes, and Sarah's bond with the black sword is the first real threat they've faced in eons.

The good news is that Mr. Pitts has a deal for two more Sarah Beauhall novels with Tor, and we can look for Honeyed Words in the Spring of 2011, and Hearth and Home in 2012.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit of a Rough Start (Kindle Review) 24 Aug. 2010
By Robin L. McLaughlin - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read the reviews here first before buying Black Blade Blues and tailored my expectations accordingly. I don't need wham-bam pacing at the start of a book and I don't mind inner turmoil or self-doubt, as long as it doesn't go on forever and ever. But even with that in mind, I still felt the book had some problems it should have overcome before being published.

I think overall that the book would have benefited from a stronger hand from the editor. There were some issues of vague locations, such as not being specific as to what towns the main characters lived in or where the blacksmith shop was located. At least, it was confusing to me since I live in Seattle and was startled to find the characters were actually in Kent (I think?), which is several miles and a few suburbs south. And while anyone can have a brain fart and type "Cascade Peninsula" instead of "Olympic Peninsula" into a rough draft, someone really should have caught the gaff before the book went to print. There were other issues with structure, especially in the first third of the book, that really needed a stronger editor to help tighten and focus.

I didn't mind that the book switched between first person point of view and third person. That's supposedly something that should never be done, but in this case the author was clear enough in the transitions that I was never confused and in principle it would have worked fine for me. However, the major strength of first person is being able to get deep into the protagonist's head. In this case the author didn't really take advantage of that. I felt as if there was still a barrier between me as a reader and Sarah as a character. I think the book would have been much better, and I wouldn't have felt that distance so much, if it had been written entirely in third person. Many times Sarah didn't seem to react much at all to things that would bring out strong emotions in most people. (And in a couple cases reacted strongly when it wasn't clear why.) I don't want to give any spoilers, but I'll just say there was a thing with runes on skin that certainly deserved a major freakout, but it was shrugged off.

I felt the book got stronger, more coherent, about 30% into it and I began enjoying it more, but I can't really say that it totally took off at any particular point. At least, not on a consistent basis. Black Blade Blues did have its good moments though.

The best thing about Black Blade Blues is that it brings new material to the urban fantasy genre. I love that Sarah is a blacksmith and involved in SCA. I wasn't sure that the Norse mythology elements would appeal to me, but they are worked fairly seamlessly into the story and they provide a rich background for this series. The dragons are fascinating and in this first book you know that only the surface has been scratched and there is much more to be revealed about them. The secondary characters are interesting and there's a lot of potential for growth with them. And of course, as a lesbian reader it's a treat to read a book in my favorite genre with a lesbian protagonist, even if she still has some internalized homophobia to work out.

If this had been a stand alone book I would probably have only rated it with 2.5 stars. But as the first book in a series I'm giving it a 3, because there is enough to build on and enough potential to make reading it worthwhile in the hopes that the next book succeeds in putting it all together better. I plan to read the next book also and decide whether to continue with the series or not based on it. After all this one is the first published novel by the author.

Kindle Note: The Kindle edition was well done with chapter marks showing on the progress bar.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent debut novel 20 May 2010
By Scott M. Harris - Published on
All in all, this was an excellent first novel. I will have to go back and look for the author's previous short fiction. The editorial review covers the basics of the plot well enough, and I don't wish to add more spoilers, so I'll just mention that it might have been the slightest bit stronger had Pitts either just stuck with Sarah's first person POV throughout, or divided the chapters more evenly between her POV and that of other characters such as Katie. Not sure if Katie's few chapters would have worked better had they been first person as well. As it was, I didn't have the problems some other reviewers had with Sarah being somewhat immature as a character, as it became clear to me from quite early on that that was very much the point of the book, the themes of coming of age and finding one's identity being hammered on much as Sarah hammers on heated steel throughout.

Okay, some spoiler potential thoughts after all. I'm very curious as to how Pitts will handle the status of the Aesir in the next few books, since there was a curious tension between certain parties being convinced they were long gone and only occasionally getting reincarnated, against the undeniable presence not only of a certain one-eyed wanderer, but apparently of a fully staffed (with Valkyries) and operating Valhalla.

Also, while it worked quite well, it seemed a bit odd for the jotunar to be quite so clearly subservient to the dragons, when it's always seemed to me from the original folklore that dragons, like wolves, were more just one of the many shapes that could be taken by creatures such as jotunar (Jormungandr, Fenrir) or dvergar (Fafnir). However, the world of the book seems well-enough realized that I trust Pitts will develop things in a logically consistent way as he reveals more about it.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your Standard Urban Fantasy Heroine 14 May 2010
By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) - Published on
Sarah Beauhall, heroine of Black Blade Blues, was a woman after my own heart from the very beginning. Not only is she a lesbian and a blacksmith -- traits that set her apart from the Standard Urban Fantasy Heroine -- she also attends sci-fi conventions and hangs out with Ren Faire and SCA enthusiasts. This isn't just a character I'd like to have a beer with. This is a character I feel like I've already *had* a beer with! Like lots of her compatriots in urban fantasy, she does have anger-management issues, but there are reasons for this.

I have to admit, though, that I didn't quite understand Sarah's decision, at the beginning of the book, to let her prized antique sword be used in a friend's B-movie shoot. Other characters said she was crazy to do it, and I actually kind of agreed with them. She's a blacksmith, after all; why not make a convincing fake and keep her prized possession out of harm's way? The plot requires that the sword be broken, and the movie shoot does achieve this aim, but it just doesn't seem like the most realistic way of getting it broken.

Sarah decides to reforge the sword, and in doing so, attracts all sorts of supernatural attention. Turns out it's a magical sword linked to the god Odin. Now Sarah has a stubborn dwarf trying to convince her to use the sword for heroic purposes, a couple of dragons (disguised as humans) who will stop at nothing to keep her from using it, and all sorts of mythical nasties threatening her friends.

And as if this weren't enough trouble for one woman, her girlfriend Katie wants to take their relationship to the next level. But Sarah, who was raised by a Fred-Phelps-esque father, has lots of lingering angst about her sexuality and isn't quite comfortable with who she is.

I really enjoyed the blacksmithing scenes. J.A. Pitts shows us how much Sarah loves the work, and how much work it really is. The battle scenes are also excellent, in a horrific sort of way. Sarah teams up with a group of SCA fighters to combat the villain, and the violence is rendered incredibly gritty by the fact that *the heroes are all just humans*, with no magical powers, pitting their courage and skill against dragons, trolls, ogres, and giants. People die; people suffer ghastly injuries. If Sarah and her friends were superpowered, these scenes wouldn't be nearly as wrenching.

The climax comes earlier in the book than one might expect, followed by a rather long denouement. I kept thinking I was about to reach the ending, only to find another chapter of conversation. But Pitts ties up all the necessary ends, gives Sarah some great character development, and sets up a tantalizing plot hook for book two. I'll be looking forward to it!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Way fun story, engagingly told 29 April 2010
By Susan R. Matthews - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bottom line, the story is a lot of fun; Sarah is a strong and all-too-believable character, the supporting cast are flesh-and-blood real people, and her personal problems, including her ability to misread situations and put her foot into it, are all too convincing. The story has action, adventure, personal growth, and the good fight against the powers of exploitation and evil -- and also dwarfs -- with some wonderful surprises and more than one laugh-out-loud moment. J.A. Pitts is a storyteller in the tradition of John Myers Myers, whose sure touch and command of his craft makes the story a delight to read.
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