Book Review: He Drank, And Saw The Spider - Mania.com



Book Review

Mania Grade: A

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Info:

  • Author: Alex Bledsoe
  • Book Series: Eddie LaCrosse
  • Publisher: Tor/Forge
  • Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
  • Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
  • Series:

Book Review: He Drank, And Saw The Spider

The first must read novel of 2014

By Chuck Francisco     January 30, 2014
Source: Mania.com


He Drank, And Saw The Spider - Book Review
© Tor/Forge
Author Alex Bledsoe must have magic in his word processor (or, more wistfully, typewriter), as his new novel, He Drank, And Saw The Spider, continues to showcase an amazing talent for entertainingly blending genres. This latest page turner is the fifth entry in the engrossing Eddie LaCrosse series of noir mysteries cast upon a fantasy backdrop. Don't let the numbered series branding fool you; He Drank, And Saw The Spider allows newcomers to jump right in, imparting the feeling that they aren't late to the party. LaCrosse is what's known as a "sword jockey", which turns out to be the setting's version of a gum shoe, a P.I., and detective all rolled into a wisecracking candy shell coating. 

If this sounds eerily reminiscent of Harry Dresden, there's good reason; the Eddie LaCrosse series shares quite a few DNA markers with The Dresden Files. The wise cracking, self deprecating protagonist, who is far more capable than outward appearances would credit him, yet is still amiable, forms an event horizon beyond which there really isn't hope for escape. Characters like Eddie (and Harry) are so compelling that you would want to continue reading even if the story happened to be subpar. He Drank, And Saw the Spider is does not have to merely rely on the charisma of its narrator alone, since the mystery it weaves is enticing, sucking readers in layer by layer. It all begins with a flashback.

The young Eddie LaCrosse was an eager sellsword, a mercenary moving from conflict to conflict with his skill to prove and, youthful fire to quench. On his way to glory and riches, his path crosses that of a man fleeing a bear with a baby. With the death of her protector at the claws of a bear, Eddie is forced into the role of guardian until a new surrogate home can be found. Lady Luck is a kind mistress to him, as he finds the closest hamlet in the midst of their annual spring fertility festival, thus affording our strapping young hero the ability to offload his passenger, and cozy up to a shepherd's daughter at the same time.

Sixteen years pass, bringing us into the present with a vacationing Eddie LaCrosse, fresh off the job and in search of relaxation with his girlfriend Liz. Soon they find themselves on the outskirts of a village that's so achingly familiar to Eddie, but whose details are lost to the deep fog bank of memory. Before long the two are back on the job, embroiled in a mystery more than a decade in the making and becoming deadlier by the minute.

This adventure succeeds on a wealth of levels, beginning on the surface with confident, engrossing prose. Eschewing the formal speech of stereotypical high fantasy, Bledsoe instead elects to feature modern vernacular in his character's voices. The first occurrence of it may have been jarring (Eddie's exclamation of "dude!"), but it soon fits like a warm winter glove. There's a balance to be struck in going this route, and Bledsoe is careful not to be ham fisted with it. Even if you hated A Knight's Tale for its anachronisms, He Drank, And Saw the Spider is worth the time for its other qualities. 

Three dimensional characters, with believable motivations, aspirations, and abilities, ground a universe where dragons can be real (if the stuff of legends), and kings employ sorcerers. So often villains are one note megalomaniacs, whose driving force can be boiled down to the typical world domination angle, as they froth at the mouth like mad dogs. So it's more refreshing than a spring breeze when an author manages to create antagonists who are human, ergo fail-able. 

It's little wonder that Alex Bledsoe's popularity is surging in the wake of works such as this one, and last year's Wisp of a Thing. This is the first Eddie LaCrosse novel I've read, be it absolutely will not be the last.  He Drank, And Saw the Spider is the first must read novel of 2014. 

He Drank, And Saw a Spider by Alex Bledsoe is available now from Tor Publishing as a Tor Hardcover for $24.99. Order it Here.

 

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.

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