Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts - review

Black Blade Blues
J.A. Pitts
first in series

*** (3 out of 6 stars)

cover- way better than the story.  except the story is about a blacksmith - by trade blacksmith, and not many blacksmiths are going to be running around in short shirts, hot or not, gay or straight.

When I first bought the book, I thought -hmmm. cool a female blacksmith who really knows metals and swords.  Then I when I realized the main character was gay, I thought wow, finally- a book where the main character is gay, not just a side character or best friend.  So when it was time for me to read the book, I sat down and got ready to enjoy a good fantasy novel about a gay woman who is a blacksmith.

I almost didn't write this review.   I don't like to write negative reviews, and for sure I won't post this on Amazon...But I don't think I was very impressed with this book. When I was finished I didn't have that feeling of "what a good book" or even "what a fun book".

I'm no expert on humans 0r even writing (especially writing) but I know reading, I know what I enjoy reading.  And having gay male and females in my family along with having known quite a few gay women in the past 20 years (not known in the biblical ways, now stop your smirking) I may not be an expert, but I have some experience with at least a few gay people - and have even talked to a few before and just after they came out.  This character did not read like a gay person.  I can't put my finger on it - it just didn't convince me.  She actually just sounded like a whiny guy to me.  From my perspective, being gay isn't about acting like the opposite sex (except for the extremely femme men, or the butch women, and that's more about personality than being gay), and I've know a few very "butch" women as well as femme women.

Pitts DID get the shame down - the shame of a person embarrassed to be herself, and afraid of what people would think.  But I actually was looking for a regular fantasy novel featuring a gay person, just being herself.  Kind of A LA Tanya Huff - her characters are bi, gay and straight, and her latest main character is bi with heavy leanings toward gay.  With no angst, just an acceptance of who that person is.  I get that this is NOT where Pitts was going with his character, but the whole relationship, angst, afraid to come out bit was just a little off for me - and again- just my opinion.  Maybe it was just right for other people, and I have no patience with it because deep down I think no one should have to worry about being accepted regardless of sexual identity - like it shouldn't be an issue AT ALL.

The story itself had to do with Sarah, who has been in this fairly new relationship with an openly gay woman, and the sword she buys and ends up having to repair.  The sword is a dragonslayer sword with powers, and it begins to affect Sarah, so that she has even more issues with herself - and these issues come out as sudden testoterone rages and anger leading her to do some stupid things.  It's possible that this is spot on - not being a guy, I don't know.  And I know that some women have hugely high levels of testoterone, which will affect them.  But for the purposes of me reading this particular story, the rages were both interesting to read and at the same time laughable to read. I guess I have mixed feelings about this novel.

I didn't feel wowed, didn't care about Sarah as a character and thought that in general her character just came across as a man writing a gay woman. (I'm rereading this last sentence and thinking - of course.  It IS a man writing his version of a gay woman, he only knows what he knows! so that's what's going to come out.  just didn't work for me) The plot itself was interesting, with some interesting side characters.  There are a few dragons who shapeshift into people, the witch who cares for one of the dragons, and all of Sarah's friends.  One of the things that kind of bugged me, though, was how quick one of her friends was to get angry enough at Sarah to push her out of her life.  But, people do tend to act this way - it's just so dramatic.  Sadly - the side characters, dragons and all were more interesting to me than the main character.  I'm not talking about likeability or "connecting" to characters because I don't care about that.  I'm talking straight interest here.  The main character kind of bored me.

While there were lots of good action scenes, the fighting scenes themselves weren't as exciting as they could have been for me.  Usually when I'm in the middle of reading a fight scene, or battle scene, I don't want to put the book down until this scene if finished.  With Black Blade Blues, I found myself putting the book down in the middle of some of the fight scenes - in fact during one of the longer scenes, I found my attention wandering quite a few times. I set the book aside at least three times during the last long, way too long fight scene...or would that be the second to last scene?   That's not normal with a good read.

On the whole, I can't put my finger on it - the plot was good, the characters were interesting and the dialogue was mostly good - but something about the whole package just seemed off.  It didn't translate from intent to finished book quite the way I expected out of a good read.  It could have been better.  Not sure if I want to buy the second or third book.  My feelings on this are very mixed.  Bottom line - an okay read, but I wished I had borrowed it, rather than bought it.  I thought the cover was way more interesting than the book itself.

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