Completed 11/11/2019, Reviewed 11/12/2019
This is the second book in the Sarah Beauhall series. I didn’t realize that until I started reading it and then looked more closely on-line about it. The author does a decent job of bringing you up to speed, but I think there’s a lot of world building I missed out on. This book has elves, dwarves, and shape shifting dragons, and is in a lot of ways, high fantasy despite being urban. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I read the first book, which hopefully provided more descriptions of the denizens of the world. This book was nominated for the Endeavor Award, a Pacific Northwest award given at the Oregon Science Fiction Convention, and won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award in 2012.
In the first book, Sarah is a blacksmith and a member of a small film company crew who slew a dragon and fought with her sexual identity. In this book, she’s out of the closet, has a girlfriend, and is fighting her guilt over the deaths of so many people which may have been avoided if she hadn’t reforged the magic sword, Gram. The reforging of the sword is what brought out the dragon in the first place. Now there is relative quiet, until a filker is kidnapped by dwarves. Then Sarah continues her blacksmithing apprenticeship under the strange Anezka whose home seems to be filled with strange and evil powers. Although it takes a long time, the kidnapping is connected to the evil at Anezka’s home and once again, Sarah is thrust into a battle between good and evil.
It was actually difficult to come up with that plot description. The book meanders quite a bit for more than half its length. The kidnapping happens early, but nothing seems to come of it for a long time. Sarah spends most of that time fighting her guilt, her one grounding force being her relationship with Katie. Eventually, Sarah meets Anezka and things start to get weird. Anezka has a companion named Bub, short for Beelzebub, a demon who is indentured to her. Then she seems to have terrible bipolar swings, causing Sarah and Bub to somehow care for her. The mental illness seems to be related to the terrible forces which surround the house. That’s where the book starts to become more interesting, but it still doesn’t pull everything together until the final showdown between Sarah and the evil forces.
Bub is the most interesting and fun supporting character in the book. He starts out by attacking Sarah, but comes to be friends with her, even though he basically wants to eat her. He actually eats anything, regular food, the dishes, people, but Anezka and Sarah keep him under control by feeding him hamburgers and burritos. He helps Sarah take care of Anezka when she goes off the deep end.
The other characters are good too. There’s a lot of character development even though most of the characters first appeared in the first book. They didn’t seem wooden or one-note. And their dialogue was pretty natural.
The book is told mostly in first person by Sarah. While the plot meanders, her narrative is pretty easy to follow. Unfortunately, there are injections of third person narrative concerning the other dragons of the area and the dwarves who captured the filker. By the way, filk is a type of music whose lyrics have themes in science fiction and fantasy. The music may be a parody of a popular song, or may have its own original tune. These third person breaks were hard to follow and sometimes didn’t seem to have anything to do with the plot. I found them more distracting than informative.
All in all, the book was okay. I liked Sarah, although she spent an awful lot of time in self-doubt. I thought from the book blurbs that she was going to be a kick-ass leading character. It’s not until the end that she gains the confidence she needs to continue her role as a defender of good. And despite the book’s meandering, it was pretty easy to follow. It was just hard to see where it’s going until the very end. And the end leads into the third book. There are four books so far in the series. I give it three out of five stars. If you are going to read this, I think it would be best to start with the first book.