A few months ago, blacksmith Sarah Beauhall reforged the legendary Norse sword Gram, attracting the attention of a number of supernatural beings that wanted the sword for themselves. This culminated in an epic battle, in which Sarah and her valiant SCAdian friends defeated a dragon but suffered tragic losses. Honeyed Words, the second in J.A. Pitts’ Black Blade series, continues Sarah’s story.
From the perspective of character development, Honeyed Words is terrific. Sarah has always had avoidant tendencies, and here she begins to take responsibility for that trait and works on overcoming it and facing its consequences. This occurs on several fronts: her relationship with Katie, her friendship with the Black Briar SCA group, and her dealings with supernatural beings — and it’s hinted that her family of origin may soon join that list.
The fantasy plot didn’t grab me as hard, though, as that of Black Blade Blues. For about the first half of the book, the plot felt scattered, and if you’d stopped me midbook and asked me what it was about, I’d probably have replied, “A bunch of stuff is happening.” It takes a while before the story starts to feel like a unified whole. I think this is partially because Pitts frequently cuts away from Sarah’s point of view to look in on the scheming of characters who aren’t as interesting as she is. It’s also because while one plotline (the kidnapping of a musician acquaintance) is introduced early in the book, the other main plotline (creepy goings-on at a fellow blacksmith’s farm) doesn’t make its entrance until around page 150. The result is that the introduction of this blacksmith feels like a distraction at first. Once it becomes clear that this plotline is important, though, it’s spooky and well-executed, and does eventually tie in with the kidnapped-musician thread. The climax is tense, though it’s not as grand (or as wrenching) as that of Black Blade Blues.
Honeyed Words doesn’t quite live up to Black Blade Blues, but it’s worth reading for the growth in Sarah’s character, and I will definitely be back for the third installment. I recommend reading this series in order, as Honeyed Words would be quite confusing without the background.
Black Blade — (2010-2016) Publisher: 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.