Lucy's Blade

Reviewer: Kendra Beckler

Author: John Lambshead

Published: 2007

Reviewed: 2009-04-23

Publisher: Baen

John Lambshead's first novel, "Lucy's Blade" is an exciting immersion
into an alternate (fantasy) Elizabethan England. In this Elizabethan
England, badshit magic and a poor lost "demon" from the far future,
Lilith, interplay with the rigid social structures and conventions of
Lucy's time.

I must admit, the cover is what got me to read this book. It is a
beautiful cover---the badass Elizabethan England noble girl slaying a
demon with a glowing knife, actual dignity and not slutitude in the
protagonist, and lots of pretty colors. However, the engrossing prose
and informed, scholarly writing kept me reading. Also, the
protagonist is almost as badass as the cover indicates, so no real
disappointments there.

"Scholarly writing"? Ah, yes. Mr. Lambshead is a biologist,
specifically a marine biology research scientist when he isn't
writing, and the novel often digresses into true or believable
scientific details, explaining the biological implications of getting
a "demon" stuck in one's body. Mr. Lambshead is a geek, and Lilith's
introduction, a graceful interweaving of quantum computation and the
interdimensional magic system of Mr. Lambshead's universe. This is
fantasy prose with the technical background of the better science
fiction authors, as strange as that seems to anyone who habitually
reads either genre. In addition to all of this, Mr. Lambshead is
better informed about Elizabethan England history than most scholars
in the field. His descriptions in "Lucy's Blade" help the reader
understand that entire era, not just its relevance to this book.

The plot spans from England to the Americas, from leaving the cage
open while summoning a demon to the high seas. The plot at times is a
bit contrived, but forgivable considering the book's other merits.
The plot also encompasses a mere prologue and epilogue which take
place in the twenty-first century (which would make a fine related
short story but are entirely unnecessary for framing the book). At
times, the prose too quickly veers from a scholarly track to an
artistic one or vice versa. These aspects may turn off some readers,
but I always found the immersive style, interesting details, and
unabashedly badass heroine to make up for these small failings,
especially in a first novel.

Sure, it's a little rough around the edges. You should read it
anyway. It is more than commonly enjoyable, and how many first novels
show this much promise?