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The Blade Itself - Marcus Sakey

A stated goal of 2007 is to read all the books I buy in 2007. Don't hold it against me if I buy book late in '07 and don't read before the witching hour.

So one of the big early releases of 2007 is The Blade Itself. There is a great deal to like in this first novel by Marcus Sakey. It has gotten good reviews, with the worst thing being said about it is that it does not really break any new ground in the genre.

True it does not break any new ground, but if that is the only negative thing to say then what is the point of saying it. A well told tale is a well told tale.... so leave it at that.

Our lead.... hero is to strong... is Danny, a reformed thief who is drawn back into the life when his partner, Evan, is released from prison. Evan took the fall for a pawnshop heist gone wrong, and now he thinks he is owed one last score to settle this debt. Danny is less interested to say the least.

The first third of book settles the 'how' Danny ultimately feels obligated to make it right with Evan. This set up come off very nice. The characters are well drawn. Danny desperate to leave 'the life' behind. Karen, Danny's girlfriend, whose character could have easily become the shrill voice of reason that the girlfriend/wife character usually devolves into. Bless him, Sakey has enough sense not to let that happen here. And finally Evan who is the bad guy and perhaps a bit one dimensional. But when Sakey has to sell Evan's menace he does it with a shattered kneecap and a cold shiver down my spine.

The middle section of The Blade Itself is a series of one step forward eight steps back for Danny. Just as Danny thinks he is getting a handle on the situation, Evan proves to be one step ahead of him. Apparently, you get a lot of time in Jail to plan your revenge.

This is the part where I think reviewers probably felt the story grew stagnant. Essentially the whole point is to turn Danny's life into a living hell of regret. Every decision that Danny makes is going to be the wrong one and having that in the back of the readers mind can give the impression that this section of the novel is too by numbers. Again true, but that is such a negative way to look at. Good writing is good writing. Praise it and move on.

The end is excitingly tense. I read it in one big gulp.... okay two gulps because I did not have enough time at lunch. My one tiny criticism.... SPOILER..... is that Danny really needs to suffer a little more for all that he has done no matter how well intentioned he wanted to be.

Finally, Sakey's setting of Chicago was nicely observed. I'm from the Midwest and Chicago was my first big city experience. It was great reading about some of the places I have visited. Sakey clearly has a great love for the city.


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