subways have a middle rail? Ok, I guess middle left.
I suppose as a Jersey girl who freqiently visits NYC, blackholly is excellently qualified to write about, well, a Jersey girl who visits NYC.
Hmm. The swordplay stuff isn't -bad-, exactly, but there are a few flaws. The true edge is the one toward the knuckles, as opposed to the false edge (which is toward the rear of the hand or hands) -- so called because the strenght a hand can exert on the true edge is far greater than that it can exert toward the false one.
On the other hand, I very much like the "stop thinking" bit -- it rings true, though one generally gets it later in study than Val does. But training it in distance drills makes enough sense.
On the third hand, the sword drills feel more kendo/kenjitsu than anything else, which might explain the true/false edge point a bit (a one handed blade will often enough (usually, really, since you parry with the true edge) have the true edge pointing away from the opponent, wheras it's kept forward more consistently with a two handed weapon. (and eastern swordsmanship, unlike western, parries with the flat, largely due to the differences in weapon construection, so the same is probably true for Japanese one handed sworsdmanship).
OTOH, most Japanese weapons are single edged -- so no "true edge" or "False edge" to speak of.
The story wakes up, somehow, after the attempted theft -- there's almost too much before that, though.
Ok, in the meat of it now -- I just realized that the harp is -so- Twa Sisters. Way cool, and reasonably subtle (and fits Mabry's character well enough).
The drug stuff...works. Not drugs-as-metaphor-for-magic, but magic drugs, plain and simple.
The cameo....I dunno. I think it works, but I'm not a virgin reader in that respect.
And in the end, what makes it is the dialogue -- "You make it sound like it was hard..." or the "Never..."
Looking back over it, I like the foreshadowing -- the conversation on page 72 (and the scene description on 71) take on an entirely new light when coonsidering later events.
It has some pacing problems, but in the end, it's a coming of age story, and a love story, and extremely neat.