The Hammer and The Blade by Paul S. Kemp
Official Summary: “A Tale of Egil and Nix
Kill the demon.
Steal the treasure.
Retire to a life of luxury.
Sounds easy when you put it like that.
Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.”
The Hammer and The Blade by Paul S. Kemp is the first in a new series of comedic sword and sorcery fantasy novels. It follows the exploits of Nix and Egil, a pair of grave robbers. Nix is a thief who conned his way into wizardry school, but was expelled without completing his course of study and Egil is the priest of a minor god. While Egil is the stronger of the duo, both are always ready for a fight. The reader joins the pair in the midst of one of their typical exploits, which makes for a great introduction to them that doesn’t feel like an info dump and instead launches the reader immediately into one of their typical capers/disasters. Unbeknownst to them, this particular exploit puts a crimp in the plans of a powerful enemy. They quickly become embroiled in this sorcerer’s machinations, which drive the majority of the plot.
This book, and its protagonists, seem to lurch from one fight to the next with a sense of complete abandon. The action will entertain fans of fantasy adventures; the fight scenes are both plentiful and entertaining. Kemp strikes an interesting balance between the light, somewhat off-color, humor of the two characters and a surprisingly dark villain that gives the plot more philosophical depth than you might expect at the start of the book. But, ultimately, this combination of dark and light felt odd to me and might disappoint readers who are looking for a light read.
The world that Kemp creates has many unique elements while still feeling familiar for fans of the genre. Nix and Egil each have compelling back stories and their own set of secrets and it feels like they will provide fodder for future books in the series. The reader learns enough about the characters to feel that they are fully-developed while still being left with enough questions to leave them waiting for future installments. The world of the duo also feels big enough to support further adventures.
Personally, the dark conflict at the heart of the book struck me as belonging in a different book and felt a bit jarring in this particular book. However, it was entertaining overall. I think that fans of fantasy will find plenty to like about Nix, Egil and the cast of secondary characters that populate Kemp’s fictional world. Readers looking for a new sword and sorcery series will want to check this book out.
Readalike: Fans of The Hammer and The Blade will also want to check out Kemp’s The Chronicles of Erevis Cale books and may also want to check out Jim C. Hines’ Goblin or Princess novels. The second Nix and Egil book, A Discourse in Steel, will also be out in 2013.
Review based on a galley from Angry Robot.