Paul S. Kemp’s The Hammer and the Blade, reads like a game of chess, only the pieces roam chaotically about the board as if all decisions made are congruent to the die cast by one of the main character’s favored dice. A unique character cast, Nix the Quick and Egil the Priest add a refreshing splash and vibrant flavor to the book. Nix, a thief who once dabbled in magic and Egil, a man wielding twin hammers who is devoted to the dead god of moments keep you turning the pages if only to see what disaster they find themselves in next.
The book’s beginning thrusts the reader into an Afirion wizard-king’s tomb and dishes out the initial dialogue between the two tomb robbers. Their conversations and banter seemed a tad forced; however, the deeper you delve into this entertaining sea of swords, magic, and creatures from hell, the smoother Nix and Egil fall into their intrinsic behaviors of shouting crass insults at those who threaten them with death or worse. The bond of friendship held between Nix and Egil is well deserved, as they save one another throughout their adventure countless times.
Nix and Egil are forcefully traipsed across a cursed land by the Sorcerer Rakon, of House Norisstru, in a reckless attempt to save the lives of his sisters, or so he says. So when time is running short and Rakon’s vile intentions are revealed will Nix and Egil be the kind of men they want to be, or will they slink back to Gadd’s altar and drink themselves blind to the atrocities soon to be committed.
The fighting style of our heroes is a thing of beauty for the imagination to behold. The combination of brute strength, lightening fast agility, crushing hammer blows, and a bit of magic thrown around here and there creates the perfect ensemble. Without giving away too much, the transmutational magic entrance was cleverly crafted and well done. Spellworms, Vywnn, The Demon Wastes, The Archbridge, Ool’s Clock, The Eater, and the Ruins are all excellent conjurations within Kemp’s fevered mind. The ever-changing tattoo of Ebenor’s eye upon Egil’s shaved head is something few authors could so succinctly construct in its continued usage within the story, I found the placement in which the tattoo was mentioned and its descriptions brilliant.
This world of Afirion magic, Dur Follin, The Slick Tunnel, and The Warrens each have their own individual distinctive dark and forbidding texture. The character growth in this book is monumental and at some points perhaps a little extreme. Sell-swords might have a common bond against magic but is it strong enough to unite them in friendship after once being at each other’s throats.
With the upbeat whirlwind ending, I found myself wanting more – many, many more Nix and Egil adventures. With this fierce and untamed fantasy world Paul Kemp has created, I see no reason why there won’t be a vast number of them in the foreseeable future.
I gave “The Hammer and the Blade” 4 out of 5 Liams, and highly recommended it to all. This has also been my favorite book thus far to come from Angry Robot Publishing.