Just finished reading the Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp which I enjoyed very much. A proper, good old fashioned return to Swords and Sorcery with plenty of action, a couple of very likeable rogues and a new world with plenty of monsters and action.
The story begins with our main characters, Egil and Nix, doing what they do best – tomb raiding. It’s an entertaining start and whilst I’m not always a great fan of prologues this particular one is well done. It’s entertaining, it immediately informs us that the world created is something new filled with magic and demons, it gives us a brief introduction to our two protagonists and on top of that it gives us the ‘why’ to the story that follows.
I’m not going to really go into the plot. Suffice to say there are no dull moments, I personally felt the world was well written and the main plot imaginative. But, the absolute, without doubt, highlight of this book is the characters. Nix and Egil come across really well as do the surrounding characters. They’re both far from perfect, they’re rogues after all. Tomb raiders with a difference and a hint of magic (particularly Nix with his gewgaws) but they’re deep down not bad guys. Plus I liked the way that they came to rethink the way they regard women towards the end of the story – in other words they’re open minded, prepared to think differently.
There’s a really entertaining friendship here which comes across very well. Nix is the wise ass, quick talking, sarcastic and Egil is the more measured character, I suppose you could call him the brawn although that’s probably not totally fair on him as he comes across as more than that, he’s a priest, he’s a bit of a beast by all accounts wielding his two hammers and he’s definitely somebody who you would want at your back. I think Kemp has come up with a great friendship here – at the end of the day this is what you really need to make this type of story because you’re going to spend a lot of time with these two. And the other area that I really think he succeeds with is his dialogue. It’s witty, sharp, funny and, more to the point, believable . You can believe somebody having these conversations and responding the way they do. They have a natural flow. I think that you can have a fantastic premise for a story and good characters but the dialogue is also so fundamental to the enjoyment. If it feels wrong you’re not going to continue with it. This succeeds on this level. And, finally, the other thing I thought was really good was that the author just assumes you’ll jump straight in to the novel. There’s no handholding taking place here as we walk through the characters history and backplot. No major info dumps. Just straight in there. You’re smart enough to keep up so there’ll be no mollycuddling. I like this attitude. It assumes you have a certain level of intelligence and you’ll get stuck straight in.
So, on the whole very enjoyable and entertaining. I look forward to the next in the series. I could become quite attached to these two characters (although my favourite is Egil – I just can’t help it!)
I don’t think I really had any criticisms. Okay, I don’t think this breaks any moulds, but, does it have to really? It’s also not dark and brooding, but, again, does it really need to be? I just thought it was a good, fun read and I will definitely continue with the series.