The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

The Hammer and the Blade
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot, June 2012
ISBN-10: 0857662457

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So here’s the plan –

     Kill the demon …

          Steal the treasure …

               Retire to a life of luxury!

Easy enough, if you’re used to that sort of thing, which Egil and Nix–the sole priest of a momentary god and a thief with a generous streak, respectively–definitely are. Egil is large and stolid, while Nix is fiery and loud. Put them together, and you’ve got one hell of a tomb raid.

Even though The Hammer and the Blade is the first tale in the Egil and Nix world, picking up this book feels like stepping in near the end of the story; the relationship between the two is so well established that it needs no explanation. Initially, I wondered if there had been previous books written about these characters precisely because they play off each other so very well, but really, you don’t need an explanation. Though they insult and jest, they also prove time and again just how strong the bond is between the two of them, and that’s all that needs to be said. The back-and-forth (okay, mostly Nix) is witty and quick, and you can bet they would be a fun pair to down a pint with, as long as you don’t mind risking your life just by doing so. Trouble does seem to follow them.

And the trouble does come fast, almost, one might say, non-stop. There’s very little time for exposition (which is a good thing, in my book), because there’s bound to be some gruesome creature attacking them, or some demon trying to kill them, some magic making them vomit, or just someone trying to beat them up. Somehow they manage to find their way through every adventure on the way to their bigger goal: retirement!

Strongly reminiscent of Fritz Leiber, The Hammer and the Blade is classic sword and sorcery. Though there haven’t been any previous Egil and Nix tales written, I look forward to reading more of their adventures in books to come.

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