The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

It’s been a long time since I read a straight sword-and-sorcery novel.  I really can’t remember how long it has been.  I wasn’t much for the novels based around Forgotten Realms or Dungeons and Dragons, but I did read a lot of Fritz Leiber when I was in college.  I guess it’s about time I returned to the genre to see if I still find it interesting.  The Hammer and the Blade turned out to be a good place to dive back in.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“Egil and Nix, adventurers and swords for hire, are pulled into the dark schemes of a decadent family with a diabolical secret. A fast paced adventure redolent with the best of classic sword and sorcery tales.”

Initially, I had a hard time getting into this book.  I wasn’t sure at first if it was because I had outgrown the genre or if it was something in the writing.  I did finally pin down that while the story has an interesting premise, the novel is slow to start.  Readers get introduced to all of the book’s major players with some fairly lengthy chapters, which was okay, but the characters themselves aren’t as fleshed out as those in most of the books that I read nowadays.

My biggest issue was with Egil.  He’s got some interesting details woven into his character, but the author didn’t explore him too deeply.  I did like the scenes where he gets to fight, because as a warrior priest, that’s more what I expected from him.  There are more details about Nix and his origins, which gives him more depth than his partner.  The interaction between the two was fairly well done, but I do think it needed to be explored a bit more to really have impact.

As the novel progressed, I found that I’d gotten drawn into it much more than I thought I would be.  The initial chapters that are a bit tedious to wade through do turn out to do an excellent job at setting up the later action.  I especially liked the tomb robbing later in the book, with all kind of booby traps triggering as they progress.  It was kind of like watching an Indiana Jones movie, except in a medieval setting.

I also found myself very involved in the plight of the two sisters who are facing some very nasty things if our heroes can’t rescue them.  Their nightmares, manifested as psychic sendings to other characters, gradually get more and more chilling as the story goes on.  By the novel’s final battle, I was really engrossed in reading on and seeing if someone could get them out of their predicament.  And I must say, the resolution is one that gave me cackling glee, because it’s so fitting.

Although it does take a little while to find its stride, The Hammer and the Blade gains strength as it goes on and finishes with some wonderful action and battle scenes.  I hope to find out more about Egil and Nix in a future volume, because I think they have the potential to be a great fantasy duo.

Also by this author: A Discourse in Steel

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on October 25, 2012.

Series: Egil and Nix
ISBN: 9780857662453
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page Count: 416
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC
Author Website
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