Review: The Hammer and the Blade

by Paul S. Kemp

Angry Robot, out June 26 (US); July 5 (UK)

Killing a demon that’s vital to the plans of a local sorcerer may not have been the wisest thing that tomb robbers Nix and Egil have ever done. To put  it mildly.

I’ve not been the greatest fan of sword and sorcery over the years, probably put off by watching some of the godawful movies from the 1980s. However rereading Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories last year, plus copyediting/proofreading others recently, has given me a new appreciation for the genre, and Paul Kemp’s first tale of warrior-priest Egil and sneak thief Nix presses all the right buttons.

It helps that there’s a very clear theme running throughout the book – what kind of men are Egil and Nix? We find out rather more about the latter in this story and hopefully the balance will be redressed in the sequel, particularly given some of the hints that are dropped about the warrior-priest’s back story that are pointedly not dealt with. Both are honourable men, in their own way, and capable of looking after themselves and others (when they choose to). They have a bond between them that means that they are always totally certain someone has their back – unless of course, the other one has gone and done something daft. Which is entirely possible!

Kemp has a cinematic eye for detail; the final chase sequence in particular leaps from the page into the imagination. He’s also got a dry wit and a gift for creating peripheral characters who feel as if they’ve got a life of their own running in a different book that we’ve just crossed over into briefly.

Verdict: Roll on the second adventure for these terrific new heroes.  8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Hammer and the Blade from Amazon.co.uk

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