Hammer & The Blade

Hammer & the BladeNormally I wouldn’t force myself to write a review for a book like Egil and Nix, but I received it as a Goodreads giveaway and so feel obliged to sum up my thoughts on this excellent little freebie. It’s a perfectly fine book, enjoyable and great in moments (as the titular Egil would no doubt appreciate) but with glaring flaws in others. All in all though this is a good romp through a fantasy world, one that the author Paul Kemp describes with just enough details to tantalise without going beyond what’s important to the plot.

The characters of Egil and Nix have clearly been well crafted, one strong and dour, the other with a mouth that just will not stop no matter the situation. Their chosen profession; tomb robbing, is neither as glamorous or fun as Indiana Jones or Lara Croft would have you believe but is at least lucrative. The story picks up with them on one final heist; break in, kill Demon guardian, take treasure and leave. This small insignificant act however leads to complications across the city and despite their best efforts to retire the two are forced back into service when the wizard Rakon poisons them with a spellworm that will kill them if they don’t do as he says. The plot is fairly fast moving and moves in a few unexpected directions, if a little thin. Beyond the half way point of the book there’s only one real surprise, but that’s inconsequential (and to be honest is only there to tease the eventual ending, which I’ll come back to). You read a story like this for the characters and it’s to the authors credit that it remains engaging throughout.

My one concern is the conclusion. Normally, in a book like this, you’d expect the villain to get some comeuppance and I’m not one to usually be accused of being squeamish. The end did however disturb me, genuinely, and I can’t make up my mind whether I’m happy about this or not. As the characters note, just killing the villain would have been too clean, and when the entire plot was based around the threat of rape I should have realised we were treading on unstable ground. In the end I think the matter is just about treated with the respect it deserves but I would warn anyone squeamish about the subject to consider where they stand.
All in all a fun diversion; a fantasy book where the end of the world or the fate of the kingdom isn’t at stake, just the livelihoods of two men and two women. It’s fast moving, witty, with some well written action sequences, and no ambitions to punch above its weight. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy the genre.

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