I have been a long time fan of Paul’s work since his first book from Wizards of the Coast and was fortunate enough to receive an eARC of The Hammer and The Blade from Angry Robot Books (release date June 26, 2012). I was very excited to read this one as Paul was able to bring his flair for dark, flawed characters to a world of his own creation. The Hammer and the Blade is swords and sorcery at its best.
The book opens with Nix the Quick, a thief with some talent for magic, and Egil, a priest of the Momentary god, robbing a tomb. The duo hope this will be their last adventure and plan to buy their favorite tavern and put their adventuring days behind them. The guardian of the tomb they kill is part of a pact between House Thyss and House Norristru and set in motion a chain of events that are the basis for the central plot of the book. Upon the arrival at their newly acquired tavern they are “convinced” to recover an artifact for Rakon, the head of House Norristru.
Egil and Nix are the perfect compliment to each other, Egil is slower to act, more introspective, but when he does speak it is usually profound. Nix, on the other hand has a tongue as sharp as his sword and quick to act, yet has secrets he keeps from his closest friend. Their witty and sarcastic banter give the reader a clue to how deep their friendship runs and makes you wonder about the adventures these two have experienced together.
The time period in which the book takes place marks a perfect place for the series. The stories that follow could be their previous adventures or a follow-up to this one. I personally would like to see the former, as I would love to know how Egil and Nix met. Paul drops a few hints about their past that wets the appetite for more.
Paul paints the characters, especially Egil and Nix, not in black in white but shades of gray. They are flawed and have done many things they regret and their reflections on these events, especially Nix, give greater depth to their characters. His villains are not the standard one-dimensional bad guys, but complex and compelling characters. Their motivations are understandable and even pitiable. I found myself drawn in by Rakon’s plight at the beginning of the book and then shocked by the lengths he would take to realize his goal.
I was highly entertained by this book and look forward to reading more. The next book in the series, A Discourse in Steel, will be available in 2013. While you are waiting for the June 26 release date you can check out Paul’s previous works. Erevis Cale, his signature character from Wizard of the Coast’s Forgotten realms, spans six books, and several short stories. He has also written several Star Wars books as well.
I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it. The Hammer and the Blade is available for pre-order now.