I’ve spent the last few months firmly ensnared by the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft but, now that I’ve successfully managed to extract myself from that Cyclopean task, it’s time to get back into the Angry Robot swing of things with a modern novel – The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp.
Kill the demon.
Steal the treasure.
Retire to a life of luxury.
Sounds easy when you put it like that.
Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.
Whenever I pick up a new book after spending so long reading something markedly different, I always try to go in with my expectations as low as I can intentionally get them – to prevent my opinion being negatively influenced by the sudden changes in tone, style and subject matter. So imagine my surprise when I picked up The Hammer and the Blade and Paul S. Kemp had me utterly hooked with-in the first ten pages.
After reading Lovecraft (who is a stolid, slow-burning tension kind of writer who waits until nearly the very end of a story for his twists and big reveals to come out), Paul’s story feels like it absolutely blazes along with twists and double crosses and new developments coming two or three to a chapter.
Paul plays with both the conventions and the clichés of the genre in a manner indicative of someone who is intimately familiar with them but at the same time aware of their inherent limitations.
Combining the ability to create entertaining characters, a vibrant world and the talent to distinguish “humorous dialogue” from “humorous writing, The Hammer and the Blade manages to be a epic fantasy novel which is genuinely worthy of being called a “romp”.
Very highly recommended to all well-written fantasy fans but with one warning attached - expect to lose two or three days of your free time to this book (and if you’re anything like me, several hours when you’re supposed to be working).