The Hammer and the Blade
The Hammer and the Blade is Paul S. Kemp’s first foray into original fiction beyond short stories. Unlike his Forgotten Realms books and Star Wars novels, this story takes place in a world wholly created by Kemp. The question is: are you prepared to venture into the unrestricted imagination of Paul S. Kemp?
When reading this story, I was surprised at how easy it was to slip into this unknown world. One of the hardest things to do in fantasy is to familiarize readers with brand new settings. Jumping into massive franchises like Star Wars, or even small series like the Lord of the Rings trilogy can quickly drown readers in tons of lore and world building. Yet Paul manages to avoid all those downfalls with ease. The casual mentions of various names, be they cities or people, fits in smoothly to the dialog and narration. The names of various gods come up and pass bye without being jarring or confusing. At other times the names are slipped in with familiar context that gives readers a hint of what this thing or place might be. Either way, the setting flows naturally through the story without ever bogging down on world building or overwhelming the reader with a massive cast of characters.
Paul will readily admit that his strength is with characters. At the heart of this story is the nature of people, and Egil and Nix are a wonderful focus to bring that story to life. This is a duo that will have you laughing right off the bat. The dialog between the two is extremely witty and entertaining. Furthermore, the characters feel real. The choices they make are natural; they make sense. Plus there’s a bit of self-discovery that occurs through the book that adds a touch of depth to each of them.
Egil and Nix have some interesting personalities. Egil is a priest and wields two big hammers for weapons. However he’s not a religious fanatic or a simple minded barbarian. His faith is something he’s turned to and it brings him comfort. Yet his faith doesn’t keep him from drinking at the local tavern or robbing the nearest tomb. His physical strength gives him an advantage in combat, but he doesn’t let his physical superiority go to his head. Might makes right could apply, but Egil knows that sometimes the best way to win a fight is defeat your opponent without ever throwing a punch. And when it comes to mental sparring, he can certainly give Nix a run for his money.
Nix, on the other hand, is a smart aleck, a flirt, a thief, and a magical hobbyist. He likes to talk and being a smart ass comes natural to him. Both he and Egil are tomb robbers, so his thieving skills come in handy with pesky locks and traps. On the side, he knows a thing or two about magic. As the saying goes: he knows enough to be dangerous.
So what kind of trouble can two tomb robbers get into? Well demented wizards, mind witches, and fiendish demons for starters. This adventuring duo find themselves in brothel brawls, fighting off hordes of demon spawn, and dabbling with a little bit of Indiana Jones treasure hunting.
If you like sword and sorcery books, The Hammer and the Blade presents an entertaining duo that blows Gotrek and Felix out of the water. If you like Paul S. Kemp’s books in general, this is a must read. It’s witty, fun, entertaining, and explores some interesting themes about the portrayal of women in sword and sorcery tales. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.