Author: Paul S. Kemp
Publisher: Angry Robot
Where I Received the Title: e-ARC from Netgalley
Last year I wrote a glowing review of Paul Kemp’s first Egil and Nix novel. On the surface, it is a classic sword and sorcery tale, with buddy heroes that many liken to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser or Jean Tannen and Locke Lamora. The first character, Egil, is a hammer-wielding tough man and priest to a deceased god. His partner in crime is a Jack-of-all-trades smart guy who dabbles in sorcery (sometimes to their own detriment). Together, they are a formidable pair against the most ruthless of enemies.
In A Discourse in Steel, Egil and Nix have settled into retirement from tomb-robbing. But sure enough, trouble finds them soon. It begins when they investigate a strange teleportal known as Blackalley. This magical conjuring feeds on the negative emotions of fear and guilt, putting the men at risk (particularly the repentant Egil).
Meanwhile, their psychic friend, Rose, is in the midst of giving a reading when an assassin shoots an arrow through her client’s neck, killing him instantly. Now, her mind is linked to the dead man and her own life is in extreme danger unless a sorcerer can break their interlocked minds.
Egil and Nix come to the rescue to help their friend, but a mysterious thieving guild who was behind the death of Rose’s client fears that the psychic knows too much. While Egil and Nix seek help for their friend, a band of guildsmen follow after them with a plan to dispose of them.
A Discourse in Steel continues with the same level of action and adventure that we read in the first novel in the series. As expected, Egil and Nix share good banter, teasing one another like long-time friends. Kemp has a strong ear for dialog and it shows in his writing (perhaps it’s a Michigan thing, considering dialog masters Elmore Leonard and Jeffrey Eugenides are also from the area). For a buddy adventure, good dialog is critical and Kemp delivers.
The plot of the novel is rather simple. So from a story perspective, the Egil and Nix novels do not achieve the reward of weaving through the complex twists and turns one gets from reading a Scott Lynch novel. Both of the Egil and Nix novels are relatively light reads. But they are fun reads, filled with adventure and emotion. I love Nix’s key that can open any lock, providing that Nix feeds the key whatever it demands (usually a token vegetable). I also love Egil’s conflicted character, struggling with his past sins and trying to remain a priest with a profession that is considered less than holy.
The second Egil and Nix novel, A Discourse in Steel, is more straight-forward in terms of plot structure than the first, but it is filled with new magic and mayhem that makes it a truly enjoyable read. If embarking on this series for the first time, I The definitely would recommend starting with The Hammer and the Blade. Once complete, run and grab the second novel. It is an entirely new adventure that builds off of the first book and will prove to be a gratifying experience.