Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp

The second book in the Tales of Egil and Nix series, published by Angry Robot

Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them!

But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.
And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head.

First off, I’ve not read the first book in this series. Happily, it turns out that this works just as well as a standalone as it does part of a series. There are no lingering plot lines that you need to know about to enjoy it and the story is all wrapped up by the end! Having said that, I enjoyed this so much that I’ve bought the first one anyway!

We join the titular heroes Egil and Nix as they plunge head first and fists swinging into one life threatening situation after another. A young woman, Rose, becomes embroiled in Thieves Guild business after their leader is murdered. The Guild wants to silence her, but she and her sister are under Egil and Nix’s protection. When an attempt on her life is made at their home endangering everyone, well, that’s an insult that can’t be tolerated.

Right from the start the chemistry between Egil and Nix is brilliant. The dialogue is so witty and clever that you genuinely feel like the pair are true friends who have suffered and laughed together for years. They’re damn funny too! Do you have a friend or sibling where your main method of communication is mutual insults? They’re like that; trading quips and putdowns until one grudgingly but honourably concedes the point.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a dark book. The themes that are explored and the situations that the characters find themselves in are bleak and morose. What’s refreshing about this book though is that, in a genre full of ‘grimdark’ (whatever your understanding of that subgenre maybe) where characters are put through the mill time and time again with unrelenting pain and suffering, Paul S. Kemp is still able to make you laugh out loud. It brings a nice relief from the tension and helps to broaden the characters nicely.

It isn’t a complex plot, though there is the promise of things becoming very complicated soon, but my only issue with the book is that once or twice I found a coincidence or course of events that just seemed a little easy. But really that’s it.

The action sequences are great, swords and sorcery are utilised to the best effect and both seem natural to the characters. I tore through this book in less than a day and I’m positive that you would love it to. I’m really happy to have found a pair of ne’er-do-wells that are engaging, funny and enigmatic, and that I can look forward to joining them on their adventures again.


About the reviewer:
Alex can be found in the rolling hills of Oxfordshire, splitting his time unevenly between fighting crime and raising two little boys (which is surprisingly similar). When he does find a spare moment he crams it full of fantasy or basketball, and due to rapidly ageing knees it's mostly fantasy these days. He's trying to learn the writing craft through sheer bloody mindedness and dreams of the day he has to do nothing else. If you're so inclined you can watch him stalk writers on Twitter - @shep5377

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