For readers of Brent Weeks, Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, and Scott Lynch comes the first book in a fantastic, hilarious new sword-and-sorcery series that puts a clever new twist on the golden age of epic fantasy.
Robbing tombs for fun and profit might not be a stable career, but Egil and Nix aren’t in it for the long-term prospects. Egil is the hammer-wielding warrior-priest of a discredited god. Nix is a roguish thief with just enough knowledge of magic to conjure up trouble. Together, they seek riches and renown, yet often find themselves enlisted in lost causes—generally against their will.
So why should their big score be any different? The trouble starts when Nix and Egil kill the demonic guardian of a long-lost crypt, nullifying an ancient pact made by the ancestors of an obscenely powerful wizard. Now the wizard will stop at nothing to keep that power from slipping away, even if it means freeing a rapacious beast from its centuries-old prison. And who better than Egil and Nix—the ones responsible for his current predicament—to perform this thankless task?
Praise for The Hammer and the Blade and Paul S. Kemp
“A gripping tale [with] the feeling of a classic Dungeons & Dragons campaign.”—Publishers Weekly
“Most heroes work up to killing demons. Egil and Nix start there and pick up the pace.”—Elaine Cunningham, author of the Thorn Trilogy
“Kemp delivers sword and sorcery at its rollicking best, after the fashion of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.”—Library Journal
About the Author
Paul S. Kemp is the New York Times bestselling author of the Egil and Nix novels (The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel, and the upcoming A Conversation in Blood), Star Wars: Crosscurrent, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived, and Star Wars: Riptide, as well as nine Forgotten Realms fantasy novels and many short stories. He lives and works in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, with his wife, children, and a couple of cats.
Read an Excerpt
Rakon strode the halls of the manse, worry tearing a ragged edge on his emotions. The few servants who were allowed in this part of the dilapidated manse must have heard his approach and scurried out of his path, for he saw none. Floors creaked under his tread. Dust misted the air. He climbed the circular staircase of the manse’s western tower until he reached the thick wooden door of his summoning chamber. He spoke the infernal words that suspended the protective wards, opened the door, and walked through into the room beyond.
The roof on the corner of the house had been removed generations ago to expose the room to the elements, lay it bare to the sky and the lines of the world’s power. The bare beams looked like ribs, as if the house were decomposing, though Rakon’s sorcery preserved the wood and tile and plaster from rot.
A waxing, gibbous Minnear peeked over the horizon line, casting the world in viridian. Kulven, the larger pale moon, managed only a waning crescent high above. Stars and planets winked in the vault of the sky, their relative locations a map of time and place to those, like Rakon, who knew how to read them. And they told him the Thin Veil was near. When Minnear turned full, the walls between worlds would be at their weakest.
And still no herald.
He looked to the skybehindthesky and found Hell, a distant, blinking red dot in the central eye of the secret constellation, Vakros the Feeder. He stared at it in worry for a long while. The Pact would fail if not consummated during the Thin Veil. And he could not allow it to fail.
On the woodplanked floor at his feet, inlaid lines of lead formed glyphs of power, the symbols with which he did his work: a thaumaturgic triangle, a pentacle, a sourceoval for elementals, a binding circle. He walked over the arcana, heedless in his worry.
In the center of the round chamber stood a stairway, supported by elaborate scaffolding. Thirteen stairs led up to a raised octagonal platform, atop which sat a simple metal lectern, rusted from exposure to the rain. He ascended the stairs, speaking in Infernal the number of each stair as he stepped over its riser. The recitation gathered energy to his locus. The wind picked up, gusted.
He stepped to the lectern, took a candle and a stick of incense from a compartment beneath it. The incense, made from the mottled brown leaves of the flesh flowers of Hell, felt greasy in his fingers.
A word of power and a minor cantrip ignited the candle, though he held the incense in reserve. He incanted the thirtynine verses of an abjuration, a demand of the King of the Air to send him a sylph, a spirit of the air who trucked in the information carried by the winds of the world.
The wind swirled around him in response to his incantation, collecting his words and carrying them to the outer reaches of Ellerth, to the pillars that held the world aloft in the vault of night. The King of the Air would heed the call, backed as it was by the Pact with the Thyss.
He ended his incantation, waited, and soon the wind gusted more strongly, buffeted his robes, his hair. The candle flame flickered and danced, but his power kept it lit. Behind the wind’s rush, he heard the faint titter of an invisible spirit.
“The King has heard your call and sent me for answer,” said a highpitched voice.
“You are fortunate, then,” Rakon said, and held the flesh flower incense aloft.
The sylph gave a greedy gasp. The wind keened.
“You know what this is, then?” Rakon asked.
“Burn it,” said the sylph, excitement in its tone, the winds swirling. “Let me taste its aroma.”
“Only after I’ve had truth from you.”
“Truth you shall have, Rakon Norristru. Ask! Ask!”
“The Thin Veil is upon us and no herald has arrived from Hell to prepare the way for VikThyss. Why?”
The wind died to a breeze and the sylph’s voice fell to a whisper.
“VikThyss? VikThyss is dead. His death has been in the wind for many days.”
Surprise stole Rakon’s speech. Finally, he stuttered, “You . . . you promised truth, sylph! This—-”
“Is truth! I swear it! VikThyss is dead, or so say the Afirion winds. Now burn it!”
“Silence,” Rakon said, and tried to control his beating heart. He clutched at the lectern in a whiteknuckled grasp. VikThyss’s death put the Pact at risk. And if the Pact failed . . .
In his mind’s eye, he saw the family’s power foundering, saw House Norristru losing what wealth it still possessed, its seat on the Merchants’ Council. He saw himself losing his position as Adjunct to the Lord Mayor, saw his many enemies emboldened, coming for him. He had ordered murders over the years, many murders. He had bound spirits and elementals, destroyed some. Absent the Pact with House Thyss, he would be quickly dead and his house annihilated. His own sorcery would not be enough to preserve them.
“How did this happen?”
“I don’t know,” the sylph answered, and Rakon heard the truth in it.
“Find out,” Rakon said. “Now.”
He needed to know if one of his enemies was moving against him by trying to destroy the alliance with Hell.
The sylph keened with frustration, swirled around the incense, and was gone.
Rakon remained on the platform, the air still, but his thoughts chaotic. VikThyss had sired Norristru offspring for centuries. The matings had consummated the Pact and provided heirs to both the Norristru and the Thyss. Without VikThyss . . .
He looked off to the east, toward the city that housed his many enemies. The Norristru manse was built atop a tall escarpment, and from that lofty perch looked down on Dur Follin’s crumbling walls from more than half a league away. The moonlight afforded him a clear view.
The city straddled both sides of the wide, torpid River Meander. The glowing dots of the city’s streetlamps blinked at him like fireflies. The temple domes of Orella, the narrow spires of the Lord Mayor’s extravagant palace, and the great water clock of Mad Ool jutted into the night sky, their height unusual among the otherwise one and twostory patchwork decrepitude of Dur Follin’s urbanscape.
Minnear’s light reigned viridian over the city. Barges and scows clustered along the city’s countless piers, torches and lanterns glowing on their decks. Above all towered the Archbridge, an ancient stone expanse that stretched across the river, linking Dur Follin’s two halves, the origin of its construction lost to the ages. Only Ool’s clock compared. Master masons made pilgrimages across Ellerth to see the Archbridge.
Orange and green pyrotechnics exploded in the air off the side of the bridge, some nameless cult celebrating this or that, the whistles and pops audible even at a distance. Scores of churchless cults and apostate philosophers held worship on the Archbridge, littering its length with the detritus of belief. The monumental size of the bridge, its aweinspiring construction, seemed to draw the faithful. Common parlance called it the Road to the Heavenly Spheres.
The pyrotechnics left a fading afterimage in the sky, a few puffs of smoke, the ghost of a celebration. A westerly wind blew, brought with it the faint stink of the Deadmire, the expansive, ruinhaunted swamp south of the city.
Rakon eyed the city for a long while, the maze of its buildings and politics a puzzle for him to solve. His mind moved through the faces of the men and women who’d kill him if they had the chance. He realized quickly that they’d become too many to count. They blurred in his thoughts into one collective countenance of hateful vengeance.
A sudden thought gave him pause. Might the Lord Mayor himself have moved against Rakon? Could Rakon’s mindnumbing spells on the Mayor have weakened enough to allow the fat fool independent thought?
Before he could chase the thought further, the wind picked up and the sylph’s voice gave him a start. “There are corpses in the breeze. The Deadmire is awash in bodies. Ancient bodies and old memories.”
Rakon glared at the empty place in the air from which the voice had originated. “Tell me what you’ve learned.”
“An ancient breeze in Afirion had the tale of the devil’s death. VikThyss was slain by Egil Verren of Ebenor and Nix Fall of no god, whose names are known on earth, in the air, and to the knowledgeable in Hell.”
Rakon knew the names, too, though only vaguely. He’d heard them in tavern tales and gossip, along with many other such rogues, adventurers, and tomb robbers who sometimes called Dur Follin home.
“Continue. Were they hired to kill VikThyss? If so, by whom?”
“I think not. They killed VikThyss while robbing the tomb of Abn Thahl. They triggered a binding even older than the Pact you hope to preserve, a binding that summoned VikThyss, whom they subsequently slew.”
At that Rakon felt some measure of relief. VikThyss’s death had been chance, not the result of the machinations of his enemies. He could still salvage the situation if he could find a way to honor the Pact before Minnear waxed to full and Kulven waned new.
“I need another true son of House Thyss,” he muttered, more to himself than to the sylph.
“Indeed you do,” the sylph said, tittering. “One of the halfbreeds born in this house, perhaps?”
Rakon made a dismissive gesture. “A true son of the Thyss. Not a cambion. Name the other Thyss sons, sylph. There’s where preservation lies.”
A soughing wind, then, “House Thyss is empty of males.”
“What? That . . . cannot be. You lie!”
“I spoke truth, Rakon Norristru.” The spirit giggled. “The air around you stinks of terror. Do you fear for your life?”
Rakon swung his hand through the air, a futile gesture that only summoned more giggles from the sylph. He reined his emotions and replayed all he knew, considered with care the sylph’s exact phrasings. The spirits of the air enjoyed toying with sorcerers.
House Thyss is empty of males.
“The incense, Rakon Norristru!” the sylph entreated.
House Thyss is empty of males.
The answer was right there.
“You said House Thyss is empty of males. But do any Thyss sons live elsewhere?”
The wind blew and the sylph giggled. “I am caught!”
Rakon glared at the empty sky. “Speak, sylph! Tell me all you know.”
“AbrakThyss, brother to VikThyss, was imprisoned on Ellerth long ago, summoned by the Great Ward. He is not dead. But neither is he free. He is the only true son of the Thyss that still lives.”
Rakon grabbed at the words, his hope renewed. “Imprisoned where, precisely?”
“What matter? He knows nothing of your Pact. It was made long after his imprisonment.”
“He’ll honor it, sylph. His blood requires it. Now tell me, where is he?”
“Alas,” the sylph sighed. “There are no winds old enough to tell the specifics of AbrakThyss’s fate. I hear only echoes in the wind and I’ve told you all they say. I don’t know the location of his prison.”
Rakon raised a fist. “If you are lying, sylph—-”
“I promised truth, Rakon Norristru, and truth you’ve had, though bent to my amusement for a moment. Now, burn the incense as you promised.”
Rakon figured he’d learned all there was to learn from the sylph. He’d keep his bargain. He always kept his bargains.
Absently he put the candle’s flame to the stick of incense. Foul, thick smoke spiraled into the air, collected in a cloud around the sylph. For a moment, Rakon glimpsed an outline of the sylph’s current form in the smoke: a large sphere covered in hundreds of thin tendrils, flailing in the smoke.
“I may need to speak with you again, sylph,” he said. “Answer when I call.”
The sylph, lost in the odor of the incense, made no answer, but the breeze hummed with delight.
Rakon left the sylph to its ecstasy, turned, and descended the stairway, heavier with worries than he’d been when he ascended them. He tried to focus his mind on what he must do. He would pore over the tomes in his library, consult with every spirit in the spheres, and discover the location of AbrakThyss’s prison. Knowledge of it had to exist somewhere. He’d find it and do whatever was necessary to preserve the Pact.
He had fifteen days.
He hurried through the dusty halls of the manse, the floors creaking under his feet. Years of filth stained the faded, peeling paint and cracked plaster. Trappings of the family’s oncegreat wealth decorated the hall, the foyer, the library—-lush tapestries, sculpture, thick carpets from Vathar—-but the age of it struck him now, all of it old, tattered, tarnished. The house had fallen far, its wealth spent on tithes to Hell and the exotic ingredients and creatures needed to further magical pursuits through the generations. Under Rakon’s stewardship the house had finally gained the power its patriarchs had sought for generations, but in the process he’d emptied it of wealth. He’d turned it into a shell.
Portraits of previous Norristru fathers hung from the walls in the grand hall—-all of them similar in appearance to Rakon: narrow faces, overlarge mouths, thin lips, and deepset, accusatory eyes that stabbed holes of envy into whatever they looked upon.
He walked past doors behind which foul things had occurred in years past, until he reached the door to his sisters’ chambers, his accursed, dangerous sisters.
He stopped, stared at the door a moment.
What was he doing there? He had work to do, knowledge to gain. His feet had carried him to his sisters unbidden.
The need to see them had crept up on him like a slow fever, but now had firm hold. He licked his lips and skulked down the hall, hoping his sisters were asleep. He hadn’t the strength to fight with them again. He just wanted to make certain they were there, confirm that his grip was not slipping from everything, that he still controlled something.
As he neared the door he walked with a furtive tread, as if approaching a sleeping beast. He put his ear to the enspelled wooden slab but heard nothing from within. After composing his mental defenses, he took the charmed brass key from the folds of his tunic, whispered a word of awakening over it, and with it opened the lock. When he heard the soft click, when he felt the wards subside, he pulled it open.
Fetid, organic air wafted forth. He imagined it loamy with ideas, carrying thoughts on unseen currents, freefloating notions waiting for someone to bump into them and think them their own. Sometimes after leaving his sisters he wondered whether the thoughts he carried with him were his own or something they’d pushed into his mind.
Could they even do that? He didn’t know for certain.
And how would he know? Did a thought of theirs in his head feel different than a thought of his own?
He shook his head to clear it of such thinking.
He leaned into the room and could have touched the back of the enormous, bald eunuch who stood guard just within. The barrelshaped man wore tentsized pantaloons and a shirt and leather jack stained with sweat. A wooden truncheon hung from his belt, a large curved knife, and a reel of thin line.
The eunuch did not acknowledge Rakon’s presence, though he must have heard the door open. His eyes stayed on the room, as they should. He was a jailer, his sole duty to ensure that Rusilla and Merelda neither left their chamber nor harmed anyone or themselves.
A slit at the base of the eunuch’s skull still seeped pink pus, the wound a consequence of Rakon’s chirurgy. Perhaps it would never heal. After scalpel and spell had severed the eunuch’s brain from body, Rakon had filled the fleshy shell with a memory eater. The incorporeal spirit controlled the body with intangible tendrils while it made a slow meal of the eunuch’s memories. In exchange for a captive feast, the eater allowed a binding that made it a perpetual guardian for Rusilla and Merelda, its alien intelligence immune to their mind magic.
Rakon wondered in passing how much of the eunuch still existed. He hoped none, though he could not help but imagine the eunuch’s consciousness caged in the cell of his own mind, railing at his captivity. He could think of few worse fates than a magical bifurcation, the slow death of a mind in a body no longer controllable by it.
“Are they asleep?” he whispered in the eunuch’s ear.
The huge man did not turn. The memory eater caused the eunuch to shrug.
Embers from the large hearth cast the windowless chamber in soft light and deep shadows. Furs and polished woods abounded: twin beds, wardrobes, overstuffed chairs.
He did what he could to provide for their comfort.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is easily the best book I've read in years. Why? Because It's the most FUN i've had reading a book since Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series. I'll give you a good breakdown of the many reasons I love this book. CHARACTERS: Egil & Nix are phenomenal as characters because they are at their core, very relatable. The series protagonists are thrill seekers and adventurers in the sunset of their prime and feeling their age, and the characters reflect this in self-awareness that is staggeringly fantastic to read. They have a confidence in their abilities and experience that is communicated easily to the reader, yet have very real-world problems and weaknesses. Adding to the cast are multiple supporting characters that, at first glance, are a full range of personality types that range from villain to hero. What was incredibly rewarding to read was to watch even these secondary characters have life breathed into them and observe as they cast off traditional personality types you believe they possess and display more character and depth then other authors invest into their main characters. Truly wonderful. DIALOGUE: By far my favorite point of "The Hammer and the Blade" was the dialogue. Egil and Nix have a witty banter between each other and other characters that is reminiscent of that between Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in, "Pulp Fiction". Extremely refreshing conversation keeps readers engaged page by page. Like real-world characters, they don't shy away from discussions or topics that other authors characters do, and Paul S. Kemp avoids the boring and stereotypical trap of having characters so focused on what's at hand; instead, the conversations that would naturally happen between fellow travelers is put on display for all to see, even when it doesn't directly advance the main plot of the story; this is not a weakness, this is a very palatable strength and the story and characters blossom as a result. Every bit of spoken word in this book flows naturally like a river from the first page to the last. PACING: The pacing is nigh perfect; it slows when necessary for character exposition, and speeds up during climatic moments. It is also achingly slow during moments of terror, making you wish Paul would speed up the pace, only because the scenes depicted are horrifying, yet knowing full well if he had not used his pacing the way he did, you wouldn't fully grasp the severe magnitude of situations characters find themselves within. A word on combat pacing: Paul has obviously picked up a few things about combat from his prior works in the Forgotten Realms and Star Wars universes. Every time a character draws a weapon, the story seems to become this bright and vivid setting, with specific detail added to virtually every swing of a blade or blow of a hammer, all without forcing the reader into a space where they feel bored within a few paragraphs; indeed the combat is usually fierce and seems to end naturally without ever feeling like it's being drawn out for the sake of adding more blood to the pages. R.A. Salvatore should beware; any fight scene within the Hammer and the Blade equals or exceeds anything Drizzt Do'Urden has taken part in. I strongly recommend this book for all sorts of readers. The only downfall of this book is that, like all books, it ends, and now that I've finished it I find myself wanting more. Well done, Mr. Kemp.
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. 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. 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.
A great sword and sorcery novel!! Plenty of action and a good story. A must read for any reader!!! Long live Egil & Nix!!!
I have only written one review, and that was to criticize a book because it was THAT bad. I am writing this review because "The Hammer and the Blade" is THAT GOOD. I could reiterate everything that 'theredwriter' and 'Skuldren' and others have said in their reviews, but that would be redundant. Instead, I say to believe everything they say about it. This book is fun! Paul S. Kemp has a great skill for writing witty banter (which is more difficult than you'd think!) and action scenes (which can also be more difficult than you'd think). This is a brilliant book and you should treat yourself. You won't be disappointed
I enjoyed this more than I thought. it was a quick paced book
The banter between the two main characters alone made this a great book. I'm hoping this isn't a one shot, as I'd love to read another adventure with them. The plot is good, although you could kind of see the ending coming. Not really an issue though, since it was still fun to read the details. It's more of a gritty fantasy book, but the humor in it keeps it from getting dark. Overall I'd really recommend this one.
It wasn't as enticing to me as some that I've read, but I have seen a whole lot worse. Some might find it more enjoyable, perhaps I'm getting a little jaded and overly picky. Still, if you're stuck in an airport, this might get you through a few hours of tedium.
I found this book in cd one day while looking at the library for something to listen to. I could not have made a more wonderful choice. I went back and bought a hard copy of the book for myself as well as buying a copy for each member of my gaming group. This was a total gem to uncover. I have found some other fantasy books that were close in the enjoyment. but in other areas. This is a series I recommend to each and every rpger I come in contact with. While it is an easy read I would not call this a lower level reading book. The story grabbed me from the start and did not let me go until the end, and even then was not a disappointment other then it ended. Beautiful, engaging, enjoyable, and creative, unique story line and characters.
The action starts immediately and keep going.
This is another example of great story telling by author Paul Kemp. He really brings you into the characters lives and leaves you on the edge of your seat with their adventures. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great fantasy story. I look forward to the further adventures of the hero's Nix and Egil.
THE HAMMER AND THE BLADE is a fun read. Paul S. Kemp strengths come out in this novel. His ability to write interesting characters that you can applaud or love to hate are in evidence with this book. The book has a great deal of promise as the first in a new series. Why not four or five stars as a rating? THE HAMMER AND THE BLADE lacks background information. Paul S. Kemp has written mostly in the STAR WARS or FORGOTTEN REALMS universe. Both universes are well established in their histories, social customs, conflicts and overall workings of their universe. The reader has none of that for HAMMER AND THE BLADE. The book could use another fifty pages of explaining the world the characters live in. I hope the author will continue expanding THE HAMMER AND THE BLADE universe.
I have been a long time fan of Paul's work since his first book from Wizards of the Coast and 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. I give this book 5 stars and highly recommend it.
I'm on page 15. Don't know how I made it this far. Horrid, does it get better, don' t know if I'll find out. Think I'll look for something else. One star - a couple.