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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Leiber-esque Sword and Sorcery
Sword and Sorcery is making something of a renaissance in genre fiction, thanks in no small part very recently to writers like Scott Lynch, James Barclay, and James Enge. Part of the reason for such a flourishing of these personal tales of fantasy featuring blue collar heroes getting in over their head is the popularity of role playing games over the past couple of...
Published on June 26, 2012 by Robert H. Bedford

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I’m OK with all that. Dark, twisted – definitely my thing. But then there is the ending.....
The tale starts out with Egil and Nix doing a dungeon crawl, set on killing a demon and gaining treasure. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned and they slump off to their newly acquired bar & brothel in a rough part of the neighborhood. Lo and behold, their efforts have gained them stalkers and the kind of fans with demands. They are tasked by a sorcerer to...
Published 5 months ago by S


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Leiber-esque Sword and Sorcery, June 26, 2012
This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
Sword and Sorcery is making something of a renaissance in genre fiction, thanks in no small part very recently to writers like Scott Lynch, James Barclay, and James Enge. Part of the reason for such a flourishing of these personal tales of fantasy featuring blue collar heroes getting in over their head is the popularity of role playing games over the past couple of decades allowing players to participate in what amounted to collaborative sword and sorcery storytelling. One of the most popular and widely played games during that time (and now) is The Forgotten Realms and one of the more popular authors of novels tied into that franchise is Paul S. Kemp. That's the long way of saying how Kemp's pedigree, for lack of a better term, provides him with a strong foundation to pen his first novel set outside any previous shared worlds to which he contributed. Thus, we have The Hammer and The Blade A Tale of Egil and Nix. I'm very pleased to say this sword and sorcery novel was a blast.

Through an engaging prologue Kemp introduces the readers to Egil and Nix through a quick dungeon adventure whereby the Priest (Egil) and Thief (Nix) rob the tomb of an ancient entity. The prologue would work excellently as a short story but also sets a solid foundation for the story Kemp will tell in The Hammer and The Blade by giving a sense of the relationship between the two protagonists. Egil and Nix planned on using the payout from their treasure to buy their favorite tavern so they could retire and live out their days in relaxation rather than fighting and adventuring.

OK, that's the basic plot of the novel. Revealing too much more would rob the potential reader from enjoying the novel themselves, though I will say the final quarter of the novel was exhilarating, leading to an extremely satisfying conclusion. What I will speak to, in general terms, are the elements that worked, didn't work, etc. First and foremost, what comes across very strongly is how much fun Kemp seemed to have writing this story. The protagonists are old chums in the greatest sense of the word and their humorous, sarcastic rapport provides for a smooth way to reveal story elements. This sense of camaraderie extends as Egil and Nix become more acquainted with Rakon's `crew' over the course of their journey since our heroes and Rakon's men don't exactly see eye to eye with the sorcerer's means and goals.

To say these characters and this story is a love letter to Fritz Leiber would be selling Kemp short of what he's done. In Egil and Nix, he's given readers possible long-distant cousins to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in that he's got the large bruiser and short thief duo, as well as the banter between the two. Furthermore, one of the main areas in this world is known as the Low Bazaar, an obvious homage the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser story Bazaar of the Bizarre. Kemp also throws out shout-outs to Green Lantern mythos along the way.

Kemp tells an excellent story through most of the novel after a bit of a bumpy introduction to Rakon and his entourage. That was a minor portion of the novel, but once those bits were straightened out, Kemp's narrative energy kept me breezing through the novel. His voice is very engaging, the characters came across as very believable and I want to know more about the world they inhabit. By showing the duo of Egil and Nix at what seemed to be the end of their adventuring career, Kemp has smartly opened up many doors for himself - he can show early tales of this duo or he can continue the story from this point forward. Regardless of where in this duo's timeline he decides to tell a story, I will enthusiastically follow.

- Highly Recommended -

Longer, original review appears at SFFWorld dot com/brevoff/825.html
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent new Sword & Sorcery tale with modern sensibilities, September 20, 2012
This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
The Hammer and the Blade is an outstanding new entry in the nearly 80 year old Sword & Sorcery genre. You'll find all of the swashbuckling action, horror and witty banter that you'd get with Leiber's Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser stories along with some very compelling questions about gender, morality and free will.

Despite those rather weighty sounding topics, the book is an absolute blast to read. The dialogue and action move at a brisk pace and the book is packed with all of the swords, tombs, traps and demons you could ask for.

As a result of some cleverly written dialogue, I learned a lot about the world of Ellerth and its inhabitants without wading through long sections of dry exposition. Ellerth, as it turns out, is a world of ancient ruins, seedy taverns and dangerous creatures. True to the book's Sword & Sorcery roots, magic is present but feels unpredictable and exotic. It's all a bit dangerous and grubby, not unlike Egil & Nix themselves.

The pacing is excellent and the characters are both interesting and believable. I did feel that the point of view was skewed towards Nix; I wish I could have learned a bit more about Egil. Having said that, Egil wasn't a bland or boring character by any means and the supporting characters also felt very real.

The Hammer and the Blade is, without question, one of the best books I've read this year. It's faithful to the Sword & Sorcery genre while not descening in to pastiche. Above all, it's an incredible amount of fun to read. I look forward to reading more about Egil & Nix's adventures in the near future.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gimmie that Old School Sword and Sorcery, June 26, 2012
By 
Jvstin "Paul Weimer" (Twin Cities, MN United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Egil and Nix are thieves. Good thieves, as a matter of fact. True, they have side interests and pasts. Nix knows something of magic. Egil was trained as a priest of the Momentary God. Both of them have pasts and long careers as thieves, years of tomb robbing and other unsavory jobs.

Now, the results of their last and most profitable mission come back to haunt them, as a consequence of their looting of a demonically haunted tomb leads a noble house with their own pacts with demons to need their services. Under false pretenses, of course, and whether or not Nix and Egil are willing to take the job...

The Hammer and the Blade, by Paul S. Kemp, brings us into a world reminiscent of Fritz Leiber's Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser, the underbelly of the city of Sanctuary, the Novaria stories of L Sprague De Camp, Michael Shea, and many others.

In other words, yeah, The Hammer and the Blade is Sword and Sorcery, if Sword and Sorcery has any meaning as a term or subgenre. And Old School Sword and Sorcery at that.

The strengths of the novels are many. In a Sword and Sorcery novel, with a focus tightly on a couple of protagonists, the novel rises and falls on those characters appealing to the reader. The author hits this solidly with Nix and Egil. We immediately get the sense that this pair has known each other for quite a while, knows each others foibles and get along well together. I hesitate to use the word bromance, but the relationship between the pair is indeed close. Its too crude to say that Nix is an expy of the Grey Mouser and Egil is an expy of Fafhrd, but the author seems to be trying to make at least a gentle evocation of those two classic characters. Nix is the street-rat, Egil is from the out-country. Egil is power and force, Nix is stealth and skill. Nix has a minor affinity for magic.

A quibble on this characterization though-I would have liked a little more Egil. Nix is clearly our major character of the pair, and we learn a fair bit more about him than we do Egil. In fact a key part of Egil's background is only given out as a reveal to explain character motivation a good way into the book. Nix is most definitely the voice of the book, and his sometimes smartass personality leavens things when things are looking not at all good for our heroes. Or just when Nix gets bored. This tendency for Nix to babble at the drop of a heat even gets lampshaded by one of the antagonists.

We get a good sense of the motivations of the antagonist, enough that one can sympathize with his plight, even if his methods are deplorable. Similarly the plot, initiated by the actions of Nix and Egil, and driven by the needs of the protagonist, is just the right sort of scale for a sword and sorcery novel. The fate of the world is not at stake, the fate of a nation is not at stake. Its a very personal scale, even if the action is larger than life.

And what action there is! In roleplaying game terms, we do not meet Egil and Nix as first level characters. They are talented, competent, and very very good at what they do. Their first mission, in the prologue, has them taking on a demon, and the action only ramps up from there as we progress through the novel. The author describes this action very well indeed, be it fighting dangerous monsters in a tomb or a barroom fight. The two protagonists have clearly done this many times before, and together, and work as an excellent pairing.

The setting is described in the typical leanness of prose in the sub-genre. There isn't a tremendous amount of worldbuilding. Instead things get parceled out as the reader goes along, building up bit by bit a decent knowledge of the world. Would I have liked more? Absolutely. I'm a big fan of worldbuilding. But we do get enough of a sense of the city and the rest of the world that the duo travel through. There's a real sense that the city is old, and I have no doubt that Egil and Nix cut their teeth exploring sewers and dungeons beneath the city before taking up the more dangerous profession of tomb robbing.

The magic in the novel is mysterious, chaotic and not to be trusted. Although Nix himself uses what roleplayers would call magic items, there is an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons feel to this use, rather than the blander 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Artifacts are capricious, mysterious things that don't always work as intended or desired. Dark magic is suitably repellent and tinged with a sense of danger.

The author keeps the action of the story moving. Just when things seem to simmer down, Kemp knows its time to "add ninjas" to the story and keep the story from ever flagging. There are some really nice set-pieces of battles as Egil and Nix, as talented as they are, face every more dangerous foes and perilous situations. The book remained consistently entertaining and I would love to see more of the worlds and its characters. I'd also like, one day, for Kemp to write his own "Ill Met in Dur Follin" and show how Nix and Egil go on to forge their friendship.

Female characters? Well, given the subject matter, we don't have any viewpoint female characters. As far as the genre buzzword of the year, agency, after the fact its clear that one of the female characters does have far more agency than we see. This appears to be a result of point of view and framing and a deliberate withholding of a reveal on the part of the author to increase the impact in the denouement.

I'm not sure about the ending, though. I am conflicted if the fate of the ultimate antagonist once defeated fits perfectly with the two protagonists, given how their characters have been presented, their motivations and their actions. Is it just desserts for the antagonist? Yes. But is it something that in the end Nix and Egil would have done? I'm not so sure. I will say that the ultimate fate of the antagonist is definitely foreshadowed by a running theme through the novel. It's a well done Chekov's Gun, at any rate.

Aside from my concerns about the ending, though, The Hammer and the Blade is old school Sword and Sorcery with an appealing pair of protagonists whose feats of derring-do and likeable personalities kept me turning the pages. If you have any interest in Sword and Sorcery, I am confident you will find the same.

(This Review originally appeared at The Functional Nerds. Many more of my reviews are available there)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I’m OK with all that. Dark, twisted – definitely my thing. But then there is the ending....., January 17, 2014
The tale starts out with Egil and Nix doing a dungeon crawl, set on killing a demon and gaining treasure. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned and they slump off to their newly acquired bar & brothel in a rough part of the neighborhood. Lo and behold, their efforts have gained them stalkers and the kind of fans with demands. They are tasked by a sorcerer to travel with him and his drugged, unconscious sisters to a long-lost temple where the sorcerer plans to free a demon. Egil and Nix weren’t given a choice in the matter and reluctantly go on the quest. Meanwhile, they each start receiving psychic messages from at least one of the sisters, pleas for help.

For 3/4 of this book, I was hooked. I enjoyed the bantering, the adventure, the ridiculous situations the lads ended up in. I even enjoyed despising the bad guy. While the only females in the tale tended to be unconscious maidens in distress, mother figures, or brothel workers, I had hopes the sisters would rise at the end and take some much deserved vengeance into their own hands. After all, they are mindmages. I enjoyed the magic, the near-impossible situation, the backstory that explained what the sorcerer was up to and why.

But then I got to the end. I am still pondering if the author was trying to acknowledge the male-centric world that has dominated Fantasy Fiction for generations by having the main characters acknowledge their own rude & crude behavior towards women; Or was the author finding a new way to be condescending to women?

The sorcerer’s family has for generations had an evil pact with a certain line of demons. Once every 10 years or so, a portal is opened and for one night the demon is allowed to bed (mostly rape) all the child-bearing age females of the family. 9 months later, the demons get the demonic children and the ones that pass for human stay with the sorcerer’s family. The men of the family are also granted ever increasing dark arcane knowledge. I’m OK with all that. Dark, twisted – definitely my thing.

SPOILER ALERT But at the end, Egil and Nix manage to rescue the sisters from being demon raped by knocking out their evil brother sorcerer and, through a magic talisman, changing him into a woman. They then allow the demon to carry off the newly feminized brother to be demon raped and probably impregnated. The ladies are then swept off their feet and carried into a new life by our heroes. My issues? 1) If you have an orifice that can be forcibly penetrated, you can be raped. By changing the brother to a female, the message was that only women can be raped. Dare I say that the message is that men are too strong to be demon raped? 2) Once converted to a female, all his brains fled. Surely he had various traps for an escaped demon in his own stronghold? Where did all his arcane knowledge go? Was his female brain too small to hold it all? 3) Egil and Nix didn’t stop the cycle of violence. In fact, they perpetuated it by giving the demon a viable female to impregnate. 4) The sisters didn’t have any say in their brother’s fate and were then oh so graciously given new lives by the heroes. END SPOILER

So I am not sure I will pick up another Paul Kemp novel. Even several weeks after finishing this book, I am still drawn to Egil and Nix but strongly put off by how Book 1 ended. Maybe with time I will forget and can check out his other books without prejudice.

The Narration: Nick Podehl was a great voice for Nix and Egil. He had this carefree, teasing voice for Nix and this gruff voice for Egil. It was a very good narration.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertained, but slightly troubled, July 12, 2013
This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
Having previously read only one of Mr. Kemp's other novels, 'War of the Spider Queen book 4: Resurrection', I didn't know precisely what to expect when I purchased this book. Like many others out there, I went through a "liking" and "friending" rush on Facebook several years back and as a result have been enjoying personal quips and comments from the mind of Mr. Kemp for quite a while. It was through his status updates that I discovered 'The Hammer and the Blade.'

The book recounts a certain adventure of a pair of misfit adventurers in typical "buddy cop" / "odd couple" fashion. The title characters, Egil and Nix, respectively, are more than a little rough around the edges in every possible sense of the phrase. We are given teasing glimpses into their individual histories that paint pictures of background which simultaneously haunt and inspire them. They act solely on their own sense of right and wrong. They are at times bumbling and impetuous. In short, they are easily among the most realistic anti-heroes ever to be created.

The action is fantastic. The dialogue is perfect. The adventure is ...

Well, let's just say that if Mr. Kemp's intent was to make the average white, male reader of fantasy fiction uncomfortable in a way that causes the reader to think and be disturbed, he certainly did a fantastic job of reaching his goal. The central plot was of a type I've never approached outside of crime stories where everything is usually comfortably black and white. While there are certainly heroes and villains here, there are mostly shades of gray which led to a not at all surprising but still very troubling climax.

All in all, I found the book to be incredibly well-written and I have very little doubt that I'll be getting to know more of Egil and Nix in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite authers, May 1, 2013
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This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
Paul S. Kemp is one of my favorite authors and this book definitely comes through. It is a general fantasy novel, nothing too hard to explain and good for nice, easy reading on a sunny day.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Modern Sword & Sorcery Novel in AGES!, March 13, 2013
By 
Fred Dailey (Maryville, TN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
"The Hammer & the Blade" by Paul S. Kemp is what modern Sword & Sorcery has been missing, HIGH ADVENTURE. I have grown tired of the cliche barbarian killing machines that fill most the "Sword & Sorcery" tales I have read. If I want to read Conan, I will read Conan. Kemp instead of marching down the well traveled road of barbarian cliches instead looks to another legend of the genre, Fritz Leiber. Kemp provides us with his own creations, Egil & Nix who as far as this reader is concerned have in the one novel taken their places with the great heroes of fantasy. They are easy to relate to, they have failures, and they get hurt. I always like it when my heroes are human and not as much demigod.

To keep this on the point, Kemp has written a fast, fun, sword & sorcery adventure that is worth it. His ability to write dialog as well as action scenes make this a great read. The story harkens back to trailblazers of the genre and hopefully this is the first of many Egil & Nix tales that Mr. Kemp has to share with us.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, can't wait for the second book in the series., September 7, 2012
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This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
You might know Paul S. Kemp from his Dungeons and Dragons or Star Wars novels. What made his novels stand out among the scores of novels in those worlds were the characters he breathed life into and the way they interacted with the world around them. He created compelling characters that made you want to root for them, or in some cases root against them. In short, he made you care about them and want to see them succeed and grow.

The Hammer and the Blade is Mr. Kemp's foray into Swords and Sorcery and a world of his own making, and not only has he brought all the talents previously mentioned but he has improved his craft that much further. You're introduced to Egil and Nix, a pair of tomb robbers who are getting tired of their trade and have decided that perhaps it is time to to take it easy and rest for a while. Of course nothing ever goes as we plan and they find themselves thrust into a life and death struggle against a Wizard who will do anything to grow his ancestral power and wealth.

I can't recommend this novel enough to those that fondly recall the stories of Lieber, Howard or Moorcock. Hammer and the Blade is a tale that invokes the feeling and wonder that they brought to the genre so long ago. Mr. Kemp is writer that will one day be remembered alongside them as a fellow creator of fantastical worlds and, most importantly, a creator that breathes life into characters who you'll find yourself thinking about long after you've finished his book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Entertaining, July 24, 2012
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Paul Kemp does it again in In The Hammer and the Blade. Having read a number of his other books, I would describe myself as a fan, so I was excited when I heard that he was writing a book set in his own world. I wasn't sure what I would find in this book, but it didn't disappoint.

First off, there's the dialogue. I read a lot of books, but the banter between the characters was spirited, amusing, and frankly, more entertaining than you get with most books. The characters were just fun to read. And unlike many fantasy books, this doesn't start at the beginning of their adventuring careers. This book starts with these guys at the height of their skills and abilities, and they face down tough adversaries in the very first chapter.

That brings me to the next thing I like about this book. It assumes that the reader is familiar with the genre. Tolkien, David Eddings, and a whole host of other books follow the heroes journey very closely, with young protagonists who eventually discover hidden powers (learn how to fight, or be a rogue, or whatever it is that they can do that makes them heroes), and then go on to fight giant spiders, dragons, and a whole host of other monsters. Many authors also seek to explain the mechanics at work behind magic, and introduce the world, etc. In this case, Kemp assumes that the reader has read fantasy, has probably played Dungeons and Dragons, and then skips to telling a fun yarn rather than rehashing everything for new readers. This is not to say that he doesn't have his own unique take on things like magic, and monsters, but as someone who is already familiar with fantasy, it's easy for me to, "Oh, this is like that, only different in a certain way."

And Paul Kemp's version of different is a little more disturbing than run of the mill fantasy. The effects of magic are more unsettling, monsters are more bizarre, and the subject matter itself delves deeper than most, but ultimately tells a story that touches upon very real human experiences and emotions.

There are some fantasy stories that are good yarns, but are more or less unmemorable. This isn't one of them. If you're a fan of fantasy fiction, and you like it when authors get the chance to push the boundaries, then you should enjoy this book. Personally, I'm hoping that we see these characters again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most fun I have had with a book in 2012, July 8, 2012
By 
John Middleton (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hammer and the Blade (Mass Market Paperback)
Paul S Kemp dedicated this book to R E Howard, Fritz Leiber, Leigh Brackett and Michael Moorcock, and for a modern take on classic sword & sorcery of those authors, you wont find better. If you like any of those writers, you'll like this. If you like Joe Abercrombie, you'll like this (although this is more fun if not quite as dark). Its most clearly a homage to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, for all they usually appeared in short story rather than novel format, but if they had been in a novel, it would have been like this.

Egil (the big one) and Nix (the small one with a smart mouth) are an infamous pair of tomb-robbing adventurers, who now only wish to retire and own a pub in their home town of Dur Fallin. Both fortunately and unfortunately, they killed a demon on their last job: fortunately because killing a demon is better than being eaten alive, and unfortunately because someone powerful had plans for that demon, and now its up to Egil and Nix to fix that little problem, willingly or not. That may all sound a little standard for the genre, but its more than that - such as a character that manages to turn from someone whose untimely, gruesome death I was looking forward to into a character just all too human: dumb and proud, not evil and bound for a shallow grave.

This book just pulses with adventure, witty dialogue, and nasty things that go chomp in the night. There are geases, demons, evil sorcerers, debased humans, whores, damsels in distress and long-dead corpses which may or may not animate. I can't praise this book enough; its like it was specifically written to appeal to "fun stuff I love".

If you like sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, or anything like that, you should give this book a try. Hopefully this is just the first of many Egil & Nix tales.
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The Hammer and the Blade
The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp (Mass Market Paperback - June 26, 2012)
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