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ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books & Gollancz—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art illustrated by: Marie Bergeron
The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Blacktongue (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 416 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 27th May 2021 by Gollancz (UK) and 25th May 2021 by Tor Books (US)
The Blacktongue Thief is an immense entertainment manifesting in a fantasy novel.
Christopher Buehlman is most often known for Between Two Fires and more horror novels; this is about to change very quickly. The Blacktongue Thief is the first book in Blacktongue trilogy by Buehlman, it is his first high fantasy novel, and from my observation, it is quite likely that this is the most hyped adult fantasy debut of the year. I’m not kidding; I’ve seen so many authors highly praised this novel since late 2019 and early 2020 up to this day. I doubt this will die down soon; many fantasy readers will be talking about this book more once it’s officially published.
“If you’ve never fallen hard in love and lost your heart’s sovereign, go on and laugh at me. If you have, have a drink and dab an eye.”
The plot in The Blacktongue Thief revolves around Kinch Na Shannack; Kinch owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, and his debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path. But Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark. Kinch picked Galva—a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. Galva is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants. Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Many early reviews from both authors and readers have mentioned that this is a novel suitable for those who loved Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, and I can certainly agree with this. I mean, even in my interview with Nicholas Eames himself, during his praises towards this book as the one book to definitely read this year, he agreed on these comparisons. The quest premise that Kinch and Galva took reminded me of Clay and Gabe’s journey in Kings of the Wyld; the jokes and senses of humor Buehlman included into the narrative were so delightful.
‘“The sirs won’t help you any more than your Guild will, blacktongue. You know what they say about caught thieves, aye?”
“I’m not a thief.”
“Yes, and I’ll just put the tip in, we know how these things go.”’
Kinch was undoubtedly the biggest highlight of the novel for me. He’s just such a lovable main character; snarky, sarcastic, continuously smile in the face of adversity. But he also knows when to be serious. The Blacktongue Thief is told through Kinch’s first-person perspective, and Buehlman did an excellent job in giving him a high level of distinctive voice that reminded me of what Peter McLean did with his War for the Rose Throne quartet. That being said, don’t misconstrue my words to call these two series similar to each other; they’re not. The Blacktongue Thief is like Kings of the Wyld without all the Easter Eggs, with the addition of Scott Lynch’s brilliant use of profanity language in The Gentleman Bastards. The balance between humor and tension-packed conflicts was achieved splendidly, and hey, have I mentioned there’s a blind cat as Kinch’s companion? Now you know, and why are you still reading my review?
“Monarchy is a bad system because, no matter how smart you are, you can still squirt a moron out of your plumbing. Maybe you get lucky and your son or daughter is at least half as smart as you—what about your grandchild? Probably a knob, and when they inherit the throne, everything you build fall to shyte.”
Alright, fine, if these aren’t enough to convince you to give this book a try yet, there are also stag-sized battle ravens, magic tattoos, Kraken, giants, witches, and goblins. Admittedly, there were a few moments in the middle of the novel where the pacing dragged a bit for me. However, this is more of a personal thing; long seafaring sections in high fantasy rarely worked for me. Fortunately, my overall enjoyment of the novel was not hindered. There are just so many things to love in this book, and the entire section involving the Towers card game was equally hilarious, breathtaking, and superbly executed.
“I won’t bore you with the whole set of rules; just know Towers is like a war right there on the table, and it sucks money out of purses faster than a two-squinny harlot. Starts more fights than religion and politics together. And it’s addictive.”
The ending sequence was pulse-pounding, and the conclusion + the acknowledgment was satisfying to read. The Blacktongue Thief is fated to steal a lot of reader’s hearts with its charm, humor, intensity, and unrelenting fun; I look forward to seeing future readers enjoying this novel. As for me, I will eagerly wait for the next volume in the daring and exciting adventure of Kinch Na Shannack, a thief with a blind cat’s luck.
Official release date: 27th May 2021 (UK) and 25th May 2021 (US)
You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping) | The Broken Binding (Use my code: NOVELNOTIONS121 for discount!)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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