Category Archives: Paul S. Kemp

2013: An Assessment – Individual Authors and Titles

This is the second part of my assessment of 2013.  The first looked at publishers.  Here I’ll feature some authors and/or individual titles that I thought were standouts.  Links for books will be to my reviews (the reviews will have links to buy if you’re interested.)  Since I’ve been doing a weekly post at Amazing Stories, with only one week missed, I’ll be including some of the titles I reviewed there in this list.

As with the publishers, these are in alphabetical order.  I’m probably overlooking someone or a particular book.  I apologize in advance.  This list consists of titles and authors I read in 2013 and isn’t intended to be inclusive.  Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.  Again, I’m including mystery, crime, and science fiction as well as fantasy. Continue reading

The Return of Egil and Nix

A Discourse in Steel
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 4th July 2013
ISBN: 9780857662521
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
Date: 25th June 2013
ISBN: 9780857662538
Format: Small (Mass Market) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 CAN$9.99
Date: 25th June 2013
ISBN: 9780857662545
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

In my review of the first book in this series, The Hammer and the Blade, I said that it reminded me why sword and sorcery was fun in the first place.  The same is true for A Discourse is Steel.  This is adventure fantasy at its finest.

Egil and Nix befriended two young ladies at the conclusion of the previous book.  Early in this one, one of them (Rose) is reading the mind of a master criminal (at his request) when he’s assassinated.  Some of the information he knows ends up in Rose’s head.

So a very dangerous criminal organization tries to kill her, and in the process nearly kills her sister Mere, Egil, Nix, and a number of their friends and associates.  In the words of the great general Bugs Bunny, “Of course, you know this means war.” Continue reading

New Acquisitions

Today a friend and I took my son hiking in Palo Duro Canyon while our wives stayed home doing whatever wives do when husbands are away.  (I don’t want to know; that it involves spending money is enough.)  This will tie into a Dispatches From the Lone Star Front post later in the week after another road trip. 

When I go home, there was a package waiting for me.  It contained a copy of Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged from Pyr Books.  Along with Wrath-Breaking Tree (James Enge) and Kindred and Wings (Philippa Ballantine) that came Thursday and Nebula Awards Showcase (Catherine Asaro, ed.), which arrived last week, that’s four from Pyr in about ten days.  The Marmell and Nebula Awards will be reviewed first since the former will be out in a couple of weeks, and the latter is out already.  That’s not to say some of the other review copies Pyr has sent me won’t end up in the queue in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve also got several titles from Angry Robot in my ereader:  The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (which I’ve already started and am loving), iD by Madelaine Ashbury, and A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp.

Finally, I’m looking forward to diving into No Return by Zachary Jernigan.  He was kind enough to send me a copy of his first novel.  This one got some good advance buzz, and I love the cover.  It’s up Blue Blazes

Anyway, those are the novels from publishers and authors I’ve agreed to read and review.  I still plan to increase the amount of short fiction I review.  (Sooper Seekrit Project #2 requires me to do so.)  I’m also going to stick in some novels just because I want to read them.

Think all that will keep me busy?

Recommendations from the First Half of 2012

There have been a lot of lists posted or published, depending on the format, in the last few weeks, claiming to enumerate the best books/stories/graphic novels/dirty limericks/ransom notes/whathaveyou from the first half of 2102.  To which, I say, yeah, right.  Unless these lists were compiled by committee, no one person could have read enough novels to say their list is the best.  And if the list were put together by committee, well, we all know what too often comes out of committee.

Now I’m not saying those lists don’t have value, just the title “Best” is misleading.  So I’m going to call the list that follows simply my recommendations for the first half of 2012.

First, a couple of ground rules.  I’m going to limit myself to novels, and with one or two exceptions which were self-published, novels published in 2012.  I’m making an exception for the self-published novels because they sometimes need a little time to develop some momentum.  Anyone paying attention to the trade publishers should be aware of forthcoming novels.

I’m also going to take the coward’s way out and not try to rank them.  I started to, but quickly ran into the issue of trying to decide between two books I thoroughly loved but for entirely different reasons.  I could bite the bullet and give them rankings, but tomorrow I’d probably change my mind.  Instead the books will be listed alphabetically by title.

So here are my recommendations from the first half of 2012, along with an occasional cheeky synopsis.  If more than one book in a series came out in the first part of the year, I’ve only listed the first book.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig  This is short, dark, compulsively readable tale of a young woman who can see the death of any person she touches through the eyes of that person.  One day she touches a man and sees herself present at his death.  Review here.

Carpathia by Matt Forbeck  The Carpathia was the ship which rescued the survivors of the Titanic.  What if there were vampires onboard?  Review here.

Crazy Greta by David A. Hardy  I called this the book John Bunyan would have written if he had been dropping acid while writing The Pilgrim’s Progress.  I stand by that statement.  Review here.

Feyland by Anthea Sharp  An entertaining and well-written young adult novel about what happens when the immersive computer game becomes a little too real.  Review here

Giant Thief by David Tallerman  So this kleptomaniac steals this giant, see?  Then he gets roped into being the hero against this warlord.  The only problem is his sticky fingers keep getting him in trouble.  Review here.

Hunter and Fox by Philippa Ballantine  An emotionally wounded woman serves as a hunter for a tyrant in a world in which the landscape changes on a regular basis.  Review here.

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp  Two thieves kill a demon while robbing a tomb.  Only the demon has powerful friends…A great adventure that reminded me of why I read sword and sorcery in the first place.  Review here.

Rise and Fall by Joshua P. Simon  An epic fantasy about duty, honor, family, and the ties that bind.  An impressive debut.  Review here.

Shadow Ops:  Control Point by Myke Cole  A world in which those with magical abilities are either drafted into covert military teams or exterminated and what happens when one man says, “Enough is enough.”  Review here.

Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk  The conclusion of a dark trilogy about a man who is heir to the shadows seeking to learn who he is.  Review here.

The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu Flying ships, astral projection, Machiavellian politics, an invading army, and a doomsday cult trying to bring about the end of the world.  In the midst of this, can two crazy kids find true love?  Review here.

Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell  Another YA, but with a dark edge.  Widdershins is a thief who has minor deity living in her head.  One of the most fun books I’ve read in a while in spite of the dark content.  Review here.

The Hammer and the Blade are a Fantastic Combination

The Hammer and the Blade
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot Books
26 Jun 2012
432pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN
5 Jul 2012
432pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK
26 Jun 2012

In addition to the people who supported him while writing the book, in the dedication Paul Kemp mentions the names of four people who inspired him while writing The Hammer and the Blade:  Leiber, Howard, Brackett, and Moorcock.  ‘Nuff said.

But in case you’re one of those people who want to know a little more about a book, here’s what  you should know.  In naming the four authors he does, Kemp sets himself a very high bar to try and meet.

He succeeds.  In fantasy there are a number of tropes which are used often enough that they become cliched.  Sometimes that results from a work that has such a impact that many of the writers who follow churn out imitations, some good, some less than good, until the situations and characters in the original work become archetypes to a greater or lesser degree.  Tolkien and Howard are two of the most prominent examples.  And sometimes a book comes along which breathes new life into those tired and heavily used tropes and reminds us why we love them in the first place.

The Hammer and the Blade is clearly in the latter category.  Whether it will become a book that is widely imitated remains to be seen, but if it does, I won’t be surprised.  Paul Kemp is now on my must read list. 

Here’s the basis of the book.  Egil and Nix are thieves, grave robbers to be precise, and they’re quite good at what they do.  While robbing a tomb in a distant desert, they end up killing a demon guarding the treasure.  Thinking they have enough wealth to retire, they buy their favorite inn/brothel and prepare to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Their enjoyment is short-lived.  Rakon is a powerful sorcerer in the city of Dur Follin.  He’s the head of the house of Norristru.  Centuries ago, House Norristru made a pact with one of the Houses of Hell.  It’s almost time to renew the pact.  The demon Rakon is expecting to come and renew the pact is now dead, killed by Egil and Nix.  Rakon is not pleased.  Our heroes don’t even get to enjoy one evening of their new establishment.

This is a sword and sorcery novel that reminds you why sword and sorcery is fun in the first place.  In many ways it’s a breath of fresh air.  It’s fast paced, smart, funny, and at times extremely dark.   The action and tomb robbing sequences are well done, and the conflict between Rakon and Egil and Nix is riveting.  The supporting characters are well drawn; their relationships with Egil and Nix change and grow.

I’ll let you discover the exact nature Rakon’s pact with Hell.  The best way to describe it is that it’s twisted and insidious.  But Rakon is more than just a Saturday matinee villain who is evil simply for the sake of being evil.  He has believable motives, twisted, yes, but believable.  And despite their flaws, Egil and Nix are honorable men, each with his own moral code.  Those moral codes will be tested, and tested severely, before all is said and done.

Some people, whose opinions really aren’t worth paying attention to, criticize sword and sorcery as mindless entertainment.  They should read The Hammer and the Blade.  There’s depth to this novel, especially near the end when the heroes face a choice about what type of men they really are.  And while I thought the sun took an awful long time to set in one sequence, I love the poetic justice of the conclusion.

I can’t wait to read the next volume.

This book hits shelves here in the States and Canada in a few days, the rest of the world early next month.  Below is an excerpt.  If you like what you read, The Hammer and the Blade is currently the Featured Book at the Adventures Fantastic Bookstore