Review: The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue #1) by Christopher Buehlman


Rating: 8/10

Synopsis

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. 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 today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She 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. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Review

Thank you to Tor books for this arc in exchange for an honest review. Quotes shared may be not in the finished copy of the book. The Blacktongue Thief comes out May 25 in the US and May 27th in the UK. Preorder at any of the links above!

This is a book where the plot primarily revolves around traveling. Typically for me, a plot about a journey being undertaken is not really my thing. I don’t hate it, but it oftentimes feels like not much happens during the traveling portion and I would much rather the author skip everything but the “important” bits and move the plot along. With that in mind, I was delighted that I ended up enjoying The Blacktongue Thief quite a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I had high hopes when starting this book. First off the main character and only POV for this story is a thief which immediately grabbed my attention. Hints of Goblin wars, warring Giants, a missing queen, and Krakens hooked me completely and I knew that this was a book I had to read.

“I was so scared, I half wanted to piss myself, but the difference between the strong and the weak isn’t that the strong don’t piss themselves. It’s that they hitch their pissy pants up after and go through with it.”

I want to start with a con since I only have one. Though I did enjoy the plot overall and the first installment came to a satisfying ending, I did wish that the plot was a little more focused. This could be due to my typical aversion to travel stories, but I felt that there were just a few parts that felt irrelevant to the overall story and therefore unncessary.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the many positives. I really enjoyed the characters in this story. The main character Kinch and his companions Galva and Norrigal are just so dang likable! Kinch is the wisecracking, sarcastic thief who is always getting himself hit, punched, or generally smacked around for his quick witted remarks. Galva is serious, devoted to the goddess of death, a deadly warrior, and dedicated to her mission. The type of person that when the author writes that she smiled, you know its a big deal. Last but definitely not least there is Norrigal. Norrigal is an apprentice witch who is invaluable in fights and can match Kinch wit for wit. Norrigal and Galva do a majority of the aforementioned smacking of Kinch, which even he will tell you was deserved at least most of the time.

I really enjoyed this trio that we follow for the majority of the story. They are complete strangers at the beginning, but by the end they form deep bonds of friendship even if Galva would never say so. I love how each of their personalities played off of each other to great effect. Kinch needling both Galva and Norrigal every chance he got. Galva keeping the whole group focused and often keeping them alive. Norrigal just being the all around confident, brave, and smirky lady that she is. These characters felt like real people and the small things that make relationships feel real and deep were very present. There is also a cat companion that Kinch carries around that actually becomes an important part of the story later on, but alas spoilers keep me from going further into it. Suffice it to say that Bully the cat is a fun addition to the story that I didn’t expect.

“What a fabulous kingdom the mind is, and you the emperor of all of it. You can bed the duke’s wife and have the duke strangled in your mind. A crippled man can think himself a dancer, and an idiot can fool himself wise. The day a magicker peeks into the thoughts of commoners for some thin-skinned duke or king will be a bad day. Those with calloused hands will rise on that day, for a man will only toil in a mine so long as he can dream of sunny fields, and he’ll only kneel for a tyrant if he can secretly cut that tyrant’s throat in the close theater of his bowed head.”

The worldbuilding was really solid. I enjoyed the lore about the not so distant 3 Goblin Wars and how they have affected the present world. I also enjoyed the monsters that were introduced throughout the story. Another thing that I thought was a cool addition is how powerful and involved the Takers Guild is within this world. The Takers Guild is the organization that trained Kinch in all manner of thieving and small magic. He owes them a debt of loyalty and coin. This debt is enforced by a hand tattoo on his face and a threat hanging over his mother and siblings. There is a really unique little tidbit about the hand tattoo that I thought was very unique and fit the tone of this story really well, but I will let you discover that on your own. One other thing that was really well done were the different cultures of each nation had very distinct qualities that they valued and typical characteristics of each people that were mentioned and intigrated into the story. I liked how that made the world more immersive.

Speaking of tone, I loved how both Kinch and Norrigal’s wit along with Buehlman’s clever prose made this relatively dark story feel lighthearted. The great thing was that it didn’t feel like forced comedic relief, but rather the natural way the characters and the world that Buehlman has created played out. I really am appreciating consistent tone more and more in books and Buehlman does an excellent job in this area.

The Blacktongue Thief was a fun ride and I am excited to see where the story goes. If high stakes action, an unconventional quest, an unusual trio, monsters, and a cat companion sound good to you, read this book!

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