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


Rating: 8.5/10

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.

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 and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Review

I’d been hearing about the buzz on this book for quite some time now and was very excited for its release. Well, in the past few months I’ve started reviewing books and this marks my first book received from Netgalley to review! Thanks to them for providing a copy.

So let’s dive in shall we?

The first thing you notice when beginning The Blacktongue Thief is the narrative structure. Written in first person with fourth-wall breaking type style, it definitely takes a bit of an adjustment. However, I’m a huge fan of this form of writing. I’ve always enjoyed first person narrative but when it feels like someone is telling the story directly to YOU, it makes the book even more engaging. In fact, it took me longer to read this book than usual because I didn’t want to miss a word of what our protagonist Kinch is telling you.

Speaking of Kinch, the guy is hilarious. His humor may not be for everyone, but there was line after line where I was chuckling and enjoying the story that much more. Whether he’s commenting on the massive creature about to eat him or making an off-hand remark about another person he sees. The way that Kinch tells you about the different cultures and societal groups made reading all the worldbuilding a fun experience. His quips, remarks and anecdotes all fleshed out the world in a great way.

And the worldbuilding is pretty cool. While mostly set in a traditional fantasy type setting, the slow reveal of the different political structures, the thief guild that Kinch is a part of, and the various types of magic, create a lived-in and interesting world. Makes me want to know more in future books.

Ok, ok. But what’s the book actually about? The book is a basically a long road trip between a motley crew of thrown together questers. Kinch is a thief who owes his thief guild a fortune for his training and when he picks a wrong target to steal from, their fates get entangled. The target, Galva, is a knight and survivor of the goblin wars. She is setting off on a quest to find someone in a far-off country. Kinch is tasked with following her until the end of the line – or else. Along the way, more adventurers join these two including a witch and a blind cat (who was a highlight for me as a cat lover).

Each character was interesting and enjoyable to read about, but they were not the main focus of this book – that was on the journey itself and the misfortunes along the way.

There are different ways to write fantasy quest stories, something like Robin Hobb’s Assassins Quest where 40 pages is one boat ride across the river and focuses on character development (and to be fair, I love that story too). And others more fast paced and focus on the many adventures that happen along the way. The Blacktounge Thief falls firmly into the latter portion of stories.

This can cause for a bit of whiplash jumping from one threat to the next, but the book is just so dang lovable and entertaining that was a small issue. The protagonists travel to upside-down towers, fight giant creatures, go whaling, ride a mechanical horse and much much more. The freshness of each encounter and location didn’t wear off even through the end which had a great finale that snuck up on me because I just wanted more.

I did have a few minor grievances with book. While I loved the narrative form, I felt sometimes I was unclear of Kinch’s emotions along the way. Specifically relating to certain decisions he makes towards the end of the story (not the emotions he feels about women – that’s made very clear). And as stated above, there are some pacing issues and parts of the story feel a bit rushed. Some of this could be due to the short chapters that break up the flow. These are small problems for an overall very intertaining story.

Also, while this is the first book in a series, it stands very much on its own – which I love for the start of a story.

All in all, a very fun read that will be liked by most fantasy fans. Very highly recommended for those that like humorous tales with lots of action and adventure. Can’t wait for the next one!

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