Christopher Buelhman is a favorite author of mine, but I’ve been caught up with his work for a while now. When I saw this was coming out soon, I jumped on the chance for an ARC and here we are. To be honest? I think this is the best thing he’s written so far!
Kinch Na Shannack is a black-tongue thief. He’s still in training, but for now, he’s in debt, (we’ll call them student loans), and if he doesn’t pay up soon, his future is uncertain. Until he pays those debts, he’s forced to wear a tattoo on his cheek that allows everyone and their brother to smack him in the face with no retaliation. The Takers Guild send Kinch on a secret mission, for which he sets off with his new blind cat, (rao), to save himself and perhaps the world. Will he succeed? You’ll have to read this to find out!
This story is epic in scale. We’re talking dozens of different kinds of peoples, different languages, different societies. We’re talking giants and goblins, vast oceans filled with Kraken and other deadly creatures, and that’s just to start. Politics between the societies, the existence of witches, kings and queens, and the sad loss of horses, populate these pages.
Of course, when you have witches you also have magic and spells, and this book is full of them, and really cool ones too! Creatures can live inside tattoos, if you have the right spells. Battle corvids and blind cats to name only a few.
The writing here is witty and concise without being stiff or stuffy. For instance:
“Monarchy is a bad system because, no matter how smart you are, you can still squirt a moron out of your plumbing.”
His characters aren’t so brave that they’re never afraid. And they aren’t so involved in themselves that they cannot see how insane things are. For example:
“And that’s the true story of how on the tenth day of Vintners, I ended up betting my arse on a card game in a sewer, under an army of murdering giants at the very top of the wicked world.”
I want to talk about the humor in this book- like that quote above? It was literally his arse that was on the line in that game. The humor is black and dark, just the way I like it. With poor Kinch having to pause life at nearly every turn so that someone can smack him across the face- it was difficult not to burst out laughing at times. (In fact, I often failed and laughed my butt off, much to the concern and chagrin of my family and/or coworkers who were around at the time.)
I will read anything Christopher Buehlman writes. Period. I don’t care what the genre label is, good writing is good writing and I’m in it for the stories. He mentions in the acknowledgements that Tolkien, George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss have had an influence on him and on this book. I hope though, that unlike Martin and Rothfuss, we get an ending to Kinch’s story, because I NEED TO KNOW what happens next, (and the sooner the better!)
My highest recommendation!
Available everywhere on May 25, 2021!
*Thanks to a certain editor, to Tor and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*