In Brief: Paul S. Kemp’s The Hammer and the Blade is old-school Sword and Sorcery with contemporary sensibilities. Kemp pays homage to Leiber and Gygax, and sets up a pair of of likable characters for serial-style adventures.
Pros: The lead characters, Egil and Nix, are familiar tomb-raiding adventurers straight out of the AD&D Player’s Handbook. They are also fleshed out pretty well as the author introduces his magical world and keeps the plot moving. Kemp obviously knows his Sword and Sorcery, and you feel as if you might bump into The Gray Mouser or Conan or Kull at any moment.
Cons: The Hammer and the Blade is a self-contained adventure focused squarely on Egil and Nix. It’s not an epic continent and kingdom spanning tale. Some may prefer a grander scope. The setting and styling are also very familiar fantasy staples, a potential drawback for those seeking less familiar worlds.
Review: The book opens with Egil and Nix in the final stages of a dungeon crawl. They are professional tomb raiders who’ve been at it for awhile, as quickly established by the author’s rapid quip-filled dialogue. This is Riggs and Murtagh with swords and warhammers. In the tomb of an ancient wizard king, they avoid traps and finally face off with a hellspawn guardian.
The author sets the scene and handles the introductions with smooth efficiency and we almost immediately like these two characters. Egil is a warrior-priest of Ebenor – a deity who was only a god for a brief moment before being destroyed. Egil is also apparently the only priest of Ebenor (not much use worshiping a dead god who can’t answer your devotion after all), with a philosophy tied to recognizing and venerating the moment. Nix Fall, aka Nix the Quick, is a thief with a bit of magical training (he takes pride in the fact that he was expelled from the Magician’s Academy), who pulled himself out of the slums with his wits and skill. Continue reading