The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue #1) by Christopher Buehlman #wyrdandwonder

The Blacktongue Thief is one of the books I’ve read as part of the Wyrd and Wonder event (details here) and what a creative wonder this book was.

W&W

My Five Word TL:DR review : Fast paced, inventive, fantasy shenanigans

blackImagine that somebody put all the fantasy tropes in a big bag, shook it up and then upturned the whole thing.  A hot mess of mediaeval style fantasy might be picked from the ensuing chaos.  A quest, if you will, filled with reluctant heroes, witches, trolls, giants, goblins and much, much more.  Now, flavour that concoction with some fantastic creativity, a dash of horror and a healthy glug of humour, stir wickedly and the result is a rich stew of delicious delights.

Yes, I enjoyed The Blacktongue thief, it’s a very entertaining read that runs the full gamut of emotions.  It had me laughing out loud one moment and then staring in horror the next.  Never predictable, fast paced and I must say I can’t wait to read more from this world.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into the plot – in fact I’m not going to go there at all.  To be quite honest the plot feels almost inconsequential in some respects and in fact we, much like the main character, remain in the dark for a good portion of the story.  That isn’t to say there’s a lack of action or motivation to propel the characters forward – more that it’s not the most important aspect and it’s a story that has a number of twists which is another reason I’m not going to elaborate.  Let’s just say, the characters have a need to travel from A to B but will go through a circuitous route that will involve C, D, E and F along the way.

Instead I’m going to chat about what worked for me with the Blacktongue Thief.

Well, firstly let’s take a look at the title which refers to the main character, Kinch Na Shannack, otherwise, thankfully, known as Kinch.  Kinch is from Galt where the people are born with a black tongue.  On top of this particular characteristic Kinch has a lucky streak, a very curious reading ability and a lot of charm.  Kinch has been trained as a thief by the Taker’s Guild.  Of course they don’t take on this burden of training out of generosity.  They expect payment and Kinch is in debt.  I could say his debts force him into a life of thieving but as he’s been trained in the arts that’s hardly the case, he always expected to take this route, its more that his debts have simply pushed him to desperation – which is where we find him when the book begins, sitting in a tree, with an arrow knocked, and a bad feeling inside waiting for a most unlikely victim to come strolling through the trees ahead. The early chapters see Kinch set out on a path, at the behest of the Guild, that team him up with a warrior known as Galva.  Galva is on a quest of her own.  She has secrets and at least one very cool surprise.  Along the way they gather a couple of other companions.  Most notably Norrigal, a witch in training who becomes something of a love interest as the story develops.  And a blind cat known as  Bully Boy who also has surprises in store.

The thing is.  I liked these characters.  I found them easy to read about, I cared about them as the story progressed and I really enjoyed the unusual aspects that each of them bring to the story.  I mean, there is literally never a dull moment with the Blacktongue Thief and the characters seem to ricochet from one outrageous situation to the next.  Which isn’t to say that this is too ‘busy’.  It’s just incredibly creative, full of magic and myths and with a number of genuinely laugh out loud moments that offset events that could otherwise become too grim.

I really enjoyed the writing and in fact I have another book (horror) by this author which I’m now dying (no pun intended) to read.  I mean, there’s a lot of gallows humour here not to mention a sort of tongue in cheek feel to certain elements.  Like I said above, the author seems to have a determination to fit everything into this world, witches, kraken, adventures on the sea, deserted islands, flesh eating goblins, and such a lot of little details that help to strengthen the sense of place, and yet this is all accomplished with apparent ease, it doesn’t feel overdone or cluttered and the world building is great – the history of the wars, songs, games, etc. all infused with enough  unique ideas to help it carve out it’s own little niche in the fantasy world.

I will just point out that this book isn’t shy of a bit of cursing and certain elements where you can really see Buehlman’s experience of writing horror coming into play. I don’t say that to put anyone off.  This isn’t horror as such, just a bit bloody on occasion.  For example, I never expected to read about such an unusual tug of war and its gruesome outcome!

Overall, I had a remarkably good time reading this one.  If I had any criticism at all it would simply relate to a slight feeling of being a little lost just over half way through, a feeling which ultimately relates to the meandering journey that the characters end up on and a fleeting sense of not quite understanding where the story was going.  To be honest though, I actually think that this was intentional on the part of the author.

The conclusion provides a great set up for the second instalment and I look forward to seeing where the author takes the story next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 stars.