Title: The Blacktongue Thief.
Writer(s): Christopher Buehlman.
Publisher: Tor Books.
Release Date: May 25th 2021.
My Overall Rating:
A story is only as good as its storyteller. And if the storyteller is also the adventurer, the traveler who witnesses the adventure first-hand, one can only expect their account to be factual, to derive from witnessed events, to reflect the emotional journey as one lives it. Unless that person is a lowly thief who has learned all the tools of the trade to be cunning, sly, and stealthy. How much can one even trust a person who is only out there to save his own skin, to make ends meet, or to profit from other’s misery? As his first foray into high fantasy, writer Christopher Buehlman (Those Across the River, The Lesser Dead) delivers one of the most immersive, theatrical, and uproarious adventures starring a thief and a knight.
What is The Blacktongue Thief about? The story follows Kinch Na Shannack. Gone from the Straw Farm to the Takers Guild, he now owes the latter a debt he is unable to pay. Marked by a tattoo and condemned to pay his debt, he roams around completing jobs for them, looking for targets to ambush and rob, inching his way closer to his emancipation. Despite his numerous acquired and refined skills in lock-picking, knife-fighting, or even trap-making, he was not ready for the next mark, a knight who survived the brutal goblin wars, a handmaiden of the goddess of death, a lady who will stop at nothing to find her missing queen. Whether he was lucky or not is beyond him, having now survived the encounter with Galva, his fate is thus entangled with her’s, and where life leads them next is straight into a treacherous world brimming with terrifying creatures and no honour code to govern its inhabitants.
“I can see ye think yer clever, and praps y’are, but by my lights, yer nothin’ but a dirty, blacktongue thief and will ne’er be more.”— Christopher Buehlman
This first installment presents a first-person perspective of Kinch Na Shannack’s adventure, where readers fully embrace his dark humour, sarcasm, and wit without any filter whatsoever. Written like a travelogue, each chapter follows him around as he exposes the glorious intricacies of his world, from the various cultures to the numerous creatures. Despite being action-packed, with some truly intense moments interspersed throughout the story, there is a lot of world-building established by the protagonist as he slowly unveils himself to the reader. With his hilarious tone giving him a one-of-a-kind voice, he easily reels the reader into his universe and effectively paints a sneering portrait of the events he witnesses and takes part in. Tagging along with Galva who pretty much captures a completely distinct personality, mostly poised and dutiful, this duo ends up going through some of the most unexpected adventures imaginable.
Full of twists, always embellished by the protagonist’s voice, this story also builds an engrossing mythology that inevitably comes into play throughout this quest rather than remain a simple contextual element to further build this world. By sticking around with the group, especially once a third feline companion enters the stage, the story picks up in pace and capitalizes on fantastic lore elements to keep things going. While each chapter does begin a bit jarring by not allowing the reader to fully understand where things are at, the narrative structure quickly grows onto the reader, especially once you’ve connected to the story’s characters, the character’s humour, and the humour’s grimness. In the end, the unusual companionship and the singular tone, all wrapped up in a mesmerizing and charming world with an alluring magic system, just makes this unputdownable.
The Blacktongue Thief is a riveting journey following a thief and a knight into a complex, action-packed, and ferocious world.