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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman review


Official Author Website
Order The Blacktongue Thief over HERE (USA) or HERE(UK)
Read FBC's review of The Lesser Dead



ABOUT AUTHOR: Christopher Buehlman is an author, comedian, and screenwriter from St. Petersburg, Florida. He tours the country most of the year, writing during the week and performing at renaissance festivals on weekends. He and his wife currently travel with their rescue dog, Duck, and a black cat named Jane Mansfield who is proficient in ninjutsu. The Blacktongue Thief publishes May 2021 with Tor Books. The deal was struck with agent Michelle Brower at Aevitas Creative Management. 

FORMAT: Publishes May 25th, 2021 with Tor/Forge. Page count: 416 p (HC). Cover art by Marie Bergeron.

OVERVIEW: I’ve read everything Buehlman had published and loved all of it. To say I had high expectations for his fantasy debut would be an understatement of the year. To my relief (and delight!), Buehlman has delivered. Big time. 

The Blacktongue Thief follows Kinch Na Shannack, an indebted thief who travels through a crime-ridden world in the company of a veteran knight, a witch in-training, and a blind rescue cat. Decades-long war with goblins wiped out a significant part of humanity and almost all men. To put it bluntly, the world has lost the whole generation of men. The few that still live usually work as prostitutes. Thieves guilt controls everything and everyone and won’t tolerate disobedience. They recruit as many young people as possible, give them student loans to pursue thief-school education, and force them to pay the debt for the rest of their lives. 

If all of this seems too grim, keep reading. One of the greatest strengths of the novel is the narrator’s deliciously sardonic humor and grasp of human foibles. Kinch’s distinct voice and gallows humor made me laugh and made this story such a joy to read. He’s no role-model, what with his vulgar asides and debatable morals, but he doesn’t lack wit or charm. Plus, as often seen in fantasy, he’s a decent guy deep inside. I mean, he rescues a blind cat and takes him on a journey. Of course, the cat has his own dark secrets, but no one would expect less from a cat, right?

I adored Kinch. He’s the kind of street-smart protagonist I love to read. His first-person narration conveys both his personality and explains the bleak world with a humor that makes everything more digestible. He’s a chatty little fellow, who wins others; Not always reliable, but always fun to listen to. Thanks to him, Buehlman gets away with digressions and info-dumps - they’re fun. I equally enjoyed the remaining characters, especially Galva, a battle-hardened veteran facing death with a smile on her lips. 

Imaginative worldbuilding including giant war corvids, texts that kill their readers, self-healing shields, magic imbued tattoos, giants, assassins, and more impressed me with its scope and cool factor. As a whole, all of this feels fresh and entertaining. Sure, it draws from other stories that deal with sly thieves, high politics, and betrayals but does so with enough gusto to compensate for its shortcomings. The ratio of humor to serious themes is just perfect, and it helps gloss over some pacing problems.

The Blacktongue Thief is Buehlman’s first fantasy novel, and I want the next one. It’s a remarkably fun opening of his Blacktongue series — a fast-paced story of high costs laced with gallows humor. I want more.

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