Monday, May 24, 2021

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

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.
But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva's. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The Blacktongue Thief is one of the best fantasy books I've read in ages! It's right up there with Lord of the Rings in terms of world-building and characters you want to root for. Kinch was definitely more developed than the others, but I was satisfied with how fleshed out the secondary characters were (more would have been lovely, because they were all uniquely interesting). I was surprised by how much I started to care for certain people, and heartbroken when something unfortunate happened to someone I'd grown used to. It was hard to like everyone, but I did enjoy their presence on the pages.

Buehlman has masterfully woven a tale of unlikely heroes, since Kinch himself is a certifiable thief trained by the Takers Guild. He's done some questionable things in his life, but his personality and heart more than make up for it. He's not afraid to do what needs to be done, but that doesn't mean he goes out of his way to do it. I wouldn't say he's loyal or trustworthy (he is to an extent), but he does care about Galva and Norrigal in his own way. He's also hilarious and I loved his sense of humor and way of viewing the world. His love of a blind cat is probably what cemented my affection for him. 

This book was also a little dirty and a lot dark. The author didn't shy away from the nitty gritty bits of the world he created, and we get to see our fair share of impossible situations and unfortunate circumstances. People that are just trying to scrape by however they can, and the lengths they will go to for a few coins. I was thoroughly entranced by this story, and my heart hurt for these fictional people and their make-believe problems. That's how you know when a book is good - you care for something or someone that isn't real. Also, the language used in this book isn't for the faint of heart or those that would rather avoid obscenities and indelicate situations. I don't mind cursing and vulgarity, and even though Kinch used words and phrases that were unfamiliar, their meaning wasn't hard to figure out. ;) 

I started reading a physical ARC of this book, but then I stumbled across the audiobook on NetGalley. Friends, if you have a chance, listen to this one! The author narrates the story and it was a truly amazing experience. Kinch's voice is something I'll be able to recall for days, if not longer. It was so unique and distinctive; I felt as if I were traveling right next to him on their journey. There's also singing! I've never heard a narrator sing before. They usually just read the words - sometimes with a little change in their voice - but this book had singing. I loved it. It made the book even more memorable, in my opinion. 

At first I wasn't sure this book was going to be a good fit, but I am so glad I stuck with it. It took me a few chapters to get used to the world and its rules, but now I feel like I've lived there my entire life. Buehlman has created new languages, new peoples, and new monsters. I'm sure I'll have nightmares about goblins in the future, especially after what happened by the fence. I'm not going to lie, there were some BRUTAL aspects of this book that really made my stomach turn. I think it says a lot about the writing that I was able to feel so repulsed by certain actions and still wanted to keep reading.

Weirdly, I enjoyed the book's leisurely pace. It wasn't slow by any means, since the characters were constantly facing this or that challenge, but Kinch does love to tell a story. He used stories and anecdotes to educate readers on different aspects of the world we're reading about, and I thought it was crafty of the author to build the world through the eyes of one of its inhabitants (based on that person's experiences). Old tales, stories about gods and goddesses, a tale sung in a tavern - all added additional layers to the world. There's plenty of fighting, and the author does skip through some of the traveling, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable experience.

I honestly cannot praise this book enough. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but it did feel like the author pressed pause on the story. There's definitely more in store for Kinch and the others, but I have no idea what their future will look like. We're left feeling hopeful, and also a little sad. There's a lot to love about this book, but it will definitely play your emotions like a fiddle (iykyk). It's one I always looked forward to picking up again, and one I know I'm going to be thinking about for days. A few times now I've caught myself reaching for something that isn't there, so I'm already eagerly awaiting the next one. If you enjoy fantasy books, make sure you add this one to your TBR! (★★★★★)

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless