AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second novel in the tales of Egil and Nix significantly ups the stakes and showcases Kemp’s skills in writing Sword and Sorcery.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Adventurers Egil and Nix novel face off against a mobilized Thieves Guild with a deadly agenda.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: High quality action scenes; excellent chemistry between the main characters; real choices with real consequences; immensely entertaining; excellent audiobook narration.
CONS: Some more specifics on one of the main characters would help drive the themes of the novel even more strongly.
BOTTOM LINE: This second Egil and Nix novel improves upon the first.

Thieves Guilds are nothing but trouble. Even when they aren’t sucking the lifeblood of a city like Dur Follin, they are scheming amongst themselves for status. When a coup against the head of the Thieves Guild leaves their friend a eyewitness to be eliminated, adventurers Egil and Nix find themselves wrapped up yet again in matters way above their heads. Taking on an entire Thieves Guild? That’s going to be the easy part. The soul-sucking magical alleyway in Dur Follin and the deadly swamp down river? Now those are going to be the real problems for the duo.
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Wondrous Wit Smackdown! The Pleasure of Witty Repartee

What is it about witty banter that thrills our souls so? How is it that some stories may be weak on plot, on action, or lack a compelling setting, yet they can still rivet us so long as a silver-tongued duo is at the center of the scene? Of course, it’s so much better if the plot and action and setting are all backed up or enhanced by character interactions. There’s something incredibly pleasing about the lobbing back and forth of subtle insults (or not-so-subtle) or the casual joking of characters as they dash headlong into danger, using humor as their way to avoid directly admitting that they might die at any instant at the hands of whatever monster or fiend they may be facing.

Banter often also can be a way that two characters who, on the surface, appear to have an intense distaste for one another, are still able to convey a grudging fondness or even admiration for one another that they would rather not have others pick up on overtly. Let’s admit that a battle of wits can often be more exciting and entertaining than a clash of swords! So let’s look at several stories where the banter brings a grin to even the grimmest of circumstances.
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Paul S. Kemp is a mild-mannered corporate lawyer by day, out at night fighting for justice and the American way and rolling twelve sided dice in the dungeons of Detroit. He’s the author of three Star Wars tie-in books and twice that many Forgotten Realms books. His latest book, Discourse In Steel, is an original adventure fantasy from Angry Robot Books, starring Nix and Egil. It’s a sequel to his well received The Hammer and The Blade which came out last summer. He also has his latest Forgotten Realms novel The Godborn featuring Erevis Cale coming out in October. He lives up near Detroit with his wife and an expanding group of spawn. And can be found online at Twitter as @PaulSKemp, Facebook and his website paulskemp.com.


SFFWRTCHT: So we’ve talked about Egil and Nix before, but give us a quick rundown please. Who are Egil and Nix?

PAUL S. KEMP: Well, they’re the protagonists in my sword and sorcery novels from Angry Robot. Egil is the hulking, somber, brooding priest, wont to deliver sermons with hammers rather than words. Nix is a sneak thief, fancies himself the brains, quick of word and blade.
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Paul S. Kemp is a fantasy and science fiction writer. Best known for his work in the Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons universe, in 2011, Paul came out with a novel in his own word, The Hammer and the Blade, the first in a series of novels featuring two thieves, Egil and Nix. Paul Weimer sat down to talk to Paul about him and his work.


PW: Who is Paul S. Kemp?

PK: Paul S. Kemp is a wannabe superhero with delusions of grandeur. He also tells stories, drinks whiskey, loves his family, can spill any liquid from any container by mere mental command, and speaks of himself in the third person. ;-)

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MIND MELD: How SFF Influences Your Life

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Books have been one of the greatest influences on my life. I say this not to downplay the lessons and values taught to be my family and friends, but instead to emphasize the importance of reading in my formative years. A lot of what I believe and how I act is driven by the characters I have encountered and the fictional worlds I have explored. Frequently I remind myself that “Fear is the mind-killer,” a message picked up from Frank Herbert’s Dune years ago – a lesson that has carried me through hard times. There are many more personal examples I could state but I’d rather hear from some of the very writers that inspire me.

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: How has SFF influenced your life? Does it make you a better person? What lessons from SFF do you carry with you?

Here’s what they said…

Tobias Buckell
Tobias S. Buckell was born in the Caribbean and lived on a yacht until he moved to the US. He writes science fiction. His latest novel, Arctic Rising, is out from Tor Books. He lives online at www.TobiasBuckell.com.

The greatest impact it had on me was instilling in me a love of science, questing for information, and a deep love of creative and wild imagination. My life-long walk on the path toward passing those gifts on to others now means I make a living continuing to live all that. So I would say it had quite an impact on my life.

As to if it makes me a better person, I would have no idea. I would hope that my family loved and learned from me whether or not I had SF in my life. In fact, I find a sort of cultish devotion to any mantras learned from just SF to be problematic. I flinch from ideological insistence, and just because I adored a book at an impressionable age… well, I’d hate for that define the rest of my life as a thinking creature.

The lessons involve various snippets of things I’ve picked up over a lifetime that I’ve found useful. I’d hate to highlight a particular phrase out of the stew that makes me a human, as I’ve always loved Bruce Lee’s admonition to “Take what is useful, leave what is not, add something uniquely your own.” I didn’t learn that in SF, but it’s how I’ve approached all text.

But I can’t be the only SF fan who has found himself repeating the Bene Gesserit litany against fear after smacking his hand with a hammer… right?

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The 1979 Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide is a milestone in the history of the roleplaying hobby. A quantum leap in terms of scale, scope and information on Dungeons and Dragons from previous offerings and editions, it was an essential volume for any Dungeon Master at the time.  The book is a folio of wonders, and is a delight to flip through, even if I have not run a straight Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game in many years.  For example, the art of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is a real treat, from small illustrations like a farmer running from a giant insectoid Ankheg, to bits of humor (The mickey mouse ear wearing adventurers are hilarious, to some absolutely gorgeous full page illustrations.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide, as you might expect, includes information on an often bewildering array of subjects that I’ve used then, and now. Magic item lists? Check. Strange Artifacts (including how to roll your own)? Yep. Want to create a random dungeon? Rules for that. Random encounter table for a fantasy city? Got those, too. [You, too, can have your player characters run into a Weretiger. 1 percent chance!] How long does it take for an armorer to make plate mail? Yep, a chart for that. [90 days].

There is also some extremely weird information that never entered any game I ran or ever heard of anyone using. Saving Throws for magical and non magical items. Types of Insanity. The Humanoid Racial Preferences Table [Did you know that Trolls and Hobgoblins hate each other and your Evil Overlord should not be keeping them near each other?] The chances of your player’s characters getting a parasitic infection. [base 3 percent chance per month, before modifiers.] And much more.

And then there is the heart of the matter for today’s column, Appendix N.
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In episode 134 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sits down to chat with Paul S. Kemp, author of the forthcoming novel The Hammer and the Blade (Angry Robot – June 26, 2012).

In episode 110 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates (continuing the discussion from Part 1) sit down with a mega panel of authors, editors and artists to discuss Sword and Sorcery for the modern reader.

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MIND MELD: Genre Resolutions for 2012

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

It’s the beginning of 2012, a time for new beginnings, new vistas, and new resolutions to make the next year a good one.  Resolutions can come in many forms.

So I asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What are your resolutions with respect to genre in 2012?

Here is what they said:

Joe Abercrombie
UK fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie is the author of the First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings, as well as the standalone fantasies Best Served Cold and The Heroes.

‘My genre resolutions are the same as every year – read more, write more.

Oh, and spend less time on the internet.

Having a bit of trouble sticking to that last one…’
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