A Conversation in Blood, released January 24th, 2017, is the third novel in Paul S. Kemp’s Egil and Nix series, that began with 2012’s The Hammer and the Blade. Readers of this site may recognise Kemp from his Star Wars novels which include Crosscurent in the Legends line, and Lords of The Sith in the Canon. He is also a prolific writer in the Forgotten Realms setting, though I confess to not have read any of his work there.
I love these books, they’re pure unadulterated fun, full of constant quips and lots of exciting action. I first read The Hammer and the Blade about 4 years ago and instantly fell in love with both Egil and Nix as characters, and eagerly read A Discourse in Steel when it was released. The release of this novel snuck up on me, it took my brother reminding me of it to realise it had been released, and this novel would surely have made my Most Anticipated Novels of 2017 list had it not passed my attention.
What I Liked
The characterisation of Egil and Nix was spot on as always, and even though we find them in a different emotional place than the earlier books their actions always felt true to character. I’m not sure I’ll ever get tired of hearing Egil complain about Nix’s “Facking Gewgaws” (Confession time: I audiobook these novels, as they’re read by the incomparable Nick Podehl, so my spelling may be off), or of Nix insisting that he was “expelled” from Wizard school without ever expanding upon that statement. Their is something just wonderful about the fact that these two characters manage to joke around even in the most dire of circumstances.
This book also had a fairly interesting plot. I’ll confess I’m a sucker for ancient artifacts and hidden histories, so this book pulled me right in. The prologue of the novel is given the ominous heading Before, which had my interest piqued right away. I like the bigger implications that this story made for the entire world of the books, and one line in particular, muttered by the monstrous afterbirth, in which it matter-of-factly states its name made me do a triple-take. Likewise, the ending of this book was enjoyable, and messed with your mind just enough to leave you unsure how it would end. To say anymore would be to spoil the story, but in terms of pure plot, I think this is the finest form Kemp has been in in this series.
What I Didn't Like
Unfortunately, I also had some issues with this book, and they dampened my enjoyment slightly. Firstly, and this is completely unfair to Kemp as an author, but since reading his earlier Egil and Nix books I’ve discovered and fallen in love with Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles. They also feature a duo of brave rogues, but are significantly longer and more intricately plotted. As a result, my mind was constantly, and unfairly comparing this book to Riyria, and though it compares favourably, it falls just short of the mark of those books.
Secondly, I would have liked the geography of the plot to be more spread out. This entire novel takes place in the city of Dur Follin, which in itself is an interesting and varied setting, but as the earlier novels spread out further geographically I was expecting the same to happen here. When it didn’t I was a little disappointed, but that’s down to my expectations being out of line.
Should I Read it?
If you’re at all a fantasy fan, and you’re looking for a quick, fun, enjoyable read, then you absolutely must read Egil and Nix. I would definitely recommend staring with The Hammer and the Blade, as it is lots of fun, and along with A Discourse in Steel it sets up the characters wonderfully. If you’ve read the previous books, then this one is 100% worth reading. The same colourful characters are present, and the plot in this book is above and beyond the first two.
If you aren’t a fantasy fan, then these novels may serve a good gateway into the genre. They aren’t too heavy and bigger fantasy elements that would leave genre newcomers lost, but they also don’t rely so heavily on the tropes common to the genre that they don’t feel original. If you’ve read and enjoyed Kemp’s Star Wars novels, then I heartily suggest taking a stab at Egil and Nix.
- Plot 70%
- Writing Quality 75%
- Pacing 75%
- Emotional Connection 65%
- Wildcard 70%
- Rereadability 70%
- Overall Rating 72%