The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
The Blacktongue Thief is an action-packed, fast-paced fantasy novel by Christopher Buehlman. The story is told by Kinch Na Shannack, a Blacktongue thief from the nation of Galt. He is deeply indebted to the Taker’s Guild, and desperately trying to repay his debts. Thus, he comes across a seemingly easy target on the road, a lone Spanth woman.
His thieving troupe tries to rob her but are easily defeated. But this failed robbery is what triggers Kinch’s adventure with the Spanth, a “birder” named Galva. Galva is a dark and mysterious character throughout. She is incredibly tough and guarded, and she is a keeper of a giant war corvid, hence why she is a birder. Galva is literally on a quest to rescue a princess (or in this case, a queen) and wants Kinch to come with.
The other great characters are an assassin adept, a blind cat named Bully Boy, and a witchlet named Norrigal. Norrigal is a fun character and eventually becomes Kinch’s “moon wife”. But to avoid spoilers I won’t say too much more about her.
Kinch might not be the most likeable character. He is deeply flawed and of course, a criminal. But it is easy to root for his success, especially against the ugliness of his guild. The text is full of slang, but Buehlman does a great job explaining without over-explaining. He really nails the dry humor as well.
The world building is top notch too. There are many nations that worship many different gods, speak different languages, and have fought in several wars. All of this information comes out gradually, no info dumps, and makes sense. It is also a world where nearly all horses are gone, a rare element for a fantasy story.
The Blacktongue Thief also has some nasty enemies in the form of goblins and giants. These are uniquely done and add greatly to the story. Add in shipwrecks, upside down towers, and brutal fight scenes and this is a nearly perfect novel. The twists at the end are wonderful as well!
I highly recommend The Blacktongue Thief as a fast-paced, cleverly written fantasy. Fingers crossed that there will be a sequel soon!