Last Updated on August 7, 2021
Christopher Buehlman’s fantasy debut The Blacktongue Thief is set to become the next big thing, worthy of enough superlatives that I’m not quite sure where to begin.
The titular thief, Kinch Na Shannack, is a prodigy. Though low in rank and experience he is nevertheless a resourceful master of deceptive arts and capable cantrips…if only he could ever repay the guild for having trained him so well. Desperately indebted and with dire consequences awaiting, Kinch is tasked with a seemingly simple quest to keep his head above water: accompany a mysterious knight to her destination on behalf of his guild.
Of course, nothing goes quite as it should and what ensues is an action-packed adventure rife with mind-bending magic, deep world-building, standout characters and sharp, often hilarious, dialogue. Hardly since The Lies of Locke Lamora have I been so impressed with a fantasy debut, and while this work might not quite share the same rarified air as that revered genre titan…damn, is it ever close in so many ways.
The world-building in The Blacktongue Thief is exquisite, with Buehlman delivering such exposition through a sardonically humorous first person narrative, interrupting even action sequences at will to do so, yet somehow managing to enhance the flow of the storytelling rather than detract from it in the process. The prose is marvellously executed and earnest in a way that makes you feel that the author deeply enjoyed creating it. Kinch himself is a fascinating and dynamic character, while the supporting cast manage to prove themselves commensurately compelling, affecting a genuine connection from the reader to the measure of the stakes.
I could go on. Did I mention the pacing? Yeah, that was great too.
Usually in these reviews I reserve a section – no matter how much I enjoyed the book–to air grievances with one aspect or another of the novel. In this case, I’ve truly an empty ledger to balance and while perhaps thematically this one could have gone a little deeper, I do believe that speaks only to the future potential teased by the author of this utterly fantastic work.
The Blacktongue Thief is, to me, a bonafide instant classic and I sure as hell can’t wait to see what Buehlman comes up with next.