Disclaimer: This is a review, and as such will contain opinions, spoilers and (often) general shit talking. (If you talk about what you don’t like about a work, you learn a lot. When you think through a work with the stakes presented to you by the creator, by the context of the work, you learn a lot. I review things, not because I love to dislike things, but because dislike contains rich and vital information for the process of experiencing something, but I cannot access it without interrogating it.) So, if you don’t want to have this thing spoiled for you, or don’t know how to behave when a person on the internet, that you don’t know, has opinions that don’t line up with yours, this review is not for you. It’s also not for the author/creator of the work. Please and thank you.

Kinch Na Shannack is a (literally) black tongued thief who’s as snarky as he is sentimental.

He owes a small fortune for his education as a thief and his debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveller that crosses his path.

It’s just too bad for him it happens to be Galva, a knight on a quest of her own.

Not only is she a handmaiden of the goddess of death, but she’s also got a corvid – a stag-sized battle raven.

When Kinch’s highway robbery goes horribly wrong, he’s forced to tag along on a secret quest to save a queen that will have him questioning both his ethics and his sanity (not in the least when he adopts a blind cat).

The story feels like Kinch is sitting next to you in a tavern, telling you the story over a pint – that you got for free after slapping his debtor’s tattooed cheek.

You’re utterly fascinated by his tale and don’t even care if he’s making up half of it.

In a world where horses are extinct, there’s a lot of walking. There’s also a sea voyage where the entire ship gets harassed by a grudge-carrying baby Kraken. You also come in contact with witches, goblins, and giants.

The world Buehlman creates is alive and realistically unfair – at times it’s a lot to keep up with but it all ties together very nicely. Kinch lives a life where one stupid mistake can change your fate and you have to be quick and clever to not end up dead.

This is one of those books that absolutely is better experienced as an audiobook.

Buehlman reads it himself and getting to hear him tell the story, does all the voices, really adds a depth to the telling that doesn’t exist when you’re reading it yourself. It’s fun in a sarcastic way, which is something I absolutely love.

The language is a little too clever in places which makes it tiring to get through, but that’s what breaks are for, right?

The pace also drops in a few places a bit, and the ending was kind of like a river letting out into a delta; not particularly noteworthy, but this is only the first in a series, so we’ll see how it continues when the next one comes out.

Did I enjoy it?

Yes, very much so.

It’s not something that I have the background or experience to write and it was incredibly enjoyable to read such a different perspective.

I’m not a horror reader so I’m never going to read Buehlman’s horror books, but I’m very glad to have been able to read his fantasy work.

Rapid-fire round:

  • Did the book meet your expectations? I had no idea what to expect going in, so I was pleasantly surprised.
  • Who was your favourite character in the book and why? The battle crow. That was just so cool.
  • Who was your least favourite character in the book and why? The one who literally crossed the line and died for it.
  • Did you relate to any of the characters? Not really. The Kraken maybe.
  • What themes or messages did you take away from the book? Battle crows are cool.
  • Was there anything in the book that surprised you or that you didn’t expect? The Kraken surprised me, in a good way.
  • What did you think of the ending of the book? It was okay, seems like it’s setting up for a series.
  • What do you think the author’s intention was with the book? What message or theme do you think they were trying to convey? If the goal was to tell an entertaining story, mission very much accomplished.
  • Which part of the book did you find most memorable? The Kraken (clearly) and the narration.
  • Did you find any aspects of the book confusing or unclear? I would have been SO lost had I read it myself rather than listened to the audiobook, I could never have come up with that accent.
  • Were there any moments in the book that made you emotional or had a strong impact on you? Did I mention how the Kraken came out of nowhere? It wasn’t even a big event in the book (comparatively) but it was just so out of the blue I loved it.

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