The Blacktongue Thief
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.
But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.
Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.
Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva's. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford."
The Blacktongue Thief is a fantasy novel by Christopher Buehlman and is the first installment in the Blacktongue series.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Tor Books for providing me with a review copy. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions.
Looking at other reviews, I found myself wondering if I was reading a different book because it was extremely difficult to immerse myself into the story being presented to me. There was barely anything about this story that tickled my fancy or tantalized me. I was mostly confused by the lack of a cohesive plot and world or mildly disgusted by the language through which the characters speak.
Here are my in-depth thoughts on why this book sucked me in with a gorgeous cover, but ultimately did not take me on the journey I was promised.
If I were to use a word that would best describe the writing used to convey the story, it would be excessive. While I didn't find it particularly hard to make my way through the book, there was a lot of vocabulary that was used far too much for my liking.
The word 'shyte' was overused, and the amount of talk relating to bodily fluids and excrement was far more than I would have liked to see. There was also an intense focus on the human body and its more private parts. Every time a new person is introduced, Kinch had to describe whether or not they are 'fat' (and for the most part they are depicted as such).
As you can see, the language used was very crude and oftentimes immature. There were a few good lines in there but for the most part, it was just full of bad humour.
The story was also told introspectively, which means that the main character was narrating everything himself. It is kind of like how in The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco would pause the story to describe what is going on, only in this case it was way less charming and filled with unnecessary information.
For the majority of the book, I felt like I had lost the plot. I honestly forgot what the plot was several times. Nothing really felt cohesive as the storylines didn't blend together seamlessly. I would finish a chapter and then wonder how Kinch ended up in the situation he was in in the following chapter. I felt like I had either zoned out or accidentally skipped something because of the gaps in the story.
The story did get a bit more interesting in the middle, but then it proceeded to become uninteresting again not long after. It says a lot about a book when it cannot keep my attention. The only thing that I would say that was decently well written were the fight scenes.
Because this story is told through the narration of the main character, there were a lot of unnecessary descriptions in this. For example, the story goes into excruciating detail about a card game that Kinch plays. It felt like an absolute waste of space and story. The sheer number of unnecessary details also disconnected me from the story because it felt more like ramblings than points that were crucial to the plot.
I will say that I spent at least half of this book confused by the number of peoples in this. There was a lot of information that was thrown at you in order to build the world, but at the same time, my brain did not take in any of that information. Everyone just went in one ear and out the other. One thing that peeved me a bit was the fact that Kinch and his people have black tongues, the namesake of the book, but as far as I am aware not once did it mention why.
What I did understand was that this world is highly influenced by a pantheon-like religious system, which I did find was interesting. What disappointed me though, was the fact that we did not learn much about the gods and goddesses. I was tantalized by the idea of there being a Forbidden God, but sadly they were barely mentioned.
As for the magic system, I am also rather confused by it. There seemed to be several different kinds of magic (black, brown, tattoo, plague, etc.) and different kinds of magic users (magi, magicker, witches, etc.) as well. I was hoping that there would be an index in the back that would further explain the system, but there was not, so I felt like I was left in the dark.
Our unfortunate MC, Kinch, whose journey we follow side-by-side with, was probably the least interesting character of the bunch. As I said in the writing section, his characterization was mainly just full of crude and immature jokes. It also took a bit for him to be a useful character, as originally in fight scenes he would just stand back and shoot the occasional arrow. Galva was more interesting than Kinch, but I did have an issue with her characterization. I felt like there a strange amount of emphasis on her chest. Her character, to me, was being downgraded in order to focus on that.
As for a character who drives the main conflict, Sesta, I felt like her involvement was pointless. She would only appear randomly and occasionally so she felt less like a fully fleshed-out character and more like someone just thrown into the mix to mess things up a bit. The addition of Bully the cat also didn't really have much relevance, and this is coming from someone who loves cats no matter what.
Another addition that I thought added nothing to the story was the romance. I thought that there was zero attraction between the characters, especially when they just met each other. If a romance cannot be done well, it is better off not being included in the first place.
Overall, the characters were just not able to hold a story that was already fractured.
With the book having more downs than ups for me, I ultimately think that this didn't offer me anything that was particularly interesting or for me. Do I still think that many people will enjoy this, however, yes?
If you like questing or books with an introspective dialogue, try this out for yourself and see where you stand.