Goblin wars, magic tattoos, assassins, krakens… The Blacktongued Thief is a fantasy adventure that packs a lot in with some interesting world-building and plenty of humour.
Following Kinch Na Shannack, a thief with a literal black tongue, he picks the wrong mark and finds his date entangled with a knight, Galva, on a journey across the world full of people who want him dead, goblins who want to kill everyone, krakens who do as krakens do and a load of magic.
The story is told through Kinch’s eyes in a very distinctive voice that you can’t help but read in a slight accent. Everything that happens is narrated with self-deprecating and dry jokes as he certainly knows his limits in life – everyone he ends up with as a companion is superior to him in everything other than thievery and he acknowledges it. He’s an enjoyable character for someone who is a smartass who gets into trouble at every turn. Some characters like this can be hard to like as there are no real redeeming features about them. Not so with Kinch, as whilst he’s an ass, he’s also got a soft side which is shown a few times. He picks up a blind cat on his travels and enjoys giving the cat behind the ear scratches as he finds the cat enjoys that. He has a love interest that he quickly falls in love with.
Thanks to Kinch and his ability to speak another language, we’re also not left out of some conversations. They’re written in the foreign language and then translated as to what he knows it is, or at least what he thinks it means. There are one or two moments where he has to hope he’s not misunderstanding what’s been said, which adds some nice realism to the story instead of having everyone speaking the same language all the time.
The humour in the book needs a special mention. Sometimes humour in books can feel forced, non-stop and it becomes a bit of a bore. The humour out of Kinch though is something else. It’s dark, sarcastic, he’ll make fun of himself, of other people. It’s not all the time, he’ll do it at times just to get a reaction. It’s all in tone with the book and never feels forced and thankfully is scattered about. I found him endearing, but I can see some people not enjoying him, in which case they won’t enjoy the book as it’s all about him and how he is. You can’t escape it.
Whilst you get a unique point of view on the whole story, it is not without its drawbacks. There are frequent tangents that you always get when someone is telling a story. For the most part it works, and you do actually feel like you're being recited the adventure, but occasionally it does draw you away from the story – a good example is one time Kinch is asked a question and just over a page later he answers the question, leaving me saying "what?" and having to go back to remind myself of the question. Sure, a lot of the tangents help with the world-building, but I can't help but think that a slightly longer book would have meant it could have been done in a way that kept the flow of the book going more often than not.
Thankfully, there's more than enough to enjoy though, and it was really refreshing to have a character show that although he'll murder someone without question because that's the world they live in, he's still quite a likeable person with a lot of redeeming features. You feel bad for him at one point near the end and having read quite a few books like this over the years, that’s quite refreshing. The character building of Kinch throughout makes reading this book worth it by itself.