I should start this review by pointing out that there are few things I love more than a good fantasy novel. Something with well-developed characters, interesting and original ideas and an exciting plot. Unfortunately, The Hammer and the Blade, managed none of these with much success.
The story follows Nix, a rogue, and Egil, a priest, as they adventure through tombs and wastelands under the thrall of an evil sorcerer who is using them to help him free a demon to rape his sisters. It reads a bit like Kemp has novelised a game of Dungeons and Dragons, a game that would probably have been lots of fun to play, but isn't so much fun to read.
The writing isn't great, it is full of cliches, the dialogue is terrible and the characters are flat. The author attempts to inject the characters with some sort of history - Nix the street rat who was expelled from the magic school and Egil the mysterious priest with an unexplained personal tragedy in his past - but it doesn't help. The ending, which could be seen from a mile off, was laughably bad.
As a woman, I found it hysterically funny when, near the end, Nix comes to his big realisation that women are people and not things to be used, which was, I believe, intended to be serious. It is especially amusing when you consider that the two main female characters spend almost the entire novel unconscious and in "animal terror". Although one of them has a partial role in their eventual rescue, they exist only as objects to be saved - they have no personality and little dialogue aside from screaming for help.
Positive points about the book - firstly, I did manage to finish it, although I skimmed through the lengthy final battle. Secondly, there were a couple of vaguely interesting ideas in there. The world in which it was set was interesting, if not overwhelmingly original, and comparatively well sketched out. Also I found the idea of the "momentary god" that Egil worships intriguing.
Overall, this is a poor example of a fantasy adventure novel with little in the way to recommend it. Try David Eddings, Patricia C. Wrede or George R.R. Martin instead.
Book: The Hammer and the Blade
Author: Paul S. Kemp
Publisher: Angry Robot