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Egil and Nix #2

A Discourse in Steel

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Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them! 

But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.

And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head…

A hugely-enjoyable stand-alone adventure in classic sword and sorcery mode, from the New York Times bestselling author of "Star Wars: Deceived" and "The Hammer and the Blade".

File Under: Fantasy [ Incriminating | Mind Matters | One Last Time | The Steal Remains ]

350 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 2015

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About the author

Paul S. Kemp

54 books863 followers
Bestselling speculative fiction author, creator of Egil and Nix, Erevis Cale, drinker of scotch, smoker of cigars, amiable dude. :-)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 112 reviews
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews475 followers
September 18, 2013
When I read The Hammer and the Blade, the first Egil and Nix book, I had a good time with this buddy-sword-and-sorcery (is that redundant?). The characters were entertaining if a bit melodramatic, the action spot-on, and the writing professionally done.

A Discourse in Steel exceeds The Hammer and the Blade on just about every level (probably even the melodrama). I thoroughly enjoyed Discourse and a lot of that could be because I've gotten to know the characters that much more.

First, you have to know that A Discourse in Steel is more a second Egil and Nix book than a sequel. Yes, it follows the The Hammer and the Blade in both publication and timeline, but the events in Discourse are self-contained just like those in Hammer. In fact, you don't need to know anything to jump into this book.

Egil and Nix are just a great pair. I enjoyed them in the first book, but found their relationship and the events a bit cliche at times. Here, I'm convinced they're cliche and melodramatic, but it's such a good combination with tons of heart that you can't help but be won over. I mean, look at this exchange:
"Graduates of the conclave are bungholes," Nix said absently, and rifled his satchel. He quickly found the tallow sticks and the scribing wand and pulled them out. He also anticipated Egil's jest and cut it off. "I didn't graduate priest, as you know."

"Possibly still a bunghole though."

"Conceded." Nix said, with a tilt of his head.

I had to pull over and write that one down. This also means any mistakes are mine although I'm sure I got all the words right.

In Discourse, Egil and Nix are up against an entire guild ... and the guild is the one that should be worried. In the first book, they were so powerless, it was a bit frustrating even though it worked for an interesting plot. This one really got me for this reason right here. Their attitude was awesome, I'd recommend not messing with them when they're even remotely serious. :)

And since I "read" the audio version, I have to comment on Nick Podehl. This was my first read by him and this guy seemed made for the duo that is Egil and Nix. He was hilariously sarcastic and blended the melodrama well too. It's actually quite interesting because Nick is reading my current book which is very serious. At first, it didn't work because I was used to the fun and sarcasm, but now I can't even believe they're the same person. Nick is an excellent narrator, I'll be happy seeing his name on audiobooks in the future.

Speaking of that, I'm looking forward to reading more of Kemp's work in the future too. I can't believe he balances four kids, a corporate attorney position, and writing. Plus, he finds time to discuss on reddit.com/r/fantasy and other places where fans congregate.

A Discourse in Steel is exactly what it claims to be. It's tons of fun with plenty of action and while it doesn't take itself too seriously, it knows when to be serious. Kemp stepped up his game and I'm looking forward to more adventuring with Egil and Nix.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
Profile Image for The Shayne-Train.
359 reviews82 followers
February 22, 2017
Another rollicking swords-and-sorcery bromance story filled with thrills, chills, and bad guys with GILLS! (You'll see.)

I am falling in love. Not with Nix or Egil so much as the friendship between them. Here, they take on the entire fucking Thieves' Guild, the magical soul-sucking entity known as Blackalley, and some crazy-ass monsters that show up later. (I won't spoil that stuff.)

These stories do to straight-up S&S stories what GRRMartin and Joe Abercrombie do to "high fantasy." Namely, they give it a hard R-rating. Swears and gore, sure. But more "grown-up" are the hard choices and the lack of "tied up with a ribbon" resolutions to problems.

Moving right on to the third (and, at current, the last) book in the series! Onward, you fakkers!
Profile Image for Ranting Dragon.
404 reviews228 followers
August 3, 2013
http://www.rantingdragon.com/review-o...

A Discourse in Steel is the second book in Paul S. Kemp’s new sword and sorcery series, Tales of Egil and Nix. In this book, our intrepid heroes try once again to retire, and fail once again to avoid falling headlong into crazy adventures and deadly peril.

Building on previous successes
Second books are always tough. There’s a bit of a push to try and do new things, to stretch boundaries and grow your characters or your setting or your world. There’s also a bit of a pull the opposite way, to stick with what works and play it safe. It’s considered rare enough for a second book/movie/album to be better than the first that it’s a very common topic of discussion in forum communities or conversations with friends and fellow nerds.

In A Discourse in Steel, Kemp finds a very strong balance between those two directions. It is similar enough to the first book, The Hammer and the Blade, that you feel like you’re just picking up and carrying on right where you left off. At the same time, it does expand our knowledge of the characters and their setting enough to not seem repetitious. Given that the events of this new book take place only a few months after the earlier volume, it really does feel like a next installment of what we should almost consider one big long story, and the growth of the world around them is keeping that same pace.

I drew attention in my review for The Hammer and the Blade to the distinction between this being the tale of Egil and Nix or, as it says on the cover of both books, a tale of Egil and Nix. The tone and style of the stories feel like we’re sitting around the tavern, legs propped up on the table with a flagon, while Egil and Nix recount the story for us.

What the fak is this?
One thing that did sort of bug me in this book was the presence of the word “fak” and all of the usual extensions of the word. Long time readers of my work (so basically, my family and the other staff of the website *grin*) might remember that I wrote a piece way back when about things that bugged me about fantasy novels. One of my entries was the use of alternate spellings for words we all already know and have in our lexicon. I feel like either you can create a new language for your world or you should just use ours. I feel we gain nothing from putting milk from our kau into our kava. If it looks like a cow, and it functions like a cow, just call it a cow. It isn’t going to kill our immersion. I promise.

I feel the same way about cursing. I can’t help but feel when I see people saying darn instead of damn, or shoot, frick, or dang that they’re actually being a little insulting. I know what you’re thinking, I know what you mean, and you aren’t fooling anybody by manually replacing the word with a tamer one. It’s okay; books don’t have ratings from the ESRB, and nobody reading it is going to see “fak” and not know what you mean. Just say “fuck.” Please.

Hooray for quibbles
Honestly, when the substitute of a swear word for a more mild alternative is the only thing I have to complain about, you know this is an excellent book. Egil and Nix are great characters, and Kemp writes them exceptionally well. I really feel like we’re witnessing the reinvention of sword and sorcery. The genre is coming back, and coming back strong.

This is the sea change that was needed to bring back this style of high-action, fast-paced, character-driven story: an ability to still include deeper, more engaging characters that aren’t just machines of death. That’s entertaining for 14-year-olds, but it quickly grows stale as one’s tastes mature. When a character’s primary conflict is, “Shall I kill fifty enemies today without getting a scratch on me, or go for the full seventy-five?” I just lose interest.

Egil and Nix survive these adventures through equal parts experience, cunning, and blind luck. They get beaten, they get knocked out, they actually risk death every time they go into action, and it is so much more engaging because of it. Because they are allowed to grow and develop, have flaws, suffer for their flaws, have virtues, and suffer for those too, they just feel so much more complete. I don’t think we needed Drizzt 2.0, and it’s great to see we didn’t get it.

Why should you read this book?
As always with sequels, you should read this book because you read and enjoyed the first book. The reason you should read both is exactly as I’ve detailed above. These are great action-packed adventure stories without all the horrible, flawless Mary Sue characters staying perfect and unchanged through “character development” that almost never challenges the character or the reader. Kemp excels at making the characters feel genuine. You identify with them. I want to buy Nix a drink. Probably scotch.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,582 reviews395 followers
August 19, 2013
3.5 stars Originally posted at FanLit: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...

A Discourse in Steel is the second novel in Paul S. Kemp’s EGIL AND NIX series about a couple of “retired” graverobbers who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I thought the first book, The Hammer and the Blade, was a fun story that didn’t quite meet the standards of Fritz Leiber’s LANKHMAR series which is an obvious influence. I was happy to give Egil and Nix another chance to charm me, though.

This time the guys investigate Black Alley, a dark extra-dimensional space that shows up somewhere around their town every evening. Then they take on the Thieves’ Guild who is planning to kill one of the women that Egil and Nix saved in the previous book. These adventures take them to strange places where they meet strange people and other creatures. For most of the time they are in imminent danger of being brutally killed and they must use all their brains and brawn to stay alive and to protect the people they love. Along the way they do a little philosophizing — talking about the meaning of life, their regrets, the pathetic legacy they’re leaving behind, the importance of our memories and past deeds to who we are, and even the provocative idea that the bad things we’ve done could make us a better person.

Readers who loved The Hammer and the Blade (which seems to be the majority based on reviews I’ve seen elsewhere) will probably love A Discourse in Steel, too. It’s just as good as its predecessor. The action is non-stop, the characters are likable (though Egil and Nix make a couple of really dumb decisions), the dialogue is somewhat amusing, and the plot is tight and unpredictable.

I can’t stop myself from comparing Egil and Nix to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, however, because the influence is so obvious (in fact, I think one of Leiber’s stories involved Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser busting into the Theives’ Guild and, instead of “Black Alley,” Leiber has a “Death Alley”). Like Leiber, Kemp does a great job with his characters — roguish thieves who are a little more intelligent and educated than you’d expect and who tend to wax philosophical while drinking.

What’s missing here, though, is the clever and almost poetic prose and dialogue that Leiber’s so brilliant with; Leiber’s style is a large part of why I love Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. Kemp’s style is appealing enough, but it just can’t compare to Leiber. Compare the texts side by side and you’ll see what I mean. Leiber’s words, not just his plot, can give you chills. If you’re just in it for the action, Kemp’s story will do nicely. If you’re looking for a full Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser experience, Egil and Nix don’t quite measure up. On the other hand, Kemp’s stories have a feminist sensibility that Leiber’s lacks. I’m often annoyed with Leiber’s portrayal of his female characters, so I definitely appreciate Kemp’s more modern spin.
In the end, I guess I’d say that the EGIL AND NIX stories lack both what I love about Leiber’s stories and what I hate, which makes them an average read. Many readers will find this to be an unfair criticism, and I realize that may be true, but I am hoping that my comparison will help potential readers know what to expect. I did enjoy A Discourse in Steel and I recommend this series to sword & sorcery fans looking for something new. Egil and Nix aren’t the next Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but they are still entertaining.
I’ll continue to read this series in audiobook format. Nick Podehl is the narrator. I had to speed him up a bit because his cadence sometimes trudges along, and I think his voice for Nix is a little high-pitched, but generally I liked him.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,782 followers
July 19, 2013
Where do I go here? I'm very close to rating this a 5 but there are a couple of cliche's that just bug me a bit. For example, without a spoilerish reveal I'll say that the end is one I suspect you'll see coming from the opening lines of the novel.

Still, the book is very enjoyable, it's got nice (if somewhat predictable) tie-in hook. There's a lot of magic, a lot of action and a good solid "here's why" concerning it all.

I read the first book and I mentioned in that review that the similarities between these protagonists and Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser jump out at me. Frankly I enjoy "these" a bit more than "those". Somehow I could never get interested in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for very long.

So, good book. This is a "crude world" and saying that I don't mean it's written crudely. I mean it's a crude world. It's dirty, gritty, violent, often disgusting and very hard on it's inhabitants. Kemp's characters use profanity as everyday language (though the pronunciations are not the same as "our world's common parlance). "Manure", mud, dirt and blood are everywhere. People vomit in the streets as well as leaving bodies spread about.

Starting out undertaking to go to "a place" from which no one has ever exited the book leaves the starting gate at a run. Also our two protagonists are getting a sort of "underground reputation (a la Michael J. Sullivan's "Riyria") and I think we can look forward to more adventure "from" and "with" them. Personally I'll look forward to it. I've had the luck to run on a few good "epic" fantasies lately. While this is less "epic" than the others (as it's more [so far] a series of seemingly unrelated adventures by the same two "adventurers") I can include this one. I like it. If I can work out time for "rereads" these might be books I'd pick back up.

I can and do recommend this and the first volume of our heroes' adventures. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Joseph.
671 reviews84 followers
July 30, 2013
So our heroes Egil (ex(?)-priest) and Nix (thief par excellance) are now owners of a tavern. Well, a combination tavern and establishment for, how did Terry Pratchett phrase it, ladies [and gentlemen] of easily-negotiable virtue.

And everything goes just fine for them and they encounter no difficulties whatsoever, right? Right?

Well, not exactly -- there's contretemps with the local thieves' guild, a magical alley that appears when you least want it, and a voyage to a ruin-filled swamp, amongst other things. Plus the expected banter between the heroes and diabolical plotting by the villains.

Highly recommended to those who'd like to see a slightly more contemporary take on old-school sword & sorcery.
Profile Image for Lillith.
18 reviews4 followers
July 4, 2013
A Discourse in Steel is an absolute delight. There is inventive magic with a touch of the dark and dreadful; there is fantastic action that boils over rooftops, creeps under the streets, and even plunges underwater for a time; there are thieves and thugs and priests and assassins. And there are Egil and Nix.

There is also a magic key and lots of produce.

And lots of laughs, too. This one is going right to the beloved books shelf.
Profile Image for Larry.
Author 20 books16 followers
December 21, 2013
From 42Webs.com

Ever since I hooked up with the people at Angry Robot Books I have been living the golden life. For those you don’t know the golden life for me is getting eARC of books. My golden life is not very golden by other people standards.

Today I’m reviewing A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp the sequel to The Hammer and the Blade and reunites with our heroes Egil and Nix.
A Discourse in Steel (Egil and Nix #2)

This book takes our heroes and throws them head first into a series of misadventures that stack up against each other and send them into the pits of desperation.

We are reunited with our heroes and see that they are still living in the Slick Tunnel but are doing so with their new additions to their surrogate family, Rose and Mere – the damsels in not-so distress from the first book.

They still are adventures and all around do-gooders but when religious zealot thieves-church kills their senior member as Rose give him a psychic reading she get bombarded with his memories and all of the churches secrets. Now fearing their clandestine operations have been revealed they attempt to plug the leak by attacking Rose, her sisters, and her surrogate family.

This book is a brilliant adventure, with sword and sorcery, adventure and supernatural horrors that only exist in Paul S. Kemp personal world. But the true strength of the story is once again Egil and Nix and their relationships. The way these talk to each other is amazing. They talk to each other like the heroes in a buddy cop film do after three sequels. They talk like long-time spies do, dropping references to events we’ll never know about. They talk like George Clooney and Brad Pitt do in the Ocean’s series – forever friends. A partnership like this, a bromance if you would, is a rare one in writing. We often don’t see this type of character bonding in sci-fi or fantasy. But the relationship aside, which we saw in book one, the true strength of this book comes from seeing how our heroes, Egil and Nix, react when threatened and the lengths, sometimes brutal, they’ll go to protect the ones the love.

A Discord in Steel is paced differently from the first book. HatB was paced like a Bond film. We had a cold opening, jumping into the middle of a scene before the credits, that seemed to have nothing to do with anything but as the opening song passes and the plot begins we learn that the opening was important and it starts a in-depth adventure with twists and turns that ends in a final climatic scene, wrapping everything up.

ADiS is paced more like a TV series. We have small adventures, like BlackAlley and the attack on the thieves guild, that happen and wrap up but effect the building story on a whole. It’s like how the first couple episode often have nothing to do with the season finale but served as a building point.

The change of pacing fits the story told in this book. Putting the boys on the same type of adventure but in a bond movie pacing would have felt clunky and slow.

All in all a great book and a brilliant read.
Profile Image for Peter.
4 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2013
Dark and damaged heroes have never been so much fun. Author Paul S. Kemp appears to be an author at the heights of his powers in his second novel following the adventures of Egil and Nix. A follow up to 2012's The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel is a very different story with different villains and different themes but the same fun.

Egil and Nix aren't looking for a fight, but they are still more than able to bring the violence when it is called for. As a reader you may question their morals based on their owning a bar and brothel, but it's clear that these men have a code. Protect your own, protect the weak and respect a person's choices. While Nix does most of the talking and we see most of the novel through his point of view, Egil really stars. The pain, strength and purpose of Egil drive the novel and we get some great character development that reveals what makes Egil tick and a hint of what he may want for the future.

The antagonists in this novel, the Thieves Guild while evil are a more human evil than we saw in The Hammer and the Blade, this group presents us with the ugly mishmash of organized crime and religious zealotry. While the Guild provides a multitude of opponents for Egil and Nix, there is a strength in the bond between the two that is much more valuable than a large group of thieves all looking for ways to stab each other in the back. The conflicts within the Guild provide an interesting side story that drives the plot and shapes the fates of characters in some interesting ways.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel is that both the heroes and the villains of the novel make the same mistake, they bite of more than they can chew. No matter how much hot water Egil and Nix seem to get themselves into, they always seem to find a way out some times by use of gewgaws and sometimes by blind luck. Through it all, Kemp delivers dialogue exchanges between the two that runs the spectrum of humorous to touching. Kemp has the voices of these two characters down and there may be no better example than the third page of chapter seven, (page 148 in the advance review copy) which is possibly my favorite page of fiction in a long while. Of course as the pair display, sometimes it is best to let your steel do the talking.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about this novel is the continued world building that takes place in Kemp's own fantasy universe. The mixture of gods, monsters, magic and men provides for familiar character types and settings but with the Kemp's unique brand of violence, salty language and colorful adjectives.

As a reader I do have some issues with the ending of the novel, though I can certainly understand why Kemp chose the direction he did. But this is only a minor quibble that doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel.

After reading A Discourse in Steel, I only have one question...when does the next tale of Egil and Nix come out? I suggest you grab a good ale and sit down with this book, I don't think you will regret it.
Profile Image for Matthew Gill.
Author 5 books
July 31, 2013
It isn't very often in my experience that as a reader you can pick up a book out of a series and not have the usual starting disconnect. That inevitable period where you often find yourself getting into the flow of things, catching up on missed time etc. Most of the time there is a subtle feeling that prevails to make everything feel different. You might over the course of a few chapters acclimate to the new series of events but generally speaking at the beginning that feeling is typically there.

As a writer myself I can easily attest that it is no easy task to circumvent that aspect of writing anything in a series. It is a nagging side-effect of the process it seems. But just as I did when I picked up The Hammer and the Blade I found myself gripped by the unfolding tale. This is an undeniable testament to Paul S. Kemp's incredible mastery, I have to say. The fact that unquestionably time has passed by from the events of the first novel and yet as I open it's successor I immediately find myself in the comfortable familiar presence of fictional friends. It is akin to meeting with an old dear friend and finding that it is as if nothing has changed between you, everything feels just as it did when last you met.

The whole thing is wonderfully impressive on one hand, and delightfully rewarding on the other. Yes, I will confess you cannot escape the knee jerk reaction of asking yourself: "What have they gotten themselves into this time?" But even as you find yourself following along to find out and be filled in on matters you also soon become distracted by the growing plot that no doubt will ensnare our beloved and boisterous heroes.



The dialog as can be expected is dripping with wit and flavor as our pair of protagonists quip back and forth. The story builds in the expected way Mr. Kemp has proven himself able to skillfully shackle you to his book. Every element of the sequel is, I must admit nothing less than the original in my opinion.

I do have to reluctantly confess that I myself have yet to finish the novel. Typically I try to reserve any comment until I complete a book, but with this work(just as I found myself compelled by it's predecessor) I cannot resist praising it. I have absolute faith in the remaining fun awaiting me in the novel to be able to say that you have to do yourself the massive service of grabbing a copy immediately. And if you have yet to read it's fore-runner, I recommend highly that you acquire both and buckle up for a pleasantly enjoyable ride of pure fun fantasy.

Recently I had found the majority of my time and focus directed on my own writing, that is until I opened A Discourse In Steel for a quick peek. Now I find myself regretting the time I cannot spare to rush through it's pages.
28 reviews
April 4, 2015
One of the most entertaining and impossible to put down books I've read in a while. A Discourse in Steel is the second tale of Egil & Nix. The tale features Kemp's usual darker themes combined with the great banter and feel of genuine friendship between Egil & Nix.

The story involves Egil & Nix doing what they do best, getting into and out of places no-one else can. It starts with a simple (or not so simple) job they agree to do to find a person lost in a legendary dark place. Then circumstances bring danger to Meralda and Russila, the sisters rescued in The Hammer and the Blade, and bring the sisters, the employees and patrons of the the Slick Tunnel, and Egil & Nix into conflict on Dur Follin's thieves guild. This, along with the danger facing Russila, lead to a revenge attack, and a search into the swamps of the Deadmire, and looking for help from yet another legend the duo uncover.

If you like sword and sorcery fantasy, adventure, tales of great friendship, and just enjoyable reading, this is where to go.
Profile Image for Joe Jones.
563 reviews32 followers
June 11, 2013
All you need to know is that Egil and Nix are back! Fans of old school sword & sorcery will love this book which is the sequel to Hammer and the Blade. It immediately brought me back to when I was a teenager and first discovered Conan the Barbarian and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Pure entertainment and I mean that in the best way possible.

While it is not necessary to have read the first book, with characters this fun why wouldn't you? I can only hope this is not the last we will see of these two.
Profile Image for Stefan.
220 reviews15 followers
May 15, 2013
I received an eARC from Angry Robot and a full review will be up soon, but in the mean time, this book was a hell of a lot of fun. If you liked the first one, The Hammer and the Blade, then you will love this one, because in my opinion it was even better. Here is to more Egil and Nix!
Profile Image for David.
2,539 reviews77 followers
September 28, 2015
Pretty goddamn close to a perfect Sword and Sorcery novel. Why is it so hard to find such a fine treasure as this? I could read books like this non-stop! If only I could find them! I'm just going to have to wait until the next pair of Egil and Nix novels gets published from Del Rey in 2016. There is a short story in the BLACKGUARDS anthology which I'm hitting up next. Kemp is a very fine writer. Great pacing. Great characters. Humor. Action. Magic. Loved this book!
Profile Image for Scott.
385 reviews22 followers
July 23, 2017
Another solid Nix and Egil book. I think I liked the story of this one better than the first, but the relationship between these two rogues is really what makes me enjoy these books. Some great banter, loyalty, and ass kicking is on display here and I loved pretty much every minute of it.
Profile Image for Milo.
753 reviews80 followers
July 14, 2013
The Review: http://thefoundingfields.com/2013/07/... (with Links to a 2012 Paul S. Kemp Interview)

“Paul S. Kemp provides an entertaining and enjoyable ride through the lives of Egil & Nix. Another strong contender for the most fun book of the year, people who loved their first outing won’t be able to put this one down.” ~The Founding Fields


I’ve had A Discourse in Steel sitting on my Kindle Fire for a while now after receiving an eARC, and for some reason, I never really got around to reading it until recently, despite the fact that I enjoyed the first book a lot. However, rest assured - A Discourse in Steel is as equally as enjoyable as The Hammer and the Blade, providing a fun romp that’s written with the confidence of a veteran author, and indeed – Paul S. Kemp is no stranger to fiction – his previous works include a Star Wars novel (Decieved, which I really enjoyed), a Black Library short story in Time of Legends, and has even been interviewed on The Founding Fields. So, if fun, action-packed page-turning adventures in a fantasy setting is your thing, then you should really enjoy this sequel.

"Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them!

But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.

And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head…
"

The plot of A Discourse in Steel isn’t complicated, and it’s pretty easy to follow, allowing Kemp to avoid being bogged down by attention to detail, and info-dumping, thus creating a fun sequel that doesn’t fall into the trap of spending more time exploring the world than actually bothering with a plot. It’s some of the best written fast-paced fantasy that I’ve seen, and if you’re looking to be drawn in and finding yourself unable to put the book down, then A Discourse in Steel and its predecessor will be the perfect books for you. Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t stop – and for the first time in a while, I was actually looking forward to bus journeys (where I read most of my eBooks) to finish this, and as a result, came very close to missing my stop more than once.

A Discourse in SteelEgil and Nix are as charming and as likeable as ever, and they’re really rootable protagonists. Nix himself has dropped out of a mage school, and Egil is a high priest, allowing for a fun duo that exchange a lot of witty banter over the course of the novel. This is easily one of the more entertaining books that I’ve read recently, and proves that you don’t have to write grimdark fantasy in order to tell an entertaining novel. Whilst this may be the second book in the series, if the author gets to tell more – it’s clearly not going to be the last, and I’ll be eagerly looking forward to more tales of Egil and Nix, and the world-building that is thrown at us in future books (whilst I mentioned earlier that it doesn’t overshadow the story, Kemp does manage to craft a very interesting world for the characters to inhabit).

The dialogue between the characters is clever and fun, and one of the highlights of the book. Kemp knows how to write humour and writes it well, and the style that fans loved in Hammer and the Blade will find that it hasn’t changed at all here, with a compelling plot that allows for a great variety of action sequences, escapades and adventures from Egil and Nix. Every situation they find themselves in they always seem to be capable of finding a way out – and as a result, A Discourse in Steel allows for a really entertaining read.

If you want a return to the lighter side of fantasy and are tired of all the grimdark novels that are hitting shelves recently (sure, some of them are good – but it’s nice to have a break once in a while), Paul S. Kemp’s Egil and Nix series will be perfect for you. Fun, witty, clever and enthralling – this is one series that you’ll love once you give it a chance. Kemp is easily the writer to look out for on the sword and sorcery scene at the moment.

VERDICT: 4/5

EGIL & NIX SERIES: The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel
Profile Image for Nerine Dorman.
Author 62 books207 followers
August 19, 2013
Talk about non-stop action. This has all the elements that made me love Indiana Jones so madly. Straight-up ass-kicking and snappy dialogue. With added ancient mysteries to uncover.

FULL REVIEW (appeared in Pretoria News, August 19, 2013)

While this is book number two in what seems like is going to be a series, and it took me a few pages to get the pair of tomb-robbing protagonists straight in my head, it didn’t take me long to become fully invested in Egil and Nix’s doings.

Egil’s a big bloke and a priest of a dead god (complete with an eye tattooed on his shaved head) who’s handy with his hammers; Nix is the nimble, crafty little blighter armed with a falchion and a bag filled with magical “gewgaws” that help when he’s in a tight spot. They’re inseparable and nigh unstoppable, it seems, and always willing to help a damsel in distress.

An initial brush with the sinister Blackalley – which at first seems like some sort of alternative dimension that exists within the darkest part of the city’s slums – turns out to be a dubious blessing later when Egil and Nix find themselves coming up against the somewhat sinister Thieves Guild. And their sojourn through Blackalley does result in some unexpected consequences later on in the story.

A Discourse in Steel is exactly what it says: a straight-up adventure filled with snappy dialogue, a spot of tomb-raiding, breaking and entering, and general asskickery. The magical key that opened any lock once it had a taste of a particular fruit or veggie was just one of the quirky touches strewn throughout the tale.

Paul S Kemp keeps up a relentless pace without flagging, and the characters are certainly kept on their toes throughout. The milieu they inhabit is built on the crumbling remains of an ancient culture, and Kemp deftly paints in snatches of ancient mystery and history in broad strokes that serve to tantalise.

Readers come in at the tail-end of an epic saga, and can only wonder at the cataclysmic events that shaped the Egil and Nix’s world. There are no gallant knights in this novel, the monsters are far more terrible than mere dragons, and the damsels themselves aren’t as helpless as they might appear.

Kemp delivers a solid, satisfying fantasy adventure populated with memorable characters and a setting so real you can smell the stink of the city streets.
Profile Image for Eoghann Irving.
Author 1 book16 followers
June 11, 2013
_A Discourse In Steel_ is the second Egil and Nix book, but clearly not the last if the author has his way. However, the book easily stands on its own and any information you need is given to you without the need for a giant infodump at the beginning.

Paul S. Kemp is writing in the shadow of giants. Egil and Nix while distinct characters in their own right will inevitably be compared to Fafhrd and Grey Mouser. You've got one big tough guy and one smaller sneaky guy.

But more importantly Kemp gives us a great fast paced romp packed with action and with enough character and world building to satisfy without slowing anything down.

It's a cliche but page turner is definitely an accurate description for this book. I have limited reading time but gulped this book down in big chunks 20%+ at a time.

While most of the book is set in the city with an emphasis on the seedier side, we get glimpses of a much larger and more fantastical world later on. What starts out as a simple disagreement amongst thieves turns into something bigger and considerably more dangerous.

The setting and the style then is pure _Sword and Sorcery_ and all the better for it. There's no epic quest to save the world here. Rather it's about a tight knit group of people protecting their own... and sometimes stumbling into a dangerous mess.

Great fun. You should read it.
88 reviews31 followers
June 17, 2013
Egil and Nix are back in a new exciting adventure. The two have done their best to stay out of the whole hero thing but are once again forced back in. Their friends Rose and Mere are in trouble. While reading a man's mind, the man is killed causing the man's mind to merge with Rose's. If that's not trouble enough the man is the eighth blade (the ruler) of the Thieves Guild. So when Rose starts unconsciously spouting of trade secrets the guild decide to take her out of the picture. Now Egil and Nix not only have to find a way to heal the comatose Rose before her mind is permanently damaged, but also deal with the very angry Thieves Guild. What follows is an action packed adventure story.

I liked how fast moving this book really was and I read it very quickly. Though it is a sequel few things are referenced from the first and I think you could pick this one up with no trouble. In my opinion this is more adventure than fantasy so don't expect an epic. I would recommend to whomever is looking for a quick action filled adventure.
Profile Image for Charley Robson.
Author 2 books16 followers
September 24, 2017
Thieves! Witches! Death magic! Things-That-Are-Worse-Than-Death Magic! Talking Keys! Zombies! Pomegranates! Aaaaaaah!

In an unexpected reversal of fate, I find a sequel that betters the original book substantially... and still manages to garner itself the same overall rating.

First of all - all the things I liked, fundamentally, about the first book are here, and they're bigger and better. Nix and Egil are still engaging, daring and more than slightly ridiculous, but their banter and history feel more sincere. The secondary characters surrounding them are fewer, but they also have more depth, including a welcome pair of returns from Rusilla and Merelda. The plot, too, is similarly pacy and action-oriented, but this time with a much stronger focus and coherence overall, meaning the stakes feel might higher. There are still a couple of alternate perspectives, but these ones work more as parallels than as counterparts to Nix's dominant voice, and as such the reader is treated to all the fun behind-the-scenes antagonistic fun without spoiling any of the story's plot points.

Moreover, we finally get some of the worldbuilding and character depth that was missing from The Hammer and The Blade. Perhaps because more of this book takes place in Dur Follin, we get to explore the internal workings, the politics, and the locations, and finally get some follow-up to Mr Kemp's demonstrable creativity. And what opens up is a gloriously enigmatic world history that I absolutely loved revelling in every chance I got. There were even a couple of reveals that made me gasp - and one or two moments in particular that nearly made me teary-eyed.

So why, if this book is just like the first one but better, doesn't it get a full five stars?

We may all recall - or we may not, if you can't be arsed to get to the end of my long and rambling reviews - that The Hammer and The Blade had a surprisingly sensitive and even-handed approach to entrenched sexism at the core of its story. Sadly, while it has a better plot, characters, and worldbuilding angle, A Discourse In Steel has ... rather dropped it. Rusilla and Merelda are more active characters this time (well, Merelda is, it seems we can't have one book without a helpless woman for the plot to centre on), but there's more paternalistic overtone to proceedings. Understandable, given the characters' histories, but it feels a little disappointing to have swapped one kind of sexism for another. A better and more characteristically consistent kind, perhaps, but still sexism, and still one that goes largely unresolved. Some short dialogues about the validity of choice in the third act rekindle some of the original philosophical magic, but they lack the follow-up.

Still, we get a gorgeous portrayal of and rumination on eldritch horrors, regret and memory loss as compensation, so things aren't all bad.

While technically better than the original, A Discourse in Steel loses a little of the standout political heart of its forebear, but makes up for it with a much stronger story, world and character focus. On to Book 2.5! And no doubt to even more beyond.
Profile Image for Larry.
30 reviews
July 4, 2013
Originally posted on www.thefoundingfields.com

Larry reviews the dark and gritty sequel to The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel, book 2 of the 'A Tale of Egil and Nix' series by Paul S. Kemp published by Angry Robot Books available June 25th.

Egil and Nix back once again kicking serious ass in this sequel ~The Founding Fields

WARNING: This is the second or greater book in an ongoing series, spoilers to previous books maybe contained within.

New York Times best selling author, Paul S. Kemp, brings us another tale about Nix and Egil in the story 'A Discourse in Steel'. In book two of the series 'A Tale of Egil and Nix' we find the team of Nix, a mage school drop out rogue, and Egil the High Priest of the momentary god who loves to deal divine retribution with his paired hammers trying to lead a somewhat normal life. Well as normal a life that can be had when you are owners of a popular whore house or going on adventures in cursed Blackalleys, high adventure for some, something to just pass the time for these two. The legit life seems to suit them well, at least no demon has tried to eat their soul's this time around. Everything runs pretty normal until one of the "seeing sisters" is in the mind of someone as they are murdered, it just so happens the person is the eighth blade, the leader, of a notoriously nasty guild and most of their secrets are now stuck in her head. That causes problems and could lead to her to her death unless someone does something quickly. Who you gonna call? You guessed it.

Nothing thrills a book reviewer more then a book that you have been looking forward to finally comes out, especially when that book is part of a series you really enjoy. Needless to say I was ready for this book as soon as I finished the last page on the first book! Better then that is when that sequel meets and blows your expectations away like this one did for me. Paul S. Kemp is an author I have read a lot of and have enjoyed in the past so honestly is was no real surprise that I found this book to be a good read. Its filled with a blend of adventure, action, humor, and moments that have you going uh-oh that left me entertained through the entire  book. At no time in this book did I feel like putting it down, Paul keeps everything flowing nicely and it was a page turner from start to finish.

If you read the first book then you know what type of ride to expect, if you have not you can still read this one, but you will ruin the suspense of the first book but it would still entertaining. I found this book, like the first filled with a good amount of action, adventure, and humor in a good blend that left me entertained throughout the entire book. You do get to witness how bad ass the two truly are in a few scenes, leaving you shaking your head going damn as well as laughing at their witty banter between the two of them. Like the first I suggest this book and rate it a 5/5.

Hammer and the Blade review
http://thefoundingfields.com/2012/08/...

Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot (June 25, 2013)
Profile Image for Peter.
85 reviews5 followers
June 2, 2013
A Tale of Egil and nix is a classic sword and sorcery tale, with buddy heroes that many liken to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser or Jean Tannen and Locke Lamora. The first character, Egil, is a hammer-wielding tough man and priest to a deceased god. His partner in crime is a Jack-of-all-trades smart guy who dabbles in sorcery (sometimes to their own detriment). Together, they are a formidable pair against the most ruthless of enemies.

In A Discourse in Steel, Egil and Nix have settled into retirement from tomb-robbing. But sure enough, trouble finds them soon. It begins when they investigate a strange teleportal known as Blackalley. This magical conjuring feeds on the negative emotions of fear and guilt, putting the men at risk (particularly the repentant Egil).

Meanwhile, their psychic friend, Rose, is in the midst of giving a reading when an assassin shoots an arrow through her client’s neck, killing him instantly. Now, her mind is linked to the dead man and her own life is in extreme danger unless a sorcerer can break their interlocked minds.

Egil and Nix come to the rescue to help their friend, but a mysterious thieving guild who was behind the death of Rose’s client fears that the psychic knows too much. While Egil and Nix seek help for their friend, a band of guildsmen follow after them with a plan to dispose of them.

A Discourse in Steel continues with the same level of action and adventure that we read in the first novel in the series. As expected, Egil and Nix share good banter, teasing one another like long-time friends. Kemp has a strong ear for dialog and it shows in his writing (perhaps it’s a Michigan thing, considering dialog masters Elmore Leonard and Jeffrey Eugenides are also from the area). For a buddy adventure, good dialog is critical and Kemp delivers.

The plot of the novel is rather simple. So from a story perspective, the Egil and Nix novels do not achieve the reward of weaving through the complex twists and turns one gets from reading a Scott Lynch novel. Both of the Egil and Nix novels are relatively light reads. But they are fun reads, filled with adventure and emotion. I love Nix’s key that can open any lock, providing that Nix feeds the key whatever it demands (usually a token vegetable). I also love Egil’s conflicted character, struggling with his past sins and trying to remain a priest with a profession that is considered less than holy.

The second Egil and Nix novel, A Discourse in Steel, is more straight-forward in terms of plot structure than the first, but it is filled with new magic and mayhem that makes it a truly enjoyable read. If embarking on this series for the first time, I The definitely would recommend starting with The Hammer and the Blade. Once complete, run and grab the second novel. It is an entirely new adventure that builds off of the first book and will prove to be a gratifying experience.
Profile Image for Fantasy Literature.
3,226 reviews159 followers
December 17, 2013
A Discourse in Steel is the second novel in Paul S. Kemp’s EGIL AND NIX series about a couple of “retired” graverobbers who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I thought the first book, The Hammer and the Blade, was a fun story that didn’t quite meet the standards of Fritz Leiber’s LANKHMAR series which is an obvious influence. I was happy to give Egil and Nix another chance to charm me, though.

This time the guys investigate Black Alley, a dark extra-dimensional space that shows up somewhere around their town every evening. Then they take on the Thieves’ Guild who is planning to kill one of the women that Egil and Nix saved in the previous book. These adventures take them to strange places where they meet strange people and other creatures. For most of the time they ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...
Profile Image for Mia Darien.
Author 56 books165 followers
October 22, 2014
I didn't think I'd ever say it, but the standing leader of my "favorite traditionally published author" list is in danger. I'm sorry, Joe, but Paul, Egil and Nix have stolen a march on you.

Seriously. I adore Egil and Nix both. Egil is precisely the type of character I always fall for, but the two of them... Rough men with good hearts, who want to do good. May not be legal (usually isn't) and may not be...right, since that's kind of grey, but to do good.

It's the little things... Like the boys jumping the bar to get to their girls, and I love that the sisters came back from the first book.

Aspects of the ending damn near made me cry. And the whole thing is just damn funny. Dark humor, but the kind I like. The kind that makes me poke my husband and say, "You'll like this" and read quotes from the book.

I'm now bouncing around waiting for the third book to be released.
Profile Image for Kym.
210 reviews14 followers
February 26, 2014
This a sequel to The Hammer and the Blade but it's readable as a stand alone book (although you should read the first book, it's worth it). This is a light-hearted fast-paced fantasy adventure novel. The action is non-stop and rollicking. The relationship between our two protagonists, Nix (a Mage school drop out) and Egil (priest to a dead god) is the real joy of these books. The dialogue is hilarious and fun without feeling forced. I devoured this book in a day, couldn't put it down. Highly recommend this and Paul S. Kemp's Forgotten Realms Twilight War and Ervis Cale series as well. He's one of those authors who is a joy to read and never disappoints.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books7,646 followers
January 23, 2014
Meh. The ideas are great, some of the writing vivid. If the repetition at word and content level was cut, it would lose about fifty pages. (Yes, I grasped Rusk wants the Upright Man dead, thanks.) The plot ended up feeling very hastily resolved, and much as if the author was aiming to get rid of a couple of. characters and wrote the book for that. Mostly, I got really bored of the supermen MCs. It does nothing for the tension when they're chased by six people if we already saw them kill about 30 people in more difficult circumstances.

I'd probably have loved this at 14.
Profile Image for Mikel.
Author 9 books19 followers
June 23, 2013
A very human story of loyalty, set in a very unique world. One part dark comedy, one part fantasy, one party crime thriller, DISCOURSE is a non-stop, fast-paced lesson in all these genres.

If you've been waiting for a fantasy with original magic (for once), this is it. A little bit DIE HARD, a little bit HIGHLANDER, you'll be audibly rooting for Nix and Egil right up until the very last page!
Profile Image for Ria Bridges.
588 reviews5 followers
April 16, 2020
After reading The Hammer and the Blade, I have to admit I was a bit leery of this sequel. While I enjoyed the first installment of the tales of Egil and Nix, the book did have its problems, and a good part of my enjoyment of the novel stemmed from the fact that I have role-played similar characters and it was easy and fun to do a little mental transplantation and imagine Dek and Shaeyin in Nix and Egil’s places. Was that enough to make me put aside reservations and pick up the second novel?

As it turns out, yes. Putting aside the problems I had with it, The Hammer and the Blade was undeniably fun, action-packed and fast-paced, and A Discourse in Steel is no less so. Also, one of the problems I had with the first book was no longer an issue. Gone were the awkward word choices and overuse of obscure synonyms! Now when an odd phrase or word appeared on the pages, there was a 90% chance that it was thieves’ cant, appropriate for the novel and the characters, often left for the reader to figure out in context but that just made it all the more realistic. And I think only once did a term crop up where the meaning wasn’t immediately apparent from the context in which it was used. This made reading the novel much more enjoyable, since I wasn’t jarred out of my groove by an awkward turn of phrase the way I had been in The Hammer and the Blade.

Most of the story centres around Nix and Egil and their clash with the thieves’ guild, after the assassination of their leader, knowns as the Upright Man. Only while his body may be dead, his mind lives on, in bits and pieces, stuck in the head of one of the psychic sisters we were introduced to in the first novel. This situation is understandably dangerous for all involved, and the novel goes through their quest to save her mind and life while simultaneously trying to dodge the attempts on everyone’s lives when the thieves’ guild takes exception to the situation.

While it was good to see Rose and Mere get more time on the pages than previous, they still very much fit the damsel-in-distress trope, existing to either converse with Nix and Egil or else be saved from something or other. They are plot points more than characters, a way of giving the main characters something to do rather than actively contributing to the story themselves. This, sadly, wasn’t much of an improvement over the previous novel. There, both of them needed saving. Here, one of them needs saving.

Perhaps in the third book, they’ll both save themselves. Or better yet, maybe they won’t need saving at all.

As I mentioned, A Discourse in Steel is very fast-paced and filled with action from one end to the other. Coupled with the endless witty banter between Nix and Egil, this makes for a very swift read, one that you won’t want to put down because the next step of the adventure is just around the corner. No rest for the wicked. From exploring an alternate dark crazy-making dimension that moves around, the fleeing for their lives from assassins, to making their way through treacherous swamps, everything in this book begs you to keep turning pages.

We also get to see more hints about the lives of the characters before they appeared in novels. Egil, especially, has the spotlight shone on his uncomfortable past, enough to make the reader aware of darker things that happened to him without giving away the whole story in pages of exposition and backstory. Deftly done, that. Gadd, also, gets some spotlight, and for being a very minor character who doesn’t do much besides kick ass and serve ale, he’s probably got the most intriguing hints given about his past. I really hope that more detail is revealed later on, because what I’ve seen makes me very curious, and I’m on the opinion that his backstory could probably be an entire novel in itself. It was good to see characters get a little more fleshed out, more detailed and less like they just rolled off someone’s character creation sheet.

Though not without its issues, A Discourse in Steel is a definite improvement on its predecessor. This isn’t the kind of book you read when you want something deep and thought-provoking, but what you read when you want something undeniably fun, something exciting that’s going to entertain you in a cinematic way rather than a cerebral one. If you’re craving some good hack-and-slash adventure, something reminiscent of classic D&D quests, then this is definitely the book for you.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)
Profile Image for Paul McNamee.
Author 15 books16 followers
August 21, 2017
Kemp has created a great sword-&-sorcery duo. Don't let the length fool you. While it has touches of "high fantasy" and some Dungeons & Dragons magical items and dungeon crawls, Egil & Nix comes right out of the Nifft the Lean and Fafhrd & Gray Mouser tradition.

A psychic friend of the duo learns a little too much about the city's thieves guild. The guild tries assassination and Egil & Nix know they won't let up. So the duo goes for the throat of the guild.

They're not out to save the world - they are out to save their friends .. and their whorehouse.

Along the way we get cosmic horrors of a black alley that appears at random in the city, magical "gewgaws," lost civilizations, a whole lot of action and combat, and even deeper reflections on what makes a person a person, friendship and loyalty.

The banter between Egil and Nix comes to life in the audiobook. It might work well on the page, too, but there were moments when I laughed out loud while listening.

I enjoyed A DISCOURSE IN STEEL a whole lot.

And I want a t-shirt;

In a world of slubbers and fakkers, be an Egil (or a Nix.)
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