Raunch Review: The Blacktongue Thief

Raunch Reviews is a series about profanity. Not real profanity, but speculative swearing. Authors often try to incorporate original, innovative forms of profanity into our own fantastical works as a way to expand the worlds we build. Sometimes we’re successful. Often we’re not. In this series, I examine the faux-profanity from various works of sci-fi and fantasy, judge their effectiveness, and rate them on an unscientific and purely subjective scale. This is Raunch Reviews. Welcome.

The Authors: Christopher Buehlman

Work in Question: The Blacktongue Thief

The Profanity: “Kark”

Language is a funny thing serving not only as communication but as a window into a culture. The language you speak daily reflects your culture, your values, beliefs, and opinions. Without cultural context, a word or phrase may not hit the same way. This is doubly so in the world of profanity. What is profane here isn’t always profane elsewhere. Connotations require foreknowledge to be effective. I’ve discussed before how there are a few Chinese egg-centric curses that don’t translate into anything remotely offensive in Western culture but are often very offensive in China. That is the context we’re talking about, and that context matters.

Enter the fantasy world of Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief and its phenomenal faux-profanity “kark.” Throughout the book, it’s used in a variety of ways as a verb, adjective, and noun. We also see it used alongside more traditional real-world profanity as well. The word would already work well on its own, but it gets the added benefit of being a worldbuilding tool. Buehlman gives us the cultural context that makes it sing.

Within the kingdoms of Galtia and Norholt the word translates as “a wet fart.” On its own, it isn’t all that offensive. It’s mild grade-school bathroom humor. But, within the story, we get to see the cultural context and how “kark” evolved into a more impolite expletive and how it’s wielded by the native speakers. It’s also just fun to say.

While it might not offend English speakers (or mildly offend, if you’re irascible), it clearly strikes harder in the Holt Empire and serves as an excellent way to expand the world of The Blacktongue Thief through language.

Final Score: 5.0

🤬 Previous Raunch Reviews

Have a suggestion for Raunch Reviews? It can be any made-up slang word from a book, television show, or movie. You can email me directly with your recommendation or leave a comment below. I’ll need to spend time with the property before I’ll feel confident reviewing it, so give me a little time. I have a lot of books to read.

My Reading List for 2021

I have written a bit about how odd 2021 was, and that oddness crept into my reading. It’s not uncommon for me to read forty-ish books a year, and I once again passed my goal. But along with novels, I generally read some comics and short stories. Yet, this year I didn’t. Was it a lack of interest? New projects filling that time? The weirdness of the waning pandemic? Not sure! Whatever it was, for 2021, both those sections will be empty.

All that said, I had a great experience reading through the year. On the whole, I enjoyed my reading more in 2021 than last. There were a lot of new finds, I rarely came across a book I couldn’t stand, and I discovered some new favorites. That’s a win.

This list correlates with my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. But there are usually some slight differences between the two. This list is all strictly reading for pleasure—I typically forgo listing any research/history books I’ve read for a project as I read those differently than I do fiction. This list is always enormous, so l skip reviews except for my favorites. However, I’d invite you to follow me on Goodreads, where I occasionally leave other reviews.

Most links will go to IndieBound—now more than ever, be sure to support your local bookstore. If possible, I am directly linking to each author’s website—if you’re on the list and I didn’t find your website, please let me know about it. (I won’t link to social media, sorry.)

Okay, to the list!

📚 Novels & Novellas

  1. Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4)
    by James S. A. Corey
  2. Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
    by Martha Wells
  3. Ring Shout
    by P. Djèlí Clark
  4. The City We Became (The Great Cities #1)
    by N. K. Jemisin
  5. Planet of Exile
    by Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. A Killing Fire
    by Faye Snowden
  7. The Beauty
    by Aliya Whiteley
  8. The Hospital Ship
    by Martin Bax
  9. We Ride the Storm
    by Devin Madson
  10. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century 🎧
    by Barbara W. Tuchman
  11. The Resisters: A Novel
    by Gish Jen
  12. A Demon-Haunted Land:
    Witches, Wonder Doctors, And The Ghosts Of The Past In Post–WWII Germany 🎧
    by Monica Black
  13. The Ruins
    by Scott Smith
  14. Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter
    by Edward M. Erdelac
  15. Whispers in the Dark
    by Laurel Hightower
  16. We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1)
    by Dennis E. Taylor
  17. Criterium
    by Tyler Jones
  18. The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge #1) 🎧
    by Ken Follett
  19. The City of Ice (Gates of the World #2)
    by K. M. McKinley
  20. Foundryside (The Founders #1)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  21. The Republic Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3)
    by Scott Lynch
  22. The Talisman (The Talisman #1) 🎧
    by Stephen King & Peter Straub
  23. A Man of Shadows (Nyquist Mysteries #1)
    by Jeff Noon
  24. The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue #1)
    by Christopher Buehlman
  25. The City in the Middle of the Night
    by Charlie Jane Anders
  26. Territory 🎧
    by Emma Bull
  27. Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
    by Martha Wells
  28. A Ritual of Bone (The Dead Sagas #1)
    by Lee C. Conley
  29. Inside Man (Prosper’s Demon #2)
    by K. J. Parker
  30. Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel #2)
    by Josiah Bancroft
  31. Wolf Hall (Wolf Hall Trilogy #1)
    by Hillary Mantel
  32. The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor #1)
    by Katherine Addison
  33. Cabal
    by Clive Barker
  34. The Boatman’s Daughter
    by Andy Davidson
  35. Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery 🎧
    by Brom
  36. Slow River
    by Nicola Griffith
  37. Kim
    by Rudyard Kipling
  38. Revival 🎧
    by Stephen King
  39. Paradise Club
    by Tim Meyer
  40. Monstrous Heart (The Deepwater Trilogy #1)
    by Claire McKenna
  41. Subject 11
    by Jeffery Thomas
  42. City of Illusions (The Hamish Cycle #3)
    by Ursula K. Le Guin
  43. Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)
    by Jim Butcher
  44. The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage #3) 🎧
    by Brian McClellan
  45. The Sunless Countries (Virga #4)
    by Karl Schroeder

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2021

The Blacktongue Thief

by Christopher Buehlman

I was already a fan of Buehlman’s from his horror work. So when I heard he was writing a fantasy series I got excited. I couldn’t be happier with the result. The Blacktongue Thief worked very well for me. It is crass and funny while it remains true to its fantasy roots it explores new and wonderfully weird ideas. It’s thoroughly refreshing and has become one of my favorite fantasy novels as a result. I eagerly await the sequel.

🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2021

Monstrous Heart

by Claire McKenna

I love a book whose genre is difficult to pin down. (Surprise surprise.) Monstrous Heart’s got weird steampunk tech, in an alt-history world with blood magic, weird eugenics cults, warring magic families, and murder mysteries in a creepy Innsmouthian town. Combined with some beautiful prose, McKenna has built a world as fascinating as it is stunning. I was enthralled from start to finish.

The Beauty

by Alita Whiteley

This was recommended by M. R. Carey during our panel for TBR Con earlier this year and I’m glad I picked it up. The Beauty is a dark thought-provoking heart-of-mankind story about history, myth, and the stories we tell all set in a future world without women. It’s a bit of an allegory which isn’t something I typically enjoy, but it works well here and the story stuck with me. A small but powerful novel that is very much worth your time.

🎈 Honorable Mentions of 2021

It was tough to pick the top three novels, but I force myself to do it. But, I read so many good books this year and wanted to call out a few more of the standouts. I’ve listed them in order of reading.

💥 Graphic Novels & 📜 Short Stories

As I mentioned above, I fell short in these two categories. I read no short stories and only read one graphic novel this year (Preacher Book IV), so there won’t be 2021 lists for either category. That said, my graphic novel TBR pile is growing, and I have some new subscriptions to some speculative fiction magazines, which will expand my short story reading.

I look forward to returning to both of these categories in 2022.

🎭 Poems

Poetry is still here! It’s hard for me to keep track of poetry because I read it often and my brain doesn’t always record it. But I read some standout poems over 2021 and I wanted to share a few with you Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” is stunning and uplifting, Wendle Berry’s “Enemies” is thoughtful and beautiful, and I revisited an old favorite of mine Yeats’ “The Second Coming.”

  1. “Burning the Old Year”
    by Naomi Shihab Nye
  2. “I Ask My Mother to Sing”
    by Li-Young Lee
  3. “The Hill We Climb”
    by Amanda Gorman
  4. “Enemies”
    by Wendell Berry
  5. “Frederick Douglass”
    by Robert Hayden
  6. “Strange Balance”
    by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
  7. “For the Anniversary of My Death”
    by W. S. Merwin
  8. “The End”
    by Mark Strand
  9. “Good Bones” …again.
    by Maggie Smith
  10. “Sorrow Home”
    by Margaret Walker
  11. “What my 11 year old said when I was crying that day”
    by Tetyana Denford
  12. “Birdwatching”
    by Lynn Ungar
  13. “Here’s A Nut”
    by Louisa May Alcott
  14. “The Second Coming” …again.
    by William Butler Yeats
  15. “Down Jacket God”
    by Moon Bo Young
  16. “December”
    by Matthew Zapruder
  17. “A Penitent Considers Another Coming of Mary”
    by Gwendolyn Brooks
  18. “Butter”
    by Elizabeth Alexander
  19. “i am running into a new year”
    by Lucille Clifton
  20. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
    by Robert Frost

Thus complete’s my reading list for 2021. I’m not going to miss this year. Between the chaos of its beginning to the slow return to whatever constitutes as normal, I think we will all be glad to see it go. But this odd year allowed me to consume a solid chunk of books, and overall the books I read were enjoyable. When it comes to my reading, I have few complaints. I’m ready to start some new reads that’ll begin my list for next year, and I look forward to diving back into graphic novels and short stories. I think my reading year in 2022 will be excellent.

How about you? What were the standout books, graphic novels, short stories, or poems you read this year? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know!

Are you looking for a good book? Want to see my reading lists from previous years? Check any of the links below and see what I was reading in the bygone days of yore.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 •

Next year, why not join me? Goodreads does a reading challenge every year, and I am an active participant. First, follow me on Goodreads (leave me a review while you’re there), and once the New Year arrives, participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2022.

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