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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  676 ratings  ·  88 reviews
K.J. Parker's new novel is a perfectly executed tale of intrigue and deception.

For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money...

Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams...more
Paperback, 449 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Orbit (first published 2012)
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Ranting Dragon

There’s this relatively new rage in fantasy, and I’ve never been a fan of it. Authors—like Daniel Abraham and Joe Abercrombie—create a rich world with a lot of history, but zoom in on only one aspect of their world’s story in each book. Unlike the stories told in traditional fantasy, these are tales of characters instead of events. Think of it as the siege of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, told solely from the viewpoints of a rider in the army of Rohan a...more
short review version: quintesential Parker.
Those already familiar with the works of the author will recognize familiar themes and characters, signature plot twists or moral dillemas. Also instantly recognizable is the dry style and the black humor. Yet, Parker appears capable of infusing fresh blood into these familiar territories, making the swordfighters in Sharps are different from the ones in the Fencer, Engineer or Scavenger books, yet members of the same family of slightly psychopatic lone...more
Sharps is vintage KJ Parker but also the most complex of the author's standalone novels, while bringing elements from all the author's oeuvre and connecting with earlier works like Purple and Black which is alluded in the book - though of course as it is KJ Parker, the details may not be precisely the same in so far the Empire in P&B worshiped the Invincible Sun (like the Western Empire and Scheria here, Scheria being the country of our heroes and either former province of the Western Empire...more
Kat  Hooper
4.5 stars Originally posted at FanLit.

"Sharp swords, dirty books and pickled cabbage. Why has everything on this trip got to be horrible?"

The neighboring kingdoms of Permia and Scheria have always been enemies. Some of their citizens like it this way — particularly those of the military aristocracies who are valued (and therefore kept in power) by their countrymen when the two kingdoms are at war. The last war ended, though, when General Carnufex of Scheria managed to divert a few rivers and flo...more
Sharps is full of action, both physical and mental, as well as mystery, humor and depth. Parker packs this single volume full of some of the most amazing, mentally engaging writing I’ve ever had the honor of reading. The characterization, depth and mystery are unparalleled. Coupled with Parker’s sarcasm and dark humor, Sharps is one of those books that sets the bar incredibly, almost impossibly high. Parker is a unique, refreshing and engaging voice in fantasy. Sharps is one of those books that...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Great meditation on war, conflict and the uses of fighting on the same level as the brilliant Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. The middle part is a little slow, but the ending and the resolutions are absolutely perfect and very satisfying.
The last war between the neighboring countries of Permia and Scheria ended when Scheria’s greatest general redirected the course of a number of rivers and flooded one of the enemy’s cities, thereby killing tens of thousands of people and gaining the charming nickname “the Irrigator.” Some years later, as K.J. Parker’s newest novel Sharpsstarts off, the tension between the two enemies shows signs of thawing, so much so that there’s talk of sending a mission of goodwill across the Demilitarized Zo...more
I fenced in high school and college and usually enjoy a good swashbuckling story. I was really excited about Sharps because unlike The Princess Bride or generic high fantasy novel, this was specifically about "fencers," albeit in a fantasy setting. Unfortunately, this novel reads more like a combination of Waiting for Godot and a wannabe Terry Pratchett that I found the reading difficult and the description of the fencing so absurdly technical that I don't understand how it would be appealing to...more

Full Review Originally at Fantasy Book Critic

SHARPS is a tale about several things, one way the author summarizes is “Sharps is rather more about the Arab Spring than the economy or the war, but just as elements of the war and the economy impinged on events in Egypt and Libya in real life, so in the book.”

It’s also perhaps a tale of fencing or as the author quotes it as “a conversation in steel”. Most reviewers who have read it have had fulsome praise for it. For me it’s a tale of people th...more
Bane of Kings
Original Post:

“Enthralling, Original. A Delight to read, fans of fantasy will enjoy this.” ~The Founding Fields

Despite the fact that I have been interested in reading KJ Parker’s novels for a while now, I never really go the chance to pick one up. However, now that I have read Sharps, I can safely say that I will be reading more from this author, if this work is anything to go by. Despite a few nagging issues that I had with this title, I still found it...more
Consummate craftsmanship laced with the driest mirth. This is perhaps closer to a quest narrative than Parker's other works, but like those other works it's too original, too mature to be classed as genre fantasy. In many ways, closer to the tradition of Dostoevsky than of Tolkien. Refreshingly, you never have the sense that a certain character is bound to triumph because they're the hero, that the whole book is lurching towards a telegraphed outcome.

The central images here are the messer - an i...more
One of the very first martial arts I developed an interest in was fencing. I remember watching the 1993 Disney version The Three Musketeers, starring a very young Chris O'Donnell and Kiefer Sutherland, and absolutely adoring the action depicted onscreen: sword-blades flashing quicksilver-bright as thrusts and counter-thrusts were delivered, all mingled with witty retorts and daring escapes. To be sure, a lot of the action wasn't entirely period-accurate (the movie owes a lot to Hong Kong action...more
I’ve heard a lot of good things about K. J. Parker, her/his (the author’s name is a pseudonym) Engineer Trilogy (amongst two other earlier series) has been well regarded amongst critics. With all the praise for Parker’s previous work buzzing in the background I decided to the give the author’s recent stand alone novel, Sharps, a shot. As the novel begins there is an uneasy peace between the nations of Scheria and Permia; two nations that have been at war for nearly 40 years. As diplomatic talks...more
K.J. Parker does one thing really, really well: s/he ties the reader up in knots, trying to figure out who's plotting what, and why.

Sharps is full of a bunch of different factions maybe trying to start a war, not so long, as it happens, since the last one ended. a small group of fencers is sent to a neighboring country as a goodwill tour, theoretically to mend fences and as a token of peace.

except that each of the fencers is hiding something; at least one (but which one?) is surely an assassin;...more
Very enjoyable. This was my first KJ Parker book and I don't know why. It's very much the sort of non-magical, politics and intrigue type of fantasy I prefer. The writing is excellent, and it's the sort of story where you can read 50 pages, realize not much has actually happened, and yet it wasn't slow or boring at all. The ending was--while not bad--not quite as dramatic as one might have hoped, and for that reason I'm only giving it 4 stars, but I'll definitely be reading more from this author...more
I have waited awhile to see if I truly wanted to give Sharps five stars. I do. For me, it was the perfect blend of dark humor, action, characterization and flowing prose.
Sep 18, 2013 Alvaro added it
Shelves: give-it-up
Too slow and sometimes thick for my taste.
I guess this would be called fantasy, but mostly because I can't think of anything else to call it. I'd call it an alternate history political thriller/sports novel, but it isn't set in our world. So fantasy it is.

This is my first experience with K.J. Parker and it couldn't have gone better. I'm a bit unclear on whether or not Parker's other books take place in the same world as Sharps, but I gather that everyone else is a bit unclear on that point as well. It doesn't really matter either way....more
Andrea Santucci
Recensione approfondita qui:

Dopo quarant'anni di guerra, tra le nazioni di Permia e Scheria è stata negoziata una tregua alquanto instabile. Per cementare i rapporti diplomatici, la squadra nazionale di scherma di Scheria viene invitata a disputare degli incontri a Permia, dove la scherma è lo sport nazionale. Ma nell'ombra, come sempre accade in questi casi, a qualcuno la pace sta stretta e si impegna a fare di tutto affinché la missione diplomatica dive...more
Sharps is a strong fantasy following a mismatched group of people on a supposed diplomatic sporting exposition in former enemy territory. Both countries are in terrible financial shape following the war, and several of the team are scarred by the war as well.

No one seems to know what is really going on, or why these unprepared people have been sent, and things go terribly wrong from the start. The team is unprepared for the circumstances in which they find themselves, and fencing is practiced q...more
I first came across, and was bowled over by, K. J. Parker with Colours in the Steel back in the 90s, and went on to read Belly of the Bow. For some reason after that I lost track of her (the general assumption seems to be that Parker is female, though the writing never suggested that to me), until I recently thought to look up more recent work, and hence Sharps (I have the Engineer trilogy on order).

My first thought on getting into it was to bet that Parker was a significant influence on Joe Abe...more
Kyle Hajek
I'm a huge KJ Parker fan, so I was anticipating this book a lot, and it didn't dissapoint. In fact, it rather exceeded my expectiations in quite a few ways. The plot sounds pretty straightforward- as an effort to strengthen a peace treaty between two nations, one sends a fencing team to the other to go on a sort of goodwill tour. This being a KJ Parker novel, though, there's at least one person plotting in the background, with the details and implications being slowly revealed as the novel progr...more
Two countries wallow in an uneasy bankrupt peace after a devastating war. A fencing expedition is formed in the first country to go on a goodwill tour of the second. Fencing is almost all they have in common. But the members of the tour are a surly and problematic lot: a lothario who accidentally killed a senator plucked from execution; an angry young woman with a grudge against the world; the quiet son of the country's greatest general; and an alcoholic shellshocked soldier who is the country's...more
Mar 07, 2013 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Eric by: Loaned by Tim
The war between Scheria and Permia has ended. In an attempt to secure the peace, a team of Scherian athletes tours Permia, bonding with their former enemies over their one shared obsession: fencing....until various powerful Permian political and economic leaders begin dying. It appears someone on the team is trying to start another war.

As he did so well in his Engineer trilogy, Parker once again weaves a politically complex and technically impressive tale. The politics and espionage managed to b...more
JJ DeBenedictis
Although I did like Sharps, it seems as if merely liking it is a disappointment. I read The Folded Knife by K. J. Parker recently, and not only can this author create vibrant, engaging characters, but s/he can pull a narrative drive out of subject matter I wouldn't have thought I'd find compelling. So I expected to like Sharps--which has subject matter much more up my alley than The Folded Knife--quite a lot.

Instead, it was merely fine.

The characters were good, but not all of them were as inter...more
Finally finished! After loving KJ Parker's Engineer Trilogy, I was delighted to find Sharps at the Library. I know about nothing about fencing, but figured it's KJ Parker, so I gave it a shot.

This book took me awhile to get into. I was worried with all of the character introductions that I didn't know who was where, why they mattered, and I surely didn't think I'd be able to keep track of them all. I almost gave up, but I always try my best to finish books that I've started, so I pushed the worr...more
Sometimes you find a book that you know is well written, you know has engaging characters and critical support, and yet somehow it just doesn't click for you. That was my experience with K.J.Parker's Sharps.

I was fully expecting to be bowled over by the novel, but sadly, was underwhelmed. While Parker's language was quite fine, I found the excessive focus on mining, metalwork, and so forth somewhat dull. But I can deal with authorial exposition that seems at times a bit off-topic. My greatest co...more
It was the cover that hooked me--sword fights? Count me in! But after hearing Parker's books so highly praised, I was even more curious.

Sharps is a peculiarly compelling combination of political commentary and character study. I disagree with the reviewer who said the characters are flat but the plot drives the book. For the first half, it wasn't clear to me that there was a plot of any sort; instead, the book's opening is an introduction to the minds and circumstances of three characters, Girau...more
Geof Morris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I know I'm biased, but who can blame me? Parker is an amazingly unique voice, wry, entertaining and sometimes horrifying, and Sharps is no less blackly humorous than the best of the author's work to date; a kind of Martin Scorsese meets Shakespearean comedy of errors with a technician's obsessive fascination for the way in which things (this time politics and the sport of fencing, sort of) - seemingly senseless in isolation - fit together to make an efficient, working whole. One would think that...more
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K.J. Parker is a pseudonym. The author's true name has never been revealed.

According to the biographical notes in some of Parker's books, Parker has previously worked in law, journalism, and numismatics, and now writes and makes things out of wood and metal. It is also claimed that Parker is married to a solicitor and now lives in southern England. According to an autobiographical note, Parker wa...more
More about K.J. Parker...
Devices and Desires (Engineer Trilogy, #1) Evil for Evil (Engineer Trilogy, #2) The Folding Knife The Escapement (Engineer Trilogy, #3) Colours in the Steel (Fencer Trilogy, #1)

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“He turned away, and suddenly she thought about the old children's story, where the stupid girl opens the box that God gave her, and all the evils of the world fly out, except Hope, which stays at the bottom; and she wondered what Hope was doing in there in the first place, in with all the bad things. Then the answer came to her, and she wondered how she could've been so stupid. Hope was in there because it was evil too, probably the worst of them all, so heavy with malice and pain that it couldn't drag itself out of the opened box.” 9 likes
“…if medical science is geography, then mankind as a species has a map with three towns marked on it and a lot of blank space with drawings of sea serpents.” 4 likes
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