Colours in the Steel (Fencer Trilogy, #1)
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Colours in the Steel (Fencer Trilogy #1)

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  774 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Perimadeia is the famed Triple City and the mercantile capital of the known world. Behind its allegedly impregnable walls, everything is available—including information that will allow its enemies to plan one of the most devastating sieges of all time. The man called upon to defend Perimadeia is Bardas Loredan, a fencer-at-law, weary of his work and the world. For Loredan...more
Paperback, 503 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by Little, Brown Book Group (first published January 1st 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Petra Eriksson
A book I stopped reading after only a chapter for some reason, perhaps becuase Bardas Loredan seemed like such a miserable fellow but I'm glad I picked it up again for the story was great, with charcters who was amazingly realistic with their flaws and thoughts and a very interesting magic world. I liked the fact that we got to take part of both the attacking and the defensive side so deeply, and the fact that it made the book even more realistic for there is no enemy side here, no real good or...more
Jenne
Such a frustrating story, because you want both sides to win, and you know they can't. And yet so very enjoyable.

It's interesting, I've basically read Parker's 3 trilogies in reverse order of when they were published, and there are so many themes in this book that s/he apparently liked so much that she wanted to explore them at much greater length in the others. (the biggest one being, of course, the effects of more sophisticated technology on medieval-ish societies, but also: blacksmithing, sw...more
Mario Liesens
In 1998, Parker's first novel Colours in the steel was published in Dutsch. 15 years and some 18 novels later, remains the only novel by Parker to be released in the dutschspeaking market. Why? Why the f* publish the first part of a trilogy and not the rest? Is it that exceptionally horrible? I've decided to give this book a second read, just to find out what's so wrong about it. I've checked the negative reviews to see what bugged people and i’m gonna try and pay extra attention to it.

Well, let...more
Ashton
K.J. Parker has a very interesting writing style, which I found both entertaining and frustrating in turns. It's a style full of contradictions, focused on the intense realism of certain details, but built on blatantly unrealistic premises, given to engaging, compelling characters, but with a tendency to zip right past the most powerful moments of their stories without a second glance. The book has a certain wry humor, a sardonic tone which is very pleasing, but it seems incapable of taking anyt...more
Erin Fitzgerald
This is an ugly series through and through. If you want something positive and uplifting, don't. If you want something that shows the good through evil, don't. If you want something that will finally pull through and relieve you of all the mire and filth it's dragged you through, don't.

Nothing. Happy. Happens. If you like books where it's utterly hopeless from start to finish, where there is a not a breath of fresh air in all the squalid characters and lands around you, where you are not given a...more
JC
This was originally very difficult to get through. The author's life has been steeped in law, fencing, woodwork, and metalwork, so every proceeding page has the minute details of the components, process, and reasoning behind every war item, from trebuchet to sword, and every nuance of the fencing styles. I did not understand this for a grand majority of the book, until I got the last hundred pages. Every fencing maneuver, though often hard to understand given the jargon, was perfectly detailed t...more
Nigel
This must be one of the most prosaic epic fantasy novels I've ever read, a matter-of-fact, down-to-earth novel set in an imaginary world. So much so that a significant conceit, lawyers fencing to the death to decide court cases, is an anomaly albeit taken for granted by the natives but regarded as barbaric and inexplicable by outsiders.

Bardas Loredan is one of the fencing lawyers, on the brink of giving it up and founding a school of his own. A succesfully fought case, however, brings a curse o...more
Magda
Long and boring for the most part. I liked the fencing bits, the fencing philosophy bits, and the interplay between some of the characters. Other characters I just wanted to kill off as soon as possible. I did like the ending, how the story unfolded to explain who the mysterious girl was and why she wanted to kill the person who'd killed her uncle.
David
A TOP SHELF review, originally published in the February 6 edition of The Monitor


For the past 15 years, writer K.J. Parker has been exploring a strange niche in fantasy fiction, publishing three trilogies, five stand-alone novels and a bevy of novellas and short stories all set in largely magic-free alternative medieval universes.

Rich with allusions to Byzantine and late Roman culture, these literary worlds use politics and dark-age technology to explore tragic themes, typically centering on the...more
Nathan
Fantasy Review Barn

I believe it was George Carlin that said the key to any joke is wherein lay the Colours in the Steel exaggeration. Most of the set up must ring true or the specific absurdity that makes everything funny won’t have the impact. In many ways I believe fantasy fiction works the same way. It is okay by me if there are a few items that stretch the limits of credibility; it isn’t fantasy without something extraordinary going on. But even with these specific exaggerations I must belie...more
Brian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ruth
""If a man wants to get thoroughly drunk in the lower city of Perimadeia, there are a number of places he can go, between them covering all the nuances of the mood, from boisterous jollity to utter self-loathing and all the fine gradations in between. From the fashionable inns where respectable people talked business over good wine to the unlicenced drinking-clubs behind a curtain in the back room of someone's house, there was an abundance of choice that was sometimes offputting. There were tave...more
Mike
Boy, this book took me forever to read, although it is not necessarily the fault of the book. Just had other things to do.

Interesting fantasy world K.J. Parker has set up here. An apparently impregnable, prosperous city, center of the empire. Matters of law are settled by fencers, who are lawyers, but they don't fence with words, they literally fence, with the case decided by which lawyer (fencer) lives and which one dies. Magic in this world, like so many other things, are a bit of a fraud, alt...more
Nick Smith
I can see why some people marked this down for its engineering descriptions, and the author has apologised for them later in interview, but I love them. I love to know how things work and Mr(s?) Parker allows me to really understand medieval siege warfare - both the Physics and the nitty gritty limb-tearing realism.

First off, like all of Parker's books to date, this is not your normal magic and dragon-packed dark lord plot, in Parker's words his (or her) books are history as it should have been....more
Joe Moley
This book totally waffled and back and forth for me. It started out strong with a very cool concept. Courts of Law where litigation is handled by professionally trained sword fencers, usually with duels to the death.

If only this was allowed in the real world... no appeals, no complex long drawn out trials. Just duels to the death. Awesome. The detail KJ Parker throws into the fencing matches is pretty cool. I really felt

Anyway, after the initial world and characters had been introduced, the pl...more
Andrea
I was pleasantly by this 'low-fantasy' book. The writing style somehow appealed to me, even though the plot itself is not that fascinating. Colours in the Steel is set in Perimadeia, a marvelous large city that seems impenetrable. Temrai, new chieftain of a clan of barbarians, is plotting revenge on Perimadeia by conquering the city, after living there for a few months to study how to bring the city down. He is looking for one specific man, Bardas Loredan, whose cavalier unit brought destruction...more
Dave Wagner
Actually, there's no real reason I shouldn't rate this 5 stars. I suppose I've been slightly swayed (much to my shame) by certain, shall we say, "less than favorable" reviews I've read by others who have taken up this title.

Personally, I enjoyed this book, cover to cover. It's a great story, written by a skilled, well-spoken author, with rich, memorable characters, great action, and unique story elements. Perhaps there have been other stories that have had characters share dreams, but this is t...more
Joel
Alright, yet again, I find myself wishing that goodreads had half-stars. Since it doesn't, I give Colours in the Steel a 3.49, rounding down to a 3.

Colours in the Steel features characters who are not only fun in their narrative voices, but are also empathy inducing. While several elements of the story/world aren't completely fleshed out, it is the first book in a trilogy, so I'm certainly willing to wait for the answers in the future books. I've, in fact, praised other books for not explaining...more
Aaron
I like this book because I realized I like reading about prodigies, and everyone in this book is extremely smart, yet they are very self deprecating, which also fits my preferred style of humor. If a plan succeeds, they say, "Well, at least we didn't make total fools out of ourselves."

The pacing of this book is a little uneven, as parts of it are very slow, and then all of a sudden it gets interesting for a chunk of pages, and then slows down again. Part of that is due to the extreme attention t...more
Ondrej
Na to, ze je to autorova prvotina, je to solidni kniha. V knize je jen nezbytne minimum popisu prostredi, zbytek jsou dialogy a pribeh. Ten dava smysl, pekne utika, a clovek nevi co se stane na dalsi strance. Je tam dost haluzovych setkani postav atd. ale jsou kvalitne vysvetlene, takze nevadi. Trochu me iritovalo mnozstvi anachronismu a geniality; mam pocit, ze nekolik postav s knihy jsou lidi dneska, minimalne s prehledem cloveka co vystudoval gympl a s potencialem na cerveny diplom na vysce,...more
Sabrina Sjaastad
Took two tries...I couldn't stop thinking about it after putting it down the first time. It is a bit slow moving, but I love the characters and want to see where their story goes. So, I'm onto book 2.
Ryan
Dec 09, 2011 Ryan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ryan by: OSC
2 stars: 1 for each thing the author does right. (1) I couldn't clearly decide who the villain was. Both the pro/an-tagonist had virtues and vice that made me despise and admire him at different times. (2) Displayed war as a terrible, messy uncertain thing that never goes quite the way one expects.

Despite these two successes, this book was mediocre. The author includes several multi-page descriptions of engineering, metal-working, fencing, accounting and scenery that do nothing to advance the p...more
Rob
Sep 12, 2013 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: sf-f
A very enjoyable first entry in a trilogy. Less brutal than Parker's The Company, it's a fine first book in a trilogy, good prose, engaging writing, and a leavening of Pratchett-esque humor throughout (a pleasant surprise, when compared with the gallows humor of The Company).

It's not been distributed in North America, to my knowledge, but can be had for not too dear a price from Amazon if you're willing to wait for it to be shipped on a slow boat. It's worth the both the acquisition and the read...more
Jenni Halpin
In the main, I loved this book. It's a big, thick read, particularly in the rich development of characters and their interactions. Parker's also engaged in world-building in the best epic fantasy traditions.

Though some characters' motivations remain obscure to me, I'm willing to believe that the sequels will provide disclosures. (Though one troublingly wild-card character--avoiding spoliers here--is so self-interested as to be a walking, talking endorsement of rape and murder. This is troubling...more
Steen Christiansen
A good, fast-paced fantasy novel which explores topics of technology and revenge. The author avoids the leaden plotting of many fantasy series by having segments for each storyline in every chapter, thus keeping the plot flowing instead of the serial wrenching of one chapter per storyline.

Surprisingly engaged with how technology works and how it affects cultures, the plot structure also allows for good parallelism, which furthers the themes of the story.
Liviu
Unbelievably good; the tale of the Loredan family unfolds slowly with twists and turns galore; similar in style and prefiguring the Engineer series in content to some extent, I think I liked this one the most of all KJ Parker novels so far and that's a tall order since I absolutely loved the Engineer 1/2 and the Scavenger 1/2 novels als.

Not for everyone with its dry humor and matter of fact tone, the antithesis of pathos in sff, this novel solidifies the place of KJ Parker as my top fantasy auth...more
Nathan
Fantasy book about a lawyer caught up in a maelstrom of curses, dreamers and warriors. Parker's first book is a strange little concoction that has a massive shift halfway through and then another little lurch near the end. Never did continue on with this series before, but will this time after reading the excellent Engineer trilogy. And it does show promise. Lovely writing. Rated M for violence, some coarse language. 3/5
Ryan Moore
I liked The Folding Knife well enough to go back to read K.J. Parker's first series. This had a lot of what I liked about The Folding Knife, but obviously a much earlier work. I like how detailed the author gets when describing plans and bringing scenes to life. Looking forward to the next book in the series, but I can't help but look forward more to the next series!
Mikhail Yukhnovskiy
A note on the whole Fencer trilogy:

The trilogy also has a dark, at times even morbid streak which is very-very rare to meet in literature. I will not go into details, but the above mentioned may turn some readers off the books, anв yet it gives an altogether more realistic and true aspect to the books
Brandon
It took most of the way for me to get really absorbed by the plots and especially the characters. I'm intrigued to find out what happens next and am going to be looking for the second book of this trilogy the next time I'm out and about!
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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) Sharps

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