Purple and Black
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Purple and Black

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  39 reviews
As enemies become stalwart allies, heartbreak lurks within victory and a forgotten moment of youth threatens everything, Parker sends the brief (but never terse) story flying to a wrenching and all too realistic conclusion."Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
Hardcover, 113 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Subterranean Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 475)
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Nov 26, 2010 Joel rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joel by: Liviu
There's nothing more fun than snooping into someone else's mail and reading their letters. When I was in middle school I was friends with these two girls who were always passing notes that I wasn't allowed to read, which made me very angry and paranoid (more so than usual anyway). But once while leaving English, one of the notes was dropped! I furtively picked it up and stuffed it in my pocket, and snuck off to the bathroom to peruse its secrets. It turned out to be totally mundane (I recall it...more
I came across this book when the boyfriend brought it and another Parker novella home from the library. He read it while I was taking a nap (it goes very quickly), and when I woke up, he tossed it to me and said, basically, "Here, you're going to love it. It's epistolary. And alternate Byzantine."

Though I have to say, 'alternate Byzantine' is a pretty loose description.

It's an epistolary novella, set in a roughly Byzantine-era and style fantasy 'verse. But if you're put off by it being Byzantine...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I picked up this book because I'd heard good things about the author, and was not disappointed.

The novella consists mostly of letters between two friends: one newly made Emperor, and the other out to quash a rebellion for him. It's a short book, but packs quite a punch; as with many epistolary novels, there's more unwritten than actually on the page, which makes for wonderfully thought-provoking reading. And unlike in most epistolary novels I've read, the letters here actually sound like letter...more
Great novella set in dispatches between two scholars. One is the accidental heir to an Empire who becomes Emperor on the deaths in fratricidal war of the rest of his family and the other his best friend whom he dispatches as military governor in the one trouble province on the Northern ice-cold border where an unknown enemy attacks.

From his university days there was a circle of friends around Nico (the Emperor) and Phormio (the governor) with the brilliant Gorgias the only dead in the civil wa...more
David Ramirer
ein erbauliches kleines briefbüchlein.

anhand einiger briefe wird ein machtwechsel in einem königreich beschrieben. in diese spannende geschichte sind auf geschickte art und weise viele soziologische probleme der monarchischen staatsform eingewoben, sodaß es auch lehrreich ist, dieses buch zu lesen, es wird nämlich nicht mit trockenem historizismus, sondern mit persönlichen schicksalen die theorie lebendig gemacht, und das ohne schnickschnak und ohne zeitverlust.

was mir nicht so gefällt ist die e...more
I really enjoyed this Fantasy novella. It resembles Gene Wolfe's best short fiction (only with a clearer resolution) in its structure. On a side note, I felt the "voices" of the characters felt more modern than the pseudo-antiquity the story takes place in. Also, as a Greek reader, some names used for places [like, "Choris Anthropou" (= no man)
& "Gelos" (=laughter)] brought a small grin...
A profoundly moving piece of short fiction and the best of K.J.Parker's shorter work I've read. A work of pure genius. Its funny, intelligent, and in the end totally heart-wrenching. For me fiction is only as good as the depth of emotion it makes me feel. And I don't think I've ever felt such outrage as when I finished this book. Purple and Black is a masterwork of literature and an absolute must read for anyone with any kind of interest in good fiction.
I've been wanting to read something by K.J. Parker for several months now, and decided to jump into the works of this pseudonymous author by picking up one of his/her shorter stories from the library.

Purple and Black is a novelette told entirely through letters between the Emperor of Vasani and the Governor of Tremissis, who were friends in college. The tone of these letters is often humorous, so much so I would say the banter alone is worth the read. What starts as a simple collection of lette...more
Feb 22, 2012 Larou added it
Shelves: 2009-08, fantasy
An epistolary novella, consisting almost exclusively of the exchange of missives between a newly-ascended emperor and the friend who he sends off to hold the frontier for him. It also is a meditation on friendship, on youth and its ideals, on politics and its lack of ideals, on the ethics of power.
It's also (as one has to come to expect from Subterranean Press) a beautifully made book, a pleasure not just to read but to handle as well, the two-coloured print reflecting not only the use of differ...more
Nico - oder mit vollem Titel: Nicephorus, der Bruder der Unbezwingbaren Sonne, der Vater des Volkes, Verteidiger des Glaubens, Kaiser der Vesani - wollte eigentlich nie Kaiser werden. Während seiner Kindheit hat er sich möglichst fern von den Ränkeschmieden gehalten und im Studium mit seinen Kommilitonen über die Notwendigkeit der Abschaffung der Macht philosophiert. Nach dem letzten Krieg ist aber Nico der einzige Überlebende seiner Familie und wird daher Kaiser. Sein Erfolgsrezept: Gib dem die...more
Tom Loock
Dec 05, 2012 Tom Loock rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to read quality fiction and anyone who thinks fantasy is stupid/childish/escapism etc
Another wonderful novella by the elusive K.J. Parker, he* (!) who is still not paid the appropriate attention and respect despite a considerable output of consistently high quality.
I like epistolary storytelling - dispatches in this case exchanged between the Vesani emperor Nicephorus V. and his old academy friend Phormio whom he sent to Upper Tremissis to deal with insurgents. I hate spoilers so no more of the story here.
It's a quick read, 1-2 hours with a satisfying end and yes, I would have l...more
Kristina Jo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pure, distilled essence of Parker. This didn't displace the Engineer trilogy in my affections, but it's absolutely where I'd suggest anyone curious about Parker start. The novella format really plays to her strengths, I think; it's long enough that she can build up layers of irony, but short enough that readers unhappy with the lack of sympathetic protagonists in her full-length works may be able to read it without frustration.

My only quibble is that sometimes things were a bit too clearly spell...more
Power corrupts. Old story in a novel and interesting package. Fantasy but altogether realistic in principle. Delivered in a series of missives between old school chums who are elevated to generals and emperors. Deception, betrayal, and collusion abound, but all the higher good. Bottom line is do people in positions of power inevitably become evil and would the world be a better place if there was just anarchy; no leaders, no government, no large corporate entities. These school mates thought so...more
This interesting novella is essentially a parable about power and corruption. Young Nicephorus becomes Emperor, following over 70 of his ancestors who were slain by their own soldiers in the past century. Since he can’t trust his generals, he sends his best friend, Phorimo, to be Governor of a frontier province where there are border skirmishes. The title refers to the official purple ink reserved for military dispatches, but there is room for confidential personal correspondence between the fri...more
The best novellas are the ones that make you feel as if you have read a full-length novel. This one felt like a marathon, in a good way. It was meaty, creative, twisty, and freakin bloody hilarious.

I found one typo... which is the only criticism with which I can come up. So, there.
I don't know if KJ Parker is a man, woman, something else... frankly, I don't care: I'm still developing quite the KJ crush. Soon I will have posters of this enigmatic, faceless, and nameless author hanging in my roo...more
Feb 21, 2012 Stina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stina by: Brian Grossman
Shelves: finished-in-2012
#4 of 2012

I breezed right through this novella yesterday. I'm always a sucker for epistolary tales, and this one had a nice hint of intrigue to it. I was a little disappointed that the ink color didn't play a bigger thematic role, but the themes the book did explore (power, corruption, trust, betrayal, etc) are timeless and perfectly suited to this pseudo-historical military tragedy with decidedly modern tones. And I just loved the banter between the two main characters. I will have to read more...more
3.5 stars. KJ Parker at shorter length! Still clever, still subtly stylish, maybe a bit more overtly funny than usual. And, because shorter, less time for Parker's precise plots to build to stunning resolution--it all fit, this time, but not in quite as revelatory a way. That's okay. Revelatory is a high bar to aim for.

A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong may be an even better short intro to Parker, though:
This book is brilliant,for about half a million reasons. Not least of which is because it nearly tore my heart down the middle. "Love is the cause of the greatest sorrow," indeed; I'm currently in the middle of one of Parker's other books (Devices and Desires and I'm starting to notice that the idea of love being the most dangerous force in existence seems to be a recurrent theme of hers. The really interesting part is, after reading this little book I'm also starting to think she may not be ent...more
Fantasy novella consisting of a series of letters between two old friends. Nico is the emperor-by-default (all his relatives killed each other off) of a country modeled after Ancient Rome; Phormio is the newly appointed governor of the northern frontier, an area beleaguered by an elusive insurgency. The correspondence between the men provides deftly humorous and poignant characterizations, and the book is a fun and riveting read ripe with byzantine politics and more serious ponderings on the nat...more
David Schwan
Image two close friends in college, one goes on to be Emperor and the other is appointed as a General somewhere on the edge to the empire to put down insurgents. These two friends exchange a series of letters. This is the starting premise of this book.

These letters are far more personal than official communications, and show us the inner thoughts of the two friends. As you start to read their dialogue, it becomes apparent how deep the respect the two have for each other.

A wonderfully executed b...more
Wow, that took a sharp turn that I wasn't expecting and ran with it. I'm impressed by how much world-building (or, I guess, AU Byzantine Empire building) Parker managed to cram into this novella along with the plot. I kind of wish I had gotten more on some fronts, though I think it would have spoiled the sense of tension overall. Will have to seek out more of this author's work.
This short epistolary novel unfolds in a lovely manner. These letter writers have voice. And this novel has plot. A fascinating exploration of what happens when dorm room conversations and posturing and college friendships among people who are geniuses explodes in to the world of realpolitik. Very enjoyable.
Jan 19, 2011 Ray rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This should really be 4 1/2 (minor deduction for abruptness of ending). I've read epistolary works before, but none anywhere near this enjoyable. Saying anything more about this short novella would necessitate spoilers. I may add to this after more thought.
If you're familiar with the history of the Roman Empire, the first half of the book is going to be hilarious. If you're NOT familiar with the history of the Roman Empire, the first half of the book is going to be hilarious.
David Marshall
This is a good novelette, written in the epistolary format, which says interesting things about friendship and the nature of power.

this book is short and sweet, it makes you think without all the hard work. surprise ending...at least for me but all in all highly reccomended for the fantesy lover who has little time
May 26, 2013 Debs rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I really enjoyed the conversational style of the three letter writers in this epistolary novel. Not gonna lie, though, I did read it as a Charles-Erik AU from beginning to end. *shrug*
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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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“It's sheer spitefulness to allow mortals to love because everybody dies but the love they cause to be in others doesn't die with them. Therefore love is the cause of the greatest sorrow therefore love is the greatest evil.” 3 likes
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