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...moreI'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 progresses.
I was very impressed by how the author played to their strengths in this one- there's the usual explanations of complex subjects (in this case, chess and fencing) but all of it either illuminated or foreshadowed an aspect of the plot in a way that let you process it on your own, rather than beating you over the head with it. The fencing was especially well done, even if you're unfamiliar with it- there's only two actual scenes where they get to participate in the tournament, but they're riveting, and if you're wondering how there could be high stakes in a fencing match...well, the book isn't called "Foils" for a reason.
The rest of the usual KJ Parker flair is still there- people doing horrible things for what they hope is the right reason, people doing horrible things for what they know is the wrong reason, that very distinct sense of humor, all the usual, but one thing that's really been ramped up in this book is the sense of history to the world. All of KJ Parker's books are in the same setting, but this one shows the history of the world a bit more, and it also shows some of the aftermath of earlier books (The Folding Knife in particular, and a bit of the Engineer Trilogy as well). It helped give the story some added weight, since now it had weight- whatever happened in this book could effect the setting later on in some pretty big ways, and seeing the tie-ins was a nice little bonus for anyone who's read the other books in the setting. No worries if you haven't, though, since the story itself stands alone (though I still recommend reading The Folding Knife first).
All in all, a great book. I ended up short on sleep from staying up far, far too late so I could keep reading on more than one occasion, which is always a good sign.(less)
It's an above-average but fairly by the numbers crime thriller. I would have rated it 4 stars, but I really had to knock it down one star because the...moreIt's an above-average but fairly by the numbers crime thriller. I would have rated it 4 stars, but I really had to knock it down one star because the translation was so bad. I understand that Swedish isn't an easy language to turn into English, but my eyes glazed over at several points and any sort of sense of character that could come from dialogue was totally gone. Plus, the weird level of detail (he lists the tech specs of every computer in the book, amoung other things) was enough to yank me out of the narrative more than a few times.
The plot itself isn't bad. The mystery that the book focused on was a little too obvious for my tastes, but it ties into another plotline that worked a lot better and included some more twists and turns. The characters I could by and large take or leave, since most of them were hard to distingush since no one had a distinct voice.
It was entertaining, but unless the translation and editing is better on the sequels, I think I'll pass on them.(less)
Another excellent one by KJ Parker- it takes the usual elements (morally grey characters, lots of plotting, and a well-developed setting that stays in...moreAnother excellent one by KJ Parker- it takes the usual elements (morally grey characters, lots of plotting, and a well-developed setting that stays in the background except for where the plot is important), and sets it up on a plot of revenge. The Hammer is more of a slow burn than the others, but once the plot is in motion it comes down all at once and hits hard. I really appreciated how the motivations where set up, and while it was easy to tell the general idea of what event traumatized Gig so heavily, the specifics came as a total surprise that I can honestly say shocked me.
Another thing about this book- if you've read other KJ Parker books, you'll notice this one ties the setting together for certain. It's a few hundred years after The Engineer Trilogy, from the sound of things, but where it stands in relation to the Folding Knife is hard to tell. It's nice to have references to the setting that aren't laid on heavily, just there to give readers something to catch.(less)
It was definitely entertaining, but ultimately it felt really shallow and predictable. The characters didn't have a lot of detail to them outside of o...moreIt was definitely entertaining, but ultimately it felt really shallow and predictable. The characters didn't have a lot of detail to them outside of one or two defining features, and the plot itself went by-the-numbers. I also feel like when you write a book where the central premise is how awful it is that these people are being forced to kill each other, you lose a LOT by making the overwhelming majority of them nameless and then killing them "offscreen". It meant each death, instead of being wrenching, being shrugworthy at best. Definitely a page turner, and I'll finish the series (eventually), but it had a LOT of missed opportunities to be something more than it was (but was trying to be). (less)
This book was.... Well, it sure was different. It really is amazing how well the author gave MR a distinct voice and made him, if not exactly sympathe...moreThis book was.... Well, it sure was different. It really is amazing how well the author gave MR a distinct voice and made him, if not exactly sympathetic, pitiable. It's definitely not the kind of humor for everyone, and it's really pretty bleak at points, but if you enjor dark/twisted humor and a very, very sad story rolled into one, it's pretty enjoyable.(less)