Mihir's Reviews > Sharps

Sharps by K.J. Parker
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Jul 11, 12

Read from June 08 to July 11, 2012


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 that are talented fencers but are sent on a mission of peace, warriors that have to use their martial skills to help broker peace between warring provinces lest ruin might touch both. It’s an inherent contradiction in terms of the characters and the plot that makes this book a good one and another excellent fable from the cunning mind of K.J. Parker.

The story begins in a meandering manner, wherein the author introduces all the main characters. And the lot is varied, a murderer, an ex-soldier, a son of a famous general and a couple of others. Amidst the introduction, the background situation is revealed through character dialogue as is the vogue seen in previous KJP novels.

From here on the story slowly unfolds as the reader is taken in to Permia along with the fencing party and slowly and surely the reader picks up on details regarding the war, character backgrounds and Permian-Scherian culture. The first part of the book has an uneven pace until the story reaches near the middle point wherein a few key events occur that shake up certain status quos and reveal what truly is at stake.

The pace then picks up and it is from here on that KJP’s cynicism and trademark dialogue flow to make the story reach a tumultuous but very much satisfying ending. The characterization of the book is the one thing that is the best piece of this entire story, as the reader will get to know these flawed but highly captivating characters that make you engrossed in the story without a care of the world outside.

What also helps is that each character is unique and interesting; they individually could power a singular story themselves and in KJP’s hands make the story intriguing beyond a doubt. Another excellent point about the book is the dialogue across several occasions while seeming focused on the events in the book has a very crucial subtext about human nature and the vagaries of life, war and history.

This book came very close to her previous work “The Folding Knife” which is an all-time favorite of mine because of the characterization and plot however TFK was a story wherein everything clicked. Not so much the case in this one as the uneven pace of the earlier half might hamper the read for some readers’ especially first time readers. I would very much request all virgin KJP readers to start with TFK just because I think it’s the epitome of her storytelling style.

“Sharps” is another excellent story from a devious mind and with it being given the requisite push from the publisher as well. It will only help KJP’s cause and perhaps spread the world among fantasy fans about one of the most under-appreciated fantasy writers of the 21st century. If you haven’t read any of her books, do so soon if you want something different in your current fantasy reads.
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