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The Folding Knife

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,560 ratings  ·  176 reviews
Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man.

He is ruthless, cunning, and above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 22nd 2010 by Orbit
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,560 ratings  ·  176 reviews

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I spent three days on this book and read it almost three times to fully appreciate and enjoy it; my top expected fantasy release of the first half of 2010 and possibly of the whole year, The Folding Knife delivered all that I expected and more; this one is a very tough book to review since so much happens that I would not want to spoil and the motives and actions of its main character Basso are hard to understand without learning some crucial things but at a first try there are some points to em ...more
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but reading the synopsis intrigued me and I decided to finally pick it up due to several glowing reviews.

War is an admission of failure.

Bassianus Severus Arcadius or Basso is the First Citizen of the Vasani republic, and has always been known as a lucky man whether it be in business or politics. However, he has made one mistake in his lifetime, and that mistake will come back to haunt him.

The book was a political fantasy primarily, building enough inte
Manuel Antão
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Open letter to K.J. Parker:

Parker, are you male or female? Are you human or alien? Does anyone really care? I surely don’t!

K.J. Parker, you son/daughter of a gun! I’ve been following your career since the beginning, and I still know nothing more of you than your fiction reveals. Though I know that fictional self-revelation can be considerable, I also know that it’s frequently misinterpreted by those of us who like to indulge in what
Charles Bronson
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You would imagine a book about the financial aspect of warfare to be perhaps banal. Or egregiously tedious. You would be wrong in this assumption.
Edit 2nd read: Razor-sharp prose. May be his best work to date. Also, the first 12 pages of the book belong to some other unrelated novel. Strange, that.

I started writing this review last week, but it just wasn't coming together like I'd hoped. With over 2,000 words written, I was approaching critical mass. You see, K.J. Parker's The Folding Knife is not an easy book to review. There's a lot going on and it's rather non-traditional for a fantasy novel in a lot of ways and then entirely traditional in others. It wasn't until I ran across Lev Grossman's article in the Wall Street Journal Monday morning that
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, bingo16
Quite some time, or more precisely, very few books that I've read 100+ pages a day, as I finished this one in three days (it has 432 pages).

And it didn't even begin that great, as in, nothing mind blowing happens. But after 1/5 into the book I got used to the style and just read it in huge, uninterrupted bursts.

First, this isn't like what most avid fantasy readers are used to.
For example, Basso's character. He is great, smart and lucky. Are there really deep characterization of him? Not really,
Holly (The Grimdragon)
"He sees a bed, in a well-furnished room. On the floor beside it lies a naked man, face down, holding a fancy costume dagger. His throat has been cut. On the bed there's the body of a woman, and her throat's been cut too, but she lies face upwards; her lips are still moving, but her eyes are just taking on that cold, hard look. If a speck of dust were to land on them, or a fly, they wouldn't blink. He sees her through a red blur, because the blood from her jugular vein spurted in his face. In hi ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I need to stop pretending I’m going to finish this. I thought it would be fantasy but it was historical fiction. That would have been ok if some of the characters hadn’t been tiresome.
Jeremy Jackson
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Folding Knife is a socio-economic fantasy, and it's so much more interesting than that description makes it sound.

Of course, it's much more: murders, betrayal, attempted assassination, spies, wars and military strategies on a grand scale. We follow the rise of Bassanius Severus (Basso) from the ranks of a rather mediocre family, to the president of a bank, to the office of First Citizen of the Vesani Republic (an overt homage to Rome). Basso is cunning, ruthless, and inordinately lucky; you
4.5/5 Rating Originally posted at https://mylifemybooksmyescape.wordpre...

A heart-breaking, bitter-sweet story, that despite the potential boring sound of a banking and political focus, will keep you engaged, and biting your nails every page.

I have no idea why, but I could not put this down. It is literally about a man - boy at the time - who starts working at bank, builds up a vast amount of money running the bank, becomes the First Citizen of a faux-Rome country, and then through political and
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
With luck, intellect, and an innate skill with strategy on his side, Basso is a powerhouse of ambition. His goal: to take everything he can and control the rest. Just because he can.

Well, at least that's what he'll tell you. But, as Basso would say, there's always another reason.

Set in the ancient Rome-like city of the Vesani Republic, THE FOLDING KNIFE follows the life of Bassianus Severus, First Citizen, from the odd circumstances surrounding his birth, to his meteoric rise in the banking in
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pretty good read. This is the second K.J. Parker book I’ve read, the first being the excellent, recent 16 Ways to Defend a Walled City.
Maybe a bit too early to generalise from two books but I see outlines of a style for this author, in the same way that Terry Pratchett had a style despite plots with different scenarios and characters. I see witty dialogue, a quick pace to a clever storyline with plenty of twists and turns. Sharp, tight prose, that rarely deviates from what we really need to know
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
This is actually a re-read. Even better than the first time around, for now it became totally clear, how the thing with the knife works.

(view spoiler)
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Only KJ Parker could write a fantasy novel about the global financial crisis. (Discuss.)
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good read. Similar to Baru Cormorant. Felt unattached at times to the main character and his cast of associates, but still worth the initial time investment.
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first experience reading a book by K. J. Parker and I enjoyed it immensely. It was grim but also had some funny dialogue, and it was more compelling than I would have expected for a book so heavily focused on the politics and economics of a country.

Full Review
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Loved this book! Basso is fascinating, loved the politics. Very much a book that relates easily to the real world, and one that I think people should read. Ill definitely be reading more by Parker.
Jul 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Parker takes us back to the same world (different time?) but different place as the Engineer Trilogy, and indeed, The Company. This is a world populated by a variety of long lived states and city states, from quasi feudal kingdoms to nomadic 'Mongols' and just about every variety of government found in Plato's Politics. The particular city state providing the context for this novel is the Republic, which elects a ruler (the first citizen), and is basically a trading/financing city like Venice in ...more
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
(x-posted from
I've read quite a few (actually all, I think) of Parker's books, and they're an interesting bunch; often flawed, but in fascinating ways. So, I always pick up the new ones to see what she comes up with. (As usual, I assume Parker is a 'she', though there's not much evidence one way or the other.) In this one, we basically get the life story of Basso, the great leader of the Republic, and this being Parker his inevitable downfall and destruc
This book. This book .

You ever get 50 pages into a book and wonder if the author/universe created it specially for you? That was me, with this one.

The Folding Knife is the story of the rise and fall of Bassianus Severus, First Citizen and richest man in the Vesani Republic, who makes a mistake that undoes a lifetime of achievement. It’s a rich, complicated story, full of politics, scheming, warfare and economics (but no magic; it’s a secondary world, but it’s not fantastical), with a wonderfu
Beth Dawkins
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Basso is the First citizen of the Vesani Republic. Things seem to be going great until an unlucky misstep.

This is my 8th book by K.J. Parker. Usually it is set up around an object, or fundamental, and we learn how the characters’ actions and out comes fit with the fundamental or object. In this case it is a simple folding knife. Basso uses the knife early on to change his life, and because of that it forms who and what he is. Basso uses situations and even people at times as easily as he would u
Tijani  Kay Aderemi
The Folding Knife is not your traditional fantasy novel, and at times seems dry when reading. But it becomes more interesting once you realise it's book set in an ancient Roman Republic.
Bassianus Severus Arcadius is an interesting man, with no pretentions as to his motives for whatever action he undertakes. That to me is as true a man can be to himself.

The Book explores the Roman culture and provides a glimpse of the brilliance of the politicians of that epoch. Bassianus did well considering, bu
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-kindle, fiction
K.J. Parker is my spirit animal. I'll eventually read everything he's written. I wish I could have him over for dinner to talk about Greek fire, Constantinople, Venice, Vauban, and coin debasement. K.J., if you're reading this, let's talk. I'm a good cook and I'm not a criminal.
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really unique. It took me a long time to get through, but I enjoyed every page. I think I needed to take my time in order to truly appreciate the story. KJ Parker has written the rise and fall of one man who is clever, cunning, and lucky. The writing is fascinating and meticulous; it is like reading the thought process behind a particularly inspired chess player. We see Basso's ruthless decisions and how he and his advisor Antigonus can see the impacts of small decisions in the long ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, 2013
I have some seriously mixed feelings about KJ Parker. I had a half-joking theory that this was what Scott Lynch was doing between Gentleman Bastards books--they have some major similarities. But Scott Lynch's plotting isn't quite as subtle, and his female characters all get names.

Seriously: What's Basso's sister's name? It's Placidia in one chapter, Tranquillina in two others, and just "his sister" everywhere else. It's the best argument I've seen for Parker being male. I'd love to find that a w
H. P.
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-sf
The Folding Knife is K.J. Parker’s masterful life story of a thinly-veiled Doge in a thinly-veiled medieval Venice. Basso has always been lucky, and it’s better to be lucky than good. Basso quickly rises to become, like his father, the First Citizen of the Vesani Republic, a mercantile city-state. But unlike his father, Basso is both lucky and smart, and begins amassing a great fortune over a long political career. But mustn’t it all eventually come crashing down? After all, even great men make ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, historical
If you like politics and economic power of the Roman/Venetian kind then this is the book for you, otherwise it's dry and too esoteric.

Loved that the world feels fully formed with a rich history and the twists and turns in the story are hilarious. I loved Basso's character, he's an awful human lacking empathy but somehow his schemes to get even more wealthy and powerful have the nice accidental side benefit of helping the Vesani Republic.

In the beginning you know he's been setup to fall and wait
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
loved this. similar tonally to his short stories (academic excersises), but just longer. you know from the beginning that Basso is going to go down in flames, but I was perpetually torn between wanting him to succeed and fail. the story is very unlike most fantasy stories - not much violence, no magic, mostly politics, logistics and economics. the wars are dealt with drily but also realistically - little mention of glory, instead it focuses on how much goes into running an army and what it's lik ...more
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
K.J. Parker's strength lie not in characterisation or narrative but in the elaboration and extension of a single concept into a novel (or three). This book is no exception; it is a high quality craft, but will not be to everyone's tastes.
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Fantasy Buddy Reads: August 2018 - The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker 34 62 Oct 02, 2018 04:25AM  

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K.J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt.

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 was raised in rural Vermont, a lifest

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