Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Hammer” as Want to Read:
The Hammer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Hammer

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,116 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Gignomai is the youngest brother in the current generation of met'Oc, a once-noble family exiled on an island for their role in a vaguely remembered civil war.

On this island, a colony was founded seventy years ago. The plan was originally for the colonists to mine silver, but there turned out not to be any.

Now, an uneasy peace exists on the island, between the colonists an
Paperback, 404 pages
Published January 5th 2011 by Orbit
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,116 ratings  ·  87 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Hammer
Manuel Antão
May 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Over-the-top World-building: "The Hammer" by K. J. Parker

The main character, Gignomai met'Oc, is as memorable as was Bassianus Severus. Gignomai is the youngest member of a sentenced family of exiles on account of the political betrayal of an aristocratic family and he's clearly different from his relatives - he does not enjoy the birth privileges due to his birth, and he willingly spends time with the colonists, and with the passage o
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, favorites
ohhh my God!
I was more than half way through thinking what the hell, nothing's happening, wondering why the hell this has such great reviews. The writing was great and all but still the plot wasn't getting anywhere.
Then Parker drove a blade right through my heart which I never saw coming and then kept twisting till the end. Damn but I'll be forced to write a full review too!
If Parker's a woman damn me but I'd like to meet a woman who writes stuff like this, I wouldn't have thought it was possib
For readers familiar with KJ Parker's work, The Hammer can be summarized as the family drama of The Fencer series, the driven hero of The Folding Knife and the setup of The Company.

As a big fan of the author's work, I had the highest expectations for The Hammer - it should top my 2011 Anticipated Fantasy list, though having had the book for a while makes that a bit moot - and it was as good as I expected and it's an early candidate for my best of 2011.

So, on a big island, a small subsistence
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I wish there were more books like this: fantasy only because it’s set in a secondary world, with complex characters and unpredictable plots and moral ambiguity and solid writing and dialogue. This book is not for everyone—while it’s apparently less dark than much of Parker’s previous work, the main character is not altogether likeable and the plot is driven by a couple of atrocities that the reader won’t soon forget. Still, it’s so well-crafted that I would certainly recommend to anyone looking ...more
The Hammer is formulaic. It's a very effective formula, and one that has made me a fan of KJ Parker's work, but it's a formula nonetheless. You'll find here the same characters and tropes that inhabit most of Parker's other work: good characters that turn bad, bad characters that turn good, a seemingly relentless logic that leads to extreme and brutal results, and, most of all, a metaphor hammered until it's paper thin, then folded and re-folded and hammered again.

You'll find, also, the common v
Reggie Kray
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Deliciously evil and cunning.
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m a fully paid up member of this author’s fan club. This book certainly strengthened my belief in him being one of the most enjoyable story tellers I follow, usually with a poignant, cynical perspective, and just sometimes wry humour.

This is a tale set in his characteristic, late medieval Mediterranean made-up world. I hesitate to call it traditional fantasy as it contains only realistic, ordinary human beings with no magic! A sort of historical fiction, in a made up but very identifiable worl
Jan 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Gignomai met’Oc is the youngest son of a once-noble family that, decades ago, fell out of favor and was exiled from the Empire’s capital to a remote and comparably primitive colony established 70 years before the start of the novel. The met’Oc family is really twice isolated, as it lives on a plateau separate from the rest of the colony, with which it lives in an uneasy kind of not-quite-peace. While Gig’s older brothers Luso and Stheno have their own responsibilities around the house, Gig has e ...more
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 / 5

I’m having a bit of trouble reviewing The Hammer by KJ Parker. I can’t even make myself come up with an adequate summary. So for those reasons, I will forgo my usual review format and get into something more casual and comfortable. You see, The Hammer is a very interesting book; a book that keeps you reading and wanting to find out what comes next. But at the same time, it’s also a frustrating book; a book that annoys you with some things but still makes you keep reading. I’m not making
Phil Kozel
Jun 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
All the books by Parker that I have read thusfar take place in what I will call his 'parkerverse', a world comprised of an array of cities, city states and nations seemingly locked in the early 1700s Europe for a 1000 years. The Hammer is set in a remote colony of 'Home' and revolves around a young nobleman Gignomai met'Oc. The colony operates as something akin to a penal colony, established 70 years prior via indentured servitude. It is a small colony on the edge of a vast landmass inhabited by ...more
Guy Haley
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Duty, morality, guns and an engineering project.

It’s paradoxical to describe Parker’s books as fantasy. Aside from the non-Earth setting (here and elsewhere a 16th century-ish Rome analogue), they’re as real as real can be. Do you like Jules Verne, his informative descriptions of telegraphy and ballooning? You’ll like Parker’s detailed engineering passages, although these books are 21st century terse in their edification, not 19th century prolix. Also realistic are the characters, whose mental m
Jon Knight
If you've never read any KJParker stuff, treat my review as a four - but only read this one. Having read quite a few, I'm afraid it felt like a bit of a retreading of old ground.

Maybe I'm a phillistine and authors should be encouraged to explore the same themes over several novels, this felt too similar.

To reiterate: summarizes a lot of what the author has explored before in good form. Read this instead of the back catalogue - but I'd put it to the bottom of the to-read list if you've read oth
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, a-own-it
I'm a little torn on what to rate this - it's around a 3.5 for me. First, this is only loosely fantasy - there's no magic or anything different - just set in a fictional place. I spent most of the book trying to figure out who was good and who bad. I found the ending really unsatisfying. The book wasn't boring or bad, I just didn't care for how things turned out. I will try other books by this author though.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
As is usual for Parker, stuff that 99 other writers would skip over, he dedicates a significant portion of the novel to: here it's smithing and barter trade. The plot is nicely twisty and turn, and the motivation of the main character is compelling, once discovered.
Ranting Dragon
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: benni

Written by K. J. Parker, The Hammer is a standalone novel set on an island populated by a farming colony, a tribe of nomadic savages, and an exiled noble family, the Met’Ocs. An uneasy and unspoken arrangement exists among these three groups—the colonists allow the armed Met’Ocs to pillage their farms in exchange for protection against the savages.

The oldest Met’Oc brother, Stheno, is the strongest and runs the family farm on the Tabletop, a naturally fort
Phil Redman
Apr 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A story of revenge, vs. revolution. Well written, but a bit verbose.
Jan 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm finding it hard to review this book in terms other than comparisons to the rest of Parker's work. I feel as though, really, Parker has been whittling away at the extraneous requirements writing "fantasy" puts on the story - forget about magic, or creatures, or strange psychological/temporal phenomena, let's get back to the essence of story, which is one man hitting another man with a stick thus causing that man to go away and build a better stick. (Do I miss the unexpected world and system c ...more
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Someone needs to penetrate Parker's pseudonym, I would hate to think she is writing under another name as well and I am missing some of her books.

When reading Parker you know a couple things. The world will be gritty and violent, at least one, maybe more of the characters have a nasty plan going, and a few hidden gems will make you laugh and then feel guilty about it.

The Hammer starts with a lot of time pressed into a short section. A few years before IT happened, where we get some back ground
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
K.J. Parker, whoever they are, has a theory about society. The theory is, I think, that only sociopaths can get anything done. She - yeah, I think Parker is a she, and 'she' is less cumbersome than the gender neutral - is a maker of things and I expect has a certain dispassionate view of stuff. I wonder if her previous career has also given her a jaundiced view of humanity.

So. As always, there's the obvious sociopath, the not so obvious sociopath, and the ineffectual, needy psychopath. The fanta
Jul 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was powerful, gut-wrenching, and horrifying. The prose as always with Parker, is very enjoyable, or as the front of this book says "glitters with intelligence and precision." The characters I enjoyed, especially the "engineering" one who put together a forge, smelter---basically a factory, nearly single-handedly to help his colony not be dependent on imported goods. But the powerful message at the end just knocked me for a loop. Too often I see people who become abusers in the same manner i ...more
While parts of this reminded me a bit of The Engineer Trilogy, this book was still intense, and deep without ever straying from the morally gray area that Parker seems to enjoy so much. Flawless writing coupled with an intriguing plot is sure to please almost any reader.

Read my full review here:
May 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
The book starts at a sloth's pace, spending far too much time setting up its characters and setting. If you're a hardened enough reader where you can regularly get through 100+ pages of nothing, the second half is sure to please. For everyone else. pick up something quicker.
Ria Bridges
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
First, I’d like to make a point of stating that the author clearly went through a lot of trouble to set up the world in which this book takes place. So very like our own world’s history, there are enough similarities to make the setting familiar and enough differences to give it a fantastical feeling of being somewhere strange and new. It was clearly well thought through.

Perhaps, though, a little too much. The book occasionally gave us pieces of history that, while interesting, did little to add
Shane Duquette
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Gignomai, the youngest son of a noble family that was banished to small colony generations ago. He grows up in the family manor, living by noble traditions but without any real wealth or power to go along with it. His older brother, Luso, leads a gang who raids the local village. His father is a dark and brooding man. And there has been a great evil. One that nobody talks about.

The setting will make you think of a European colony in the Americas, back before anybody knew wha
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
For almost 3/4 of the length of this book, I was at a loss to understand where it was going. I kept reading, because Parker's prose is always a treat. I didn't really like any of the characters, but that is not an absolute requirement. When the past action that set everything in motion is finally revealed, I thought I understood things better and expected a resolution that was bloody (this is KJ Parker, after all), but reasonable and honorable. I did not expect what happened and how everyone inv ...more
Jeremy Jackson
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
More of the same, but that's no small thing coming from Parker's pen.
Exiled nobility waste away on an island otherwise inhabited by neighboring colonists and aloof savages. The youngest son of the noble met'Ocs enacts a nebulous scheme under the guise of a communal good and independence from his oppressive, neurotic family. Again, puzzle pieces are hidden under the bramble of flawless prose, and we're left scrambling to figure out what the pro/antagonist is really up to. A lot of The Company an
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow-building, meticulous novel in no rush to reveal the larger machine its gears are carefully working. Well-written, richly populated, and with hints at a world, to memories, to peoples, that we see as if through a clouded lens. A telling like this feels essentially masculine at its heart, a story for the hard of heart and cold of mind – so the appeal may be narrower than a common adventure novel. But if the reader is intrigued by politics, hints of military life, the interweaving of culture ...more
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars. It's rare to find someone who writes like K. J. Parker. It's like a magician's patter and sleight of hand, if the patter actually meant something. His prose and characterization are deft and precise, and as absorbing as the plot is, it's what he's NOT telling you that matters. Loved this one, though my favorite is still Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
So far, this is probably my favorite of his outside the Engineer trilogy. Most of the violence happens offstage, and the setting is interesting enough. I actually wish it was a bit *more* complicated, but the ending is surprisingly happy for Parker :)
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2017
Next D and D setting project. Great world to be immersed in.
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Ravencry (Raven's Mark #2)
  • Cage of Souls
  • Crowfall (Raven's Mark, #3)
  • A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)
  • Swordheart
  • Sailing to Sarantium (The Sarantine Mosaic, #1)
  • The Angel of the Crows
  • The Light Brigade
  • A Time of Blood (Of Blood and Bone, #2)
  • Red Noise
  • From Hell's Heart (The Chronicles of Breed #4)
  • Ship of Smoke and Steel (The Wells of Sorcery, #1)
  • The Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1)
  • Plan for the Worst (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #11)
  • Made Things
  • The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, #3)
  • The God King's Legacy (God King Chronicles, #1)
  • A Brightness Long Ago
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
39 likes · 3 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“Basic fact of life: no matter how far you run, you always take yourself with you.” 29 likes
“If the world is a book, are you the hero, or just a walk-on part?” 11 likes
More quotes…