lärm's Reviews > Colours in the Steel

Colours in the Steel by K.J. Parker
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really liked it

In 1998, Parker's first novel Colours in the steel was published in Dutsch. 15 years and some 18 novels later, remains the only novel by Parker to be released in the dutschspeaking market. Why? Why the f* publish the first part of a trilogy and not the rest? Is it that exceptionally horrible? I've decided to give this book a second read, just to find out what's so wrong about it. I've checked the negative reviews to see what bugged people and i’m gonna try and pay extra attention to it.

Well, let's just say that this is a very good fantasy book by any standard. Ok, call it fantasy light cos no elves and orcs make their appearance and the magicians claim they can't do magic, but nevertheless, Parker uses and alternative world as setting, so fantasy it is. In my opinion, the fact that Parker doesn't bore us with all kinds of made up races, devices, language etc, is one of this book's key strengths. So no Jack Vance style.

The storyline itself is pretty cool with no real loose ends. Some might claim that the use of magic (which isn’t magic because no one can change people into toads) is some sort of easy solution but it sure ain’t some deus ex machine thrown in at the end to tie things together. I think it’s actually a pretty clever way to beat the critics a priori. What could easily be dismissed as too accidental, convenient, uncanny is now a major part of the storyline i.e. the Principle. How is it possible that Bardas and Gorgas manage to meet up in a large city that is overrun by invaders with fighting, death, carnage, burning houses everywhere? It’s The Principle, stupid! Very convenient but nevertheless..
Somehow, Perimadeia, the city where Bardas resides, reminds me of Rome: the capital of an ancient reich gone decadent. The days of warriors are over. Instead of an army posh kids parade in shiny armour. Politicians run the place for their own benefit. There are barbarians at the gate, but if they are polite, they can come in and live in the city. It goes without saying that decline will end in fall.

Parker goes beyond the classic good versus evil plot. (S)he manages to portray both sides as OK. On the one hand you want the city to survive, but on the other hand you want Temrai , the leader of the tribal clan get revenge for the injustice/ slaughter he had to go through as a kid. This way, Parker shows us the ambiguity of war and the relativity of good (or evil). The cruelty of war is well pictured too. Children are being killed, men are sacrificed. War ain’t fun, let alone glorious. The moral (d)evolution of Temrai shows how people in power look different at war than the guys who have to fight frontline: acceptable loss and collateral damage versus personal human tragedy.

It’s true that neither Bardas nor Loredan are likeable chaps. They’re not totally disgusting either so I don’t see why some people complain. In real life people suck too, so what’s the problem? I could use a bit more romance or a fair bit of shagging in the storyline. That’s my only beef.

There’s bit of Pratchett in this book. Especially the part where the people in the city use the first moments of panic to loot, plunder and pillage. It made me laugh out loud. The magicians who can’t do magic because they can’t turn people into frogs is another Pratchettian joke.
I found this book entertaining and easy to read. It’s true that Parker spends a lot if not too much time on the crafting of swords and siege weapons but it sure beats endless descriptions of the landscape if you ask me. It’s not high literature, a common thing for fantasy/sci fi, and it won’t change your life but it’s a good read. Add some titties and it would even get 5 stars.
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Reading Progress

November 25, 2012 – Started Reading
November 25, 2012 – Shelved
November 25, 2012 –
page 135
November 26, 2012 –
page 169
November 28, 2012 –
page 201
November 30, 2012 –
page 247
December 2, 2012 –
page 365
December 3, 2012 –
page 420
December 5, 2012 – Finished Reading

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