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Friday, December 17, 2010

"Blue and Gold" by KJ Parker (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

KJ Parker at Wikipedia
Read KJ Parker' story Amor Vincit Omnia HERE
Order Blue and Gold HERE
Read FBC Rv of The Folding Knife
Read FBC Rv of Purple & Black
Read FBC Rv of A Rich Full Week
Read FBC Rv of The Scavenger Trilogy

INTRODUCTION:Pseudonymous author KJ Parker has made a name in fantasy with 12 novels, 2 long novellas/short novels and 2 short stories of which you can read Amor Vincit Omnia free online at the Subterranean site and get a flavor of the author's work.

I have talked about The Scavenger trilogy, while the standalone The Folding Knife is one of my top novels of 2010 and the upcoming The Hammer will be very hard to top in 2011.

The author's books share some characteristics: military setting in a generic pre-industrial society with Roman/Byzantine overtones and naming conventions, dark humor, detached narration, love of details especially about metal working, sword fighting and pre-industrial engineering, themes of betrayal, civilization versus "barbarians", group of extraordinary friends and family feuds that spill into the larger picture.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:"...In the morning I discovered the secret of changing base metal into gold. In the afternoon I murdered my wife"

The first lines of "Blue and Gold" should be enough to hook you upon it since they are pitch perfect and anticipate what comes in the roughly 100 pages that follow.
Of course Saloninus is a self-confessed unreliable narrator, so you may take the above with a little pinch of salt so to speak.

Like Purple and Black,
"Blue and Gold" has a feeling of completeness, while for example the excellent A Rich Full Week from the Swords/Dark Magic anthology has the episodic feeling of the shorter prose form.

"Blue and Gold" is packed with stuff whose true meaning becomes apparent only gradually, so I actually read it several times to get all its nuances. In a departure for the author whose novels prefer the detachment of 3rd person, "Blue and Gold" is narrated by self-confessed liar, philosopher, writer, criminal and genius alchemist Saloninus aka Nino, former college chum and current court alchemist and brother-in-law to prince Phocas who rules the country where the action is set.

The prince wants to find the secret of transmutation - base metals in gold -, while his ambitious, beautiful and vain sister Eudoxia wants the elixir of immortality Saloninus hinted at in one of his famous works. Of course Saloninus wants only to get away, preferably with some money but at least with his life, or so we are led to believe...

Things are much more complicated and there are layers of meaning and past happenings that are only slowly and exquisitely unraveled; the significance of the title
for example is partly obvious, but partly revealed slowly with little hints thrown in here and there.

Combining action from the present with back story and ending on a superb note, "Blue and Gold" is one of the most "personal" works of the author, where everything is immediate and as seen through the eyes of Saloninus, though of course there are quite a few implications as the larger picture goes. Just awesome!!

And to end with one more quote to remember from the narrator:

'I've never lied to you so,' I said. So, don't ask me that, or I'll have to spoil a perfect score."


Derek said...

I've become absolutely engrossed in KJ Parker's worlds, starting with The Engineer Trilogy, moving on to the quick but absolutely incredible Purple & Black and now starting the third book in the Fencer trilogy. I've pre-ordered the Leather-Bound Blue & Gold, as all I want to do is read Parker's work for the rest of my life. Your reviews are great, a wonderful way of showing us why you love the author (as it's near impossible to not) yet not giving away anything that would ruin the writer's nack for surprise. So thank you and I'm looking forward to Blue & Gold!

Kat Hooper said...

At FanLit, we loved this one, too!

Liviu said...

Thank you for the comments; read The Hammer when you have a chance (I see it's already out on Amazon) since i think it's the best KJ Parker yet, at least as standalones go and on par with the best of the author's work; I hope to have it as the final review of 2010 on the 31st, but if not early next week

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