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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Three Short Stories from KJ Parker: "Amor Vincia Omnit", "A Small Price to Pay for a Birdsong" and "A Room with a View" (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Read FBC Review of The Hammer
Read FBC Review of Blue and Gold
Read FBC Review of The Folding Knife
Read FBC Review of Purple and Black
Read FBC Review of A Rich Full Week (ss from anthology)
Read FBC Review of The Scavenger Trilogy

Subterranean Press keeps publishing wonderful stuff from KJ Parker, so after the two superb novellas Blue and Gold and Purple and Black, there are two short stories published in their magazine, one in the Summer of 2010 edition and one in the Winter 2011 one, as well as another story in their upcoming anthology Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 which will be published later in the Spring and has already a review from us done and scheduled tbp in April.

Here I will discuss these three stories and while the anthology one will be available only later, the other two are available free online so you can read them now!

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Amor Vincia Omnit (read it HERE) is a story set in the same milieu as A Rich Full Week with strong similarities with the world of The Fencer trilogy, where magic is both science - as the magicians see it - and religion as the regular people see it. There are "brothers", "adepts", the Studium, the curriculum and then on graduation the degrees of proficiency and adept ranks and the classically named spells that add so much to the depth: Choris Anthrop, Unam Sanctum....

Amor Vincia Omnit follows another Studium scholar sent to deal with a problem as in a Rich Full Week, though in this case, the issue is possibly of a truly exceptional nature: an untrained magician of great raw talent possibly solved "Lorica", a far reaching conjecture in magic hoped to be unsolvable by the powers to be and became invincible for all practical purposes, though of course he does not realize it and behaves like a child with a match.

Our hero Framea, a bright rising star of the Studium is sent to investigate and solve the problem at all costs, and in the author's expected style, at all costs means precisely that and we are treated to a suspensful but quite dark story that is as good an introduction to KJ Parker's work as anything.

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A Small Price to Pay for a Birdsong (read it HERE) is set in a world similar to the ones of Blue and Gold, Purple and Black, The Folding Knife, The Company and The Hammer, which are what our world would have looked like were it to continue unbroken from the classical Greek-Roman world without a messianic religion and the idea of progress it brought.

So no magic, but a deep sense of history and priceless moments in which the narrator, a talented musician who scrapped his way up from the lower classes to a (non-tenured yet) professorship at the Academy, muses on the irony of fate when dealing with an unstable musical genius who tries to wiggle his way out of hanging for some stupid bar brawl killing...

Twists and turns including one at the end that I really did not see though it was hinted subtly in retrospect and a great story about art, society and the relationship between the two. Characters rather than action shine here and I strongly recomend this one too.

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A Room with a View is also set in the milieu of the Studium as the first story above and it is shorter and for the most part funnier though being a KJ Parker story it turns darker at the end. I really laughed out loud page after page at the musings of our hero, an underachieving "wizard" seen as of of great potential as a child, but who barely qualified as adept and on failing in job interview after job interview has become a "list freelance adept" called upon for the most unpleasant jobs the local masters need extra people with magic for.

In this case looking into the minds of thousands of imported dogs in a border town to make sure they do not bring "demons" in the country and to top it all, having to do a mentoring job which our narrator utterly hates; more than the dogs actually
...

The story has the most detail about the magical system of the author with the "rooms" and what they are and how you move there and there are quotes after quotes that represent KJ Parker at the author's best. The ending is twisty and darker as mentioned though I felt this story needed an extra page or two and it would have been perfect; still an excellent one!

"Fundamentally, I believe, comedy and tragedy are the same thing, right up to the end. At the end, in comedy they get out of the mess they're in and live happily ever after. In tragedy, they all die. But there's a tipping point, a moment when it's so evenly balanced it could go either way"

Overall these three stories published by Subterranean confirm why KJ Parker is at the top of the genre today in terms of creativity, originality and subtlety!

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