“He turned away, and suddenly she thought about the old children’s story, where the stupid girl opens the box that God gave her, and all the evils of the world fly out, except Hope, which stays at the bottom; and she wondered what Hope was doing in there in the first place, in with all the bad things. Then the answer came to her, and she wondered how she could’ve been so stupid. Hope was in there because it was evil too, probably the worst of them all, so heavy with malice and pain that it couldn’t drag itself out of the opened box.”

- K.J. Parker, Sharps

Review: The Scavenger Trilogy

The crow opened its wings and lifted, proclaiming as it went the subtle treachery of humans who lie still pretending to be dead, just to fool hard working scavengers.


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The story starts by playing its trump card, its greatest intrigue, which the entire book and possibly series is built around. The protagonist awakes, finding himself lying half submerged in a stream, surrounded by bodies, with absolutely no memory of his past.

He lurches from one minor disaster to another, searching for peace and quiet, but only finding violence and trouble. And of course, he spends his time searching for hints of who he is. The problem is, everyone else seems to know who he is, and yet no-one will either live long enough to tell him, or allow themselves to tell him for fear of the consequences.

Of course, the series is riddled (quite literally) with hints and hidden-in-plain-sight remarks about his past, through a series of dreams that the character has. It is quickly clear that these are not all from one persons experience, rather an entire series of them, and the reader is found snatching at details of his past, trying to clue it all together.

And so does the character. With little or no choice left to him, he meets a travelling con-artist upon the road, Copis. She makes her living playing the part of a Priestess to an obscure and mordant God, Poldarn, who’s arrival precedes the end of the world. Our nameless protagonist adopts this name, but this is where the riddle really begins…

Is Poldarn the amnesiac actually Poldarn the God? The God who is not only proceeding to cause the downfall of the empire. There are certainly hints that he is… Big, ominous, sinister hints, and sinister is where Parker really excels.

It is not a horror story, but the world is in a horrible state. The Empire’s northern territories are being ravaged by raiders, whilst Imperial Generals fight each other for power, and hired mercenaries do just the same for money. The throne is shaky, warrior monks stalk the land, with no form of morality, cut down anyone who looks to be destabilising the empire. And then the divine Poldarn is added to the mixture.

Everyone worth anything who meets Poldarn either tries to detain him, or kill him, not to much success in any case as he finds himself incredibly skilled with a blade. He may not be Poldarn, bringer or the doomsday, but all evidence suggests he is Poldarn, the extremely evil whom everyone wishes were dead.

When finally reunited with family, he returns home, only finding more bad luck awaiting him, and he stumbles through trying to re-adjust to another life. He always leaves destruction in his wake.

And yet, the reader almost always sees him to be doing the right thing, or at least see why he has done it. He means well, but everything he means just tears the world apart a little more.

Then in the waning stages of the plot, he begins to meet ‘friends’ from his past, and slowly, gradually, everything pulls together. The webs that Parker weaves throughout the entire series entrap the characters, drawing all details of the story together, even the smallest little things, in the most incredible plots I have ever seen. And by the end of the series, everything makes sense, and it all comes together. 

The series is alive with evil wit, twisting plots, confounding dreams and more intrigue than you could sink your teeth into. And really, no one comes out a clear winner - everyone looses at some point in one way or another.

My Thoughts:

Pick up this trilogy. The plot is marvelously woven, and it keeps you guessing about Poldarn until the very end, and even then does not reveal everything. I’ll leave you with another brief quote.

He remembered about crows; they’ll sit in a tree watching you for hours at a time, and they won’t stir till you leave. But they can’t count; you want to nail a crow with a stone or a slingshot, take someone with you as you walk to the hide; when you’re ready, send your friend out and the crow will watch him till he’s out of sight, then he’ll lift himself into the air on his big, stiff wings, sail in and pitch, right where you want him to be. Very smart birds, crows, with an instinctive knowledge of how far a man can throw a stone, but useless at figuring.

He turned away, and suddenly she thought about the old children’s story, where the stupid girl opens the box that God gave her, and all the evils of the world fly out, except Hope, which stays at the bottom; and she wondered what Hope was doing in there in the first place, in with all the bad things. Then the answer came to her, and she wondered how she could’ve been so stupid. Hope was there because it was evil too, probably the worst of them all, so heavy with malice and pain that it couldn’t drag itself out of the opened box.
—  Sharps, K.J. Parker
KJ Parker: A Glimpse Behind the Curtain

KJ Parker: A Glimpse Behind the Curtain

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KJ Parker is a myth. A more mysterious figure there is not outside the hallowed identity cloud of Thomas Pynchon. Personally, I have been a fan of Parker’s for some years. Encouraged by Pornokitsch blogger Jared Shurin to read The Folding Knife, I was immediately hooked. Two years ago I was given a chance to ask Parker a few questions as part of Orbit’s publicity surrounding Sharps(2012). Such an…

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Welp, when my Amazon order comes in, I will now officially own every KJ Parker book.


His/her entire bibliography (in novels) consists of:

The Fencer Trilogy

  • Colours in the Steel (1998)
  • The Belly of the Bow (1999)
  • The Proof House (2000)

The Scavenger Trilogy

  • Shadow (2001)
  • Pattern (2002)
  • Memory (2003)

The Engineer Trilogy

  • Devices and Desires (2005)
  • Evil for Evil (2006)
  • The Escapement (2007)

Standalone Novels:

  • The Company (2008)
  • The Folding Knife (2010)
  • The Hammer (2011)

As of right now, I have The Engineer Trilogy, The Company, The Folding Knife, and The Hammer.  I’ve read The Company and The Hammer, and I’m now starting The Folding Knife.  I just ordered his/her first two trilogies.

The Company is also one of my Favorite Books of All Time, and I don’t put that lightly.  I was incredibly disappointed to see its lackluster reviews on Amazon, because it is an absolutely incredible book.  My favorite literary character, Aidi Proiapsen, comes from it, and the twist is mind-blowing.


He remembered a story he’d heard when he was a boy, about a tiny doorway in a mountain that led into another world; vast plains and mountains under unlimited skies, all contained inside a little door. Closed, the book was just a flat brown thing; you could put a couple of reports on top of it and bury it completely, so you wouldn’t know it was there. Open, it led to something monstrous and huge; reading it, he thought, would be an undertaking on par with invading a large and hostile country, and once you ventured inside, there was more than a chance you’d never get out again.
—  The Escapement, by K.J. Parker

In a surprise announcement last week, the mysterious writer known as  K. J. Parker revealed his identity as comedic fantasy writer Tom Holt.

It had long been known that Parker was a pen name for a successful writer who wanted to write in a different vein, though who that writer was had been kept a careful secret for seventeen years. For a number of years there have been rumors that Holt is that writer, based mostly on stylistic similarities between Holt’s more serious historical fiction novels, written under the byline Thomas Holt, and Parker’s novels.

READ MORE:  K. J. Parker Revealed! And He’s Releasing a Serial

The Sun and I - K. J. Parker

Subterranean Press is widely considered to be among the finest specialty publishers in the horror, suspense, fantasy and dark mystery genres.

I recommend this author to literally anyone who shows any interest in fantasy books. This is a less violent short story than any of their novels, but I think it’s a really interesting read. It’s about a group of poor, unemployed students who get the idea to start a religion instead of just begging and then get in over their heads, and it has a really interesting idea about morality.

We, by contrast—well. Think about it. Suppose you were the Invincible Sun, with the whole human race to choose from. We were conmen, whose business was getting sceptical people to believe us. Would you really select a bunch of unskilled nobodies—farm workers, fishermen, carpenters—or would you insist on nothing but the best; well-born, university-educated, intelligent and naturally articulate, and motivated (I’m repeating that word so you’ll notice it) by ferociously intense self-interest. Well, wouldn’t you? If you want a house built, you hire builders. If you want a gallstone taken out, you pay the best doctor you can afford. So, if you want people persuaded, you enlist the best persuaders in the business.
Once you realise the simple truth that motive is irrelevant, it all makes sense. Really, you don’t need a special flash of insight direct from the lips of the Invincible Sun to figure that one out. There is no right and wrong, only good and bad. Faith is good; it’s essential, if you want to survive in a perverse and gratuitously cruel universe. Nihilism is bad; it deprives the world of meaning, so why the hell bother with anything? Anything that can induce people to have faith, have hope, believe that there is meaning, is good. Motive is irrelevant.

Some common themes in their work include going REALLY REALLY INTO THE MECHANISTIC DETAILS. There are entire chapters about exactly how to make armour, swords, bows, seige weapons. Their stories are very low-fantasy; swords break through casual use, wars are used as political tools and people are generally well-meaning bastards, especially the protagonists, but magic does exist and is studied in a sort of “We have no idea what’s going on but we’re pretty sure it works like this?” sort of way. Characters make plans that unwind throughout entire trilogies, and chaos theory makes fools of all.

Please read their stories i need people to talk about them to.

A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong by K.J. Parker (2011)

“Think about it,” I said, and I was so ashamed of myself; like robbing a dying man. “Your last work. Possibly your greatest.”

He laughed out loud. “You haven’t read it yet,” he said. “It could be absolute garbage for all you know.”

It could have been, but I knew it wasn’t. “Let me finish it for you,” I said. “Please. Don’t let it die with you. You owe it to the human race.”

I’d said the wrong thing. “To be brutally frank with you,” he said, in a light, slightly brittle voice, “I couldn’t give a twopenny fuck about the human race. They’re the ones who put me in here, and in six hours’ time they’re going to pull my neck like a chicken. Screw the lot of them.”

It’s Friday again, and time for another fantasy story!

K.J. Parker is a modern fantasy author who writes fantasy without any supernatural or fantastic elements. Despite this, his or her stories are still immediately recognizable as fantasy. Parker also likes to tackle heavier themes such as evil, psychological blindness and love.

Review Update: The Scavenger Trilogy

It’d be like trying to outdraw two sword monks simultaneously. Might as well try to escape drowning in a river by strangling it with his bare hands.

Read it, that is all I can say. This has become one of my favourite series of all time, and that is something…

Something whistled in his ear, then went chunk. It was a strange insect, with green and yellow wings and an absurdly long brown body, and it lived by boring into the bark of trees. No, it bloody well wasn’t: it was an arrow. Some bastard was shooting at him.

Just love the dark wit that is expressed in these books, and some of the incredibly funny moments like the ones above.

And if there’s no such thing as gods?

Shadow - KJ Parker

Ahh. In that case, some very bad people who could raise the dead, heal the sick, predict the future and call down lightning out of the sky passed through here not too long ago in a cart, but they weren’t gods. Exactly the same as a god, but different.