Sharps by KJ Parker – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings writes a review of KJ Parker’s latest standalone fantasy novel entitled Sharps, a fantasy novel that was published by Orbit Books and was released in June 2012.
“Enthralling, Original. A Delight to read, fans of fantasy will enjoy this.” ~The Founding Fields
Despite the fact that I have been interested in reading KJ Parker’s novels for a while now, I never really go the chance to pick one up. However, now that I have read Sharps, I can safely say that I will be reading more from this author, if this work is anything to go by. Despite a few nagging issues that I had with this title, I still found it to be one of the best fantasy books that I’ve read so far that have been released in 2012.
K.J. Parker’s new novel is a perfectly executed tale of intrigue and deception.
For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money…
Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.
When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?
The first thing that struck me as odd when I was reading Sharps was that it lacked any distinguishable chapters, the whole thing was told with little breaks between places and characters. You follow pretty much the same group of characters throughout the whole of KJ Parker’s latest novel, from the beginning to the end. Although this kept me reading, I did have an issue with the lack of chapters. Maybe because it was the first book that I read with no chapters, like Alden Bell’s The Reapers Are the Angels was the first novel that I read with no speech marks. However, after the oddity of no chapters was brushed aside at the beginning of the tale, midway through, you’ll soon find yourself enthralled and accustomed to KJ Parker’s enjoyable prose, and you won’t want to put the book down.
Our story focuses around the team of Fencers from Scheria, one of the nations previously involved in the conflict, the other being Permia. Whilst Scheria may be more populous than Permia, Scheria is richer. Now at a times of peace, the team of Fencers from Scheria are on a tour of Permia, who as it happens, turns out to be obsessed with fencing. Our characters are interesting to look at, although unfortunately not memorable enough to their names to stick in their heads for a long time after you’ve finished the book – like the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin do. Then again, KJ Parker can only achieve so much in a single novel, he didn’t intend Sharps to be part as a massive series like Martin did. So some things are sacrificed in Sharps, and as I found, it was the characters. You get a team of four lead by their manager, and they are as follows: Suidas Deutzel, fencing champion of Scheria, Giraut Byrennius, student from a higher class family, Addo Carnufex, a general’s youngest son, and Iseutz Bringas, the only female on the team and the one who has accepted the tour in order to escape from a political marriage. We’re introduced to them right from the get go, and although they might not be the most memorable characters out there (I had to go back to the book to get their names), they’re still interesting to look at and can still be rooted for as main characters, and are a far cry from a complete disaster – they don’t seem to be that far-fetched, unbelievable or unrealistic, at least – that’s what I found.
Whilst the characters may not be the book’s strong point though, the plot is pretty interesting. It’s not standard, and nor is it cliche, which is a good thing, and the history that Parker created for his world also felt rich and developed, which added to make the novel itself more enjoyable. We don’t just follow the plot from A to Z. We learn about why the characters in the plot are where they are, and why Parker’s world is in its current state. This is one of Sharps‘ stronger points, and although the pace was uneven at certain points in the novel, there were many aspects of Sharps that I felt still made it readable, and still made it enjoyable, some of which I’ve already mentioned. The story is compelling and the novel is, despite all the complexity at a first glance, a pretty simple read and easy to understand. You don’t get bogged down in politics, and the characters are all introduced quickly enough and you get to know them right from the get go. The action is well-written, the battle scenes are enjoyable to read, and the author manages to keep us entertained throughout the novel.
Although Sharps may have some flaws, the rest of the novel more than makes up for it. The interesting and unique concept of the setting and the fencing aspect of the novel allows for some interesting reading, and it also helps that it’s not overly long as well, unlike the three books that I read recently (A Dance with Dragons Part One: Dreams and Dust by George RR Martin, The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter and Caliban’s War by James SA Corey (Review Soon). If you’re a fan of fantasy, as mentioned earlier, or have at one part in your life participated in fencing (I haven’t), then Sharps is the book for you.