So I mentioned before that I thought K.J. Parker would be a good author to read on an airplane; as it turns out, I’ve been on a lot of airplanes recently, so I read K.J. Parker’s Fencer trilogy. And now I have a new conclusion about Parker, which is that I don’t like his books and don’t want to read any of them in the future, airplane or no airplane.
So as the story starts out, there’s a conflict between a sophisticated walled city that’s a major trading port, and a tribe of barbarian savages. This is a lot like Savages, obviously. But it also throws in a few more elements, a protagonist who is a fencer (in trials that are decided by duels, so kind of a violent lawyer) and some characters who are bumbling professors at a kind of monastery of not-quite-magic.
We follow them through an implausible series of events in this war, and then in the next two books as they go on to take part in largely unrelated other wars between other countries. Along the way, the characters do horrible things—almost every character in the book is badly damaged and capable of incredible cruelty, a pattern that in retrospect is easy to pick up from Savages as well—and also spend a lot of times forging weapons and armor in super-detailed “I researched all of this, so you’re going to read about it” scenes.
And it all adds up to a whole lot of not much. There’s all these wars, and they just happen. And some people do well for a while, and then they do badly. Or they do badly for a while, and then they do well, and then they do badly again. Nothing matters at all, nobody is ever happy, it’s just this totally random slice-of-life series of events, except that all the events are viciously cruel, sadistic, and bloody. There’s even a magic system that pops up in all three books, but nobody in the books actually understands it, and it just kinda randomly happens, too. The end result is frustrating and deeply, deeply unpleasant. I’m done with this guy, and would recommend that you not start with him.