You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Devices and Desires

K. J. Parker's Devices and Desires is the first novel of a fantasy trilogy. The Eternal Republic is a city-state of Mezentines who have a regimented society built around solid principles of engineering. Any deviation from Specification is an extreme crime punishable by death. Ziani Vaatzes is the foreman of a factory that makes scorpions, military war engines that fire spears. When he is convicted of making an abomination, a deviation from Specification, he is sentenced to death. Enraged at the idea of his wife and daughter suffering without him, he escapes the city and swears revenge.

Beyond the city are the neighbors are the Eremians and the Vadani, two rival duchies that are more agrarian. The Eremian Duke Orsea has just suffered a terrible defeat by the Mezentines and their scorpions after an ill-advised attack. In their retreat they capture Vaatzes, who offers to build scorpions for the Eremians. Orsea and his council decline his offer, but he sets up a shop building them with the help of a partner.

Meanwhile, the duke's right hand man Miel Ducas fnds himself with a quandary when he comes into possession of a secret letter written to the duchess from Valens, the Vadani duke. When Ducas finally decides to destroy the letter he discovers that it's been stolen.

The Mezentines decide that to protect their technological secrets they must destroy Eremia, but the first army of mercenaries they send are wiped out by the Eremian scorpions. The second army they send is decimated by the Eremian cavalry before laying siege to the city. Ducas is imprisoned when the missing letter comes into Orsea's hands, just as the Mezentines begin their attack.

This is an exciting story that has more to it than my brief synopsis would indicate. At the core is Vaatzes cold determination to reunite with his wife. As an element of a machine, he is a part of a metaphor of fate, his sentence leading mechanically to his revenge and unification with his wife. The book is also quite funny in places, especially the relationship between Ducas and Orsea. The cultures of the Mezentines and the Eremians are drawn well and are in stark contrast. Vaatzes, as the central cog, provides the engine for the story. His determination and machinations are impressive. The story is often dark, cold, and ruthless. I look forward to the next volume. A-

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