|Colours in the Steel|
by K. J. Parker
Sometimes, you can read the first few words of a book, and know instantly whether you will enjoy it or not.
This was case with Colours in the Steel, the first in the "Fencer" trilogy. My opinion of this novel was formed immediately, and never changed throughout the time of reading it. I knew I was going to love it, and love it I do.
If I had to choose one word to describe it, I would pick "clever." Deft touches, hidden treats of phrase or thought tucked away for the observant, wry observations on society and an intricately built story all come together under this description. This makes it a joy to read, a rewarding experience; I lost count of the times I stopped to read a phrase or quote to any who happened to be nearby.
Colours in the Steel is also a refreshing change from the usual fantasy epic, in style, character and setting. The dry, almost sardonic tone is unusual in most fantasy I've read, and is complemented by patches of brutal descriptiveness that never quite manages to seem wanton nor unnecessary.
There are no heros or villains, as such. On both sides of the conflict about which this book orbits there are simply those doing what they must, and it is difficult to find fault with either of the opposing positions.
"Magic" is a subtle, elusive thing, which none understand, including those who supposedly wield it. Engineering and science are the powerful forces in this tale, though indications exist that it will not always be so.
In fact, perhaps subtle would be a better term overall. There is an openess, almost simplicity about the writing, yet it contains depth, characterisation and detail unsurpassed by anything I have read of late. Hints, words and ideas are scattered softly amongst the prose so well you barely notice their presence, yet they combine in an impressively intricate way.
As I stop and think back over the story, and the events, remarkably little seems to have happened. I feel as if I should erase the end of the previous paragraph. Then I think a little deeper, and recall the myriad details that made this world so alive, so real - and the multitude of unanswered questions that were never explicitly posed.
Read this book, give it the time and thought it deserves, and you will not be disappointed.
(March 24th, 2003, 10:37 am)
I still can't find the rest of the series, damnit!
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