Wednesday 4 April 2012

Guest Post | Mihai of Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews Blue and Gold by K. J. Parker

In Top of the Scots last year, I concluded that no other book published in 2011 surprised or excited or delighted me as much as The Hammer did -- that is to say, the latest novel from the genderless personage that is K. J. Parker.

It's been a long wait for Sharps already, and I dare say it ain't over yet. But the pain of my anticipation is not so pointed as it was, because when I approached the veteran blogger behind Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews about a potential guest post, he suggested a review of Blue and Gold, a novella by none other.

So please, everyone: give Mihai a warm welcome to the hallowed halls of The Speculative Scotsman! 


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"'Well, let me see,' I said, as the innkeeper poured me a beer. 'In the morning I discovered the secret of changing base metal into gold. In the afternoon, I murdered my wife.'

For a man as remarkable as the philosopher Saloninus, just another day.

"Of course, we only have his word for it, and Saloninus has been known to be creative with the truth. Little white lies are inevitable expedients when you’re one jump ahead of the secret police and on the brink of one of the greatest discoveries in the history of alchemy.

"But why would a scientist with the world’s most generous, forgiving patron be so desperate to run away? And what, if anything, has blue got to do with gold?"


If I should name one of the most original and strong voices of modern fantasy fiction I would definitely choose without any hesitation K. J. Parker. The existence of K. J. Parker is shrouded in deep mystery, but the works published so far have been nothing but excellent. Blue and Gold is the second novella released by K. J. Parker after the wonderful Purple and Black.

As is the case with the K. J. Parker’s last works, the world of Blue and Gold is reminiscent of Byzantium or Roman civilization in the republic phase, but with plenty of personal touches for originality. And again K. J. Parker does not hit the reader on the head with excessive and bulky world-building, but unveils the setting with subtlety. The most striking details are the political and economical ones, strong factors that give the world solidity and stability. Even the smaller details in the political and economical cogs that spin the world of Blue and Gold are not left to chance, and carefully treated.

The story is told through the voice of Saloninus, a brilliant alchemist, found on the run after he is accused of his wife’s murder. Skillful, intelligent and witty, Saloninus is a very charismatic character with quite a story to be told and with a particular history behind him. I cannot place Saloninus among the positive characters of fiction; more appropriate for his definition is the Dungeons & Dragons alignment of chaotic neutral.

Nonetheless, Saloninus is one of the most likeable and memorable characters I encountered in my readings. And the manner in which Saloninus recollects his story is full of humor, quirky but attractive, and with enough charm to keep the reader glued to the tale until it is finished.

As a matter of fact, K. J. Parker’s entire novella is full of humor, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes friendly. It is in fact a step away from the majority of K. J. Parker’s novels: a radiant and entertaining read. Not that the other, darker works are not entertaining, but in a different manner and for different reasons. The plot is not overly complex, but beautifully constructed, with plenty of mystery and suspense to keep the reader guessing, until Blue and Gold is brought to a close... an end that although not surprising, is delightful and amusing.

K. J. Parker is one of the most underrated names in fantasy literature, although the works published so far are evidence enough of the contrary case. If it was necessary, Blue and Gold is another proof that certifies K. J. Parker’s originality and powerful voice. Definitely one of my all-time favorite writers.


One of mine as well, Mihai -- as you know!

Many, many thanks to the man of the hour for offering the preceding post to keep you all entertained in my absence. He's genuinely a great guy, and a very fine writer besides. And as I mentioned in my preamble, Mihai blogs over at Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews, a blog I'd heartily recommend you folks follow in the unlikely event that you aren't already.

But much as I'd like to sit here and burble a for a little longer, time is short, so let me just say that tomorrow: there will be sound, and very likely fury too. :)

No prizes for guessing who'll be guest posting then! About a fascinating-sounding book, too...


  1. I've read the Fencer Trilogy an Engineers Trilogy by Parker and loved them both. The subject matter is quite dark, I'll admit, but I still think there's an underlying lightness in the tone of the actual writing and a lot of subtle humor.

    And, just this very day I received The Hammer and The Folding Knife from The Book Depository and can't wait to get into them.

  2. That is very true. Also "The Folding Knife" is lighter in tone than the other K.J. Parker's works, but "Blue and Gold" is the lightest. Nothing very dark about it, although it has some touches :)

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