(review copied from my Goodreads account)
This is perhaps closer to a quest narrative than Parker's other works, but like those other works it's too original, too mature to be classed as genre fantasy. In many ways, closer to the tradition of Dostoevsky than of Tolkien. Refreshingly, you never have the sense that a certain character is bound to triumph because they're the hero, that the whole book is lurching towards a telegraphed outcome.
The central images here are the messer - an inelegant weapon incongruously used for sporting exhibition - and the flooding of a city, many years before the book's plot begins but half-echoed throughout it, in the fall of blood across a fencer's forehead, or the rush of a crowd into an empty street. These shapes are worked into the characters' psychologies as fully as Woolf's line on the canvas or Ballard's angular automobile geometry. That psychology is the central cog here: Parker offers us characters whose motivations are human - the most heroic characters have selfish sides, the most noxious have nobility in their ideals, and the whole is a convincing tapestry of the mechanics of morality.
The allegories are undisguised; the parallels with the realworld banking collapse and the bloody revolutions in the Arab Spring are bravely drawn. And while Parker's trilogies sometimes suffer from an anxious overflow of events towards the end, this standalone novel is as smartly engineered as a foldaway camping stove; as precise as the edge of a rapier.
"The point is, there's nothing, absolutely nothing that any of us wouldn't do, if we had to. If you say otherwise, you're kidding yourself. You can talk all day about right and wrong and good and evil; all it means is you haven't yet come up against the situation where you've got to do it, you haven't any choice." -- Suidas Deutzel