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Sharps Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841499269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841499260
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.1 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 459,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Packed with sharp edges and provocative points, Sharps may be the book that fantasy readers have been waiting for . . . the long-awaited gateway drug to Parker's entire world (Pornokitsch)

Sharps is a book of subtly, nuance and rather fun adventure that is masterfully executed. And it only gets better the more you think about it . . . Any fan of fantasy that is looking for more than the traditional absolutely needs to be reading her work. (Nethspace)

Book Description

The latest novel from one of fantasy's 'premier voices' (SFX)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Sharps is set in two small countries, Permia and Scheria, that live in the shadow of greater empires. They fill that shadow with violence - Permia and Scheria were at war for decades, and now glare at one another in a tense (and tenuous) cease-fire. Despite their bitter rivalry, the two countries know little about one another. Their spies and agents scuttle back and forth across the demilitarized zone, but, as far as the greater population is concerned, their rivals are totally alien.

The one passion that unites both countries is fencing. Sharps begins in Scheria, where a handful of unlikely fencers are recruited to form a national team and invited to tour Permia for exhibition matches. They are the first planks in a great diplomatic bridge - some of the first Scherians to enter Permia (as guests) in over a decade, and a vital opportunity to reconnect the people of the two countries.

Naturally, no sane person would want to be involved, so the fencers are encourages through a variety of persuasive means. Suidas is a master of the art (and deeply in debt). Phrantzes, the manager, is a former champion (with a wife in 'protective custody' by the government). Giraut is a talented amateur (and is facing a prison sentence for murder). Addo is another skilled young fencer (and his father is known for drowning an entire Permian city during the war). Iseutz, the lone female member of the team, has perhaps the least sinister motive: it is either this or stay home and get married. Somewhere between zero and five (inclusive) of the team are also spies, traitors, psychopaths, evil geniuses and heroes. Of course all of them are far more complex characters than these blithe summaries, motivated by forces both secret and overt.

What the characters aren't is stupid.
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By A. Whitehead TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 July 2012
Format: Paperback
The neighbouring kingdoms of Permia and Scheria fought one another for forty years before the Scherian general Carnufex, known in infamy as 'The Irrigator', flooded a Permian city and killed thousands. The war ended with an uneasy truce and the two nations maintaining a neutral zone between their kingdoms, containing the very territory they spilled so much blood over. To help restore relations and build on their mutual interest in the sport of swordplay, the Scherians dispatch a team of fencers to tour Permia. The fencers quickly learn that they may just be pawns in a larger game as factions in both kingdoms attempt to use their visit as an excuse to restart the war or to seize power in their own land. But no-one has reckoned on this particular team and their individual motivations and ambitions...

Sharps is the latest stand-alone novel from the enigmatic K.J. Parker. Parker is known for her fascination with medieval and renaissance weapons of war and basing entire narratives around them. Usually these narratives work on multiple levels, with both extensive literal use of the item in question and also its use as a metaphor. In Sharps Parker returns to her love of the sword and the sport of fencing, which she last studied in detail in her very first novel, the excellent Colours in the Steel, fifteen years ago. Sharps is a very different book, however, to both that novel and her normal output.

Most of Parker's books focus on a single character in detail, whilst Sharps has an ensemble cast. The four fencers are the main focus, along with their manager/trainer and their redoubtable political liaison officer. Parker also visits a whole bunch of bit-players on both sides of the border as different factions try to make use of the situation for their own ends.
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KJ Parker typically writes books specialising in the dissection and subsequent dismissal of love as a virtue. The Engineer Trilogy, The Folding Knife, The Hammer, The Fencer Trilogy, are all fine examples.

Sharps exists in a similar line, but it is subtly different. The story in Sharps is both lighter and, because of that, in its own way a lot more clever and enjoyable. As always, her characterisation and world building are exquisitely detailed. There's a now-familiar focus on complex intersecting power struggles. However the characters tend toward a manic good humour and there is less of the twisted oppression that hangs over some of Parker's other books. There is also no focus on a single lead character with a draconian grasp on morality. Instead we tend to settle on a man suffering from and ultimately rising beyond the effects of war in order to act in a way that is, arguably, morally superior. Even if he does this largely because it's the most awkward thing he could possibly do.

Of course, it wouldn't be a book by KJ Parker if she left it at that, but I will leave you to discover that for yourselves.

I am a great fan of KJ Parker. I think her one of the best contemporary authors. She never fails to develop rich characters while expanding my understanding of the world - whether through her treatment of numismatics in the Folding Knife or the principles of engineering in The Engineer Trilogy. However even I sometimes find her grim nihilism to be challenging. I suspect Sharps is the closest Parker will ever come to having a holiday. Enjoy it.
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