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Devices and Desires [Paperback]

K.J Parker
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 25 2007 Engineer Trilogy (Book 1)
When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance -- one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others...In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker's embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion -- his devices and desires."A richly textured and emotionally complex fantasy...Highly recommended." --- Library Journal (Starred Review) "When so many fantasy sagas are tired, warmed-over affairs, a writer like K.J. Parker is more of a hurricane than a breath of fresh air." --- Dreamwatch

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From Publishers Weekly

Parker (the Scavenger trilogy) raises the bar for realistic fantasy war craft with this series opener. When the engineering guild sentences Ziani Vaatzes to death for improving on its supposedly perfect specifications for mechanical toys, he manages to escape Mezentia and throws in his lot with its recently defeated enemy, city-state Eremia. In exile, Vaatzes sets up shop making weapons, but his real goal is to create a new kind of engine—one made of human components, designed to reunite him with his family. He painstakingly executes a slow-moving master plan involving love, betrayal and secrets among the two countries' leaders. The tragic aftermath of the climactic battle forces a rereading of all that went before. It takes some hard slogging to get through assiduously researched technical descriptions of everything from dressing a duke to hunting a boar, and a few too many coincidences and expository speeches mar Parker's otherwise exquisite feat of literary engineering. (Oct.)
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Review

Praise for Shadow: 'Utterly compelling' THE ALIEN ONLINE 'This is exactly what the fantasy genre needs ... an assured, intelligent first chapter' SFX. Praise for the Fencer Trilogy: 'From the first page, it has style, humour and pace all its own, and develops rapidly into one of the most entertaining fantasy debuts in recent years ... Refreshing, fun, thoughtful, different, absorbing' SFX, 'Action-packed adventure' STARBURST on THE BELLY OF THE BOW --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your ordinary fantasy novel April 24 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was spectacular especially if the reader is involved in technology.

The characters are all involving with none of them playing the traditional "good guy" role. During most of the book I was pondering which character to root for. Intricate and precise (but not overwhelming) use of technology and insights into the politics of this Renaissance-alike world really makes the book come alive.

Over all it was a very refreshing change from the normal epic fantasy I read.

5/5
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3.0 out of 5 stars Okay. . . Nov. 18 2007
By Patrick St-Denis TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The first volume of The Engineer Trilogy was the first K. J. Parker novel I ever read. I'm aware that the author is quite popular in the UK, and Orbit are undoubtedly hoping that the same phenomenon will occur on this side of the Atlantic.

The premise is interesting enough: An engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of Guild law. After murdering some of his captors to save his life, leaving his wife and daughter behind he is forced into exile.

The industrial setting is a refreshing change from the typical medieval environment which is endemic to the fantasy genre. Incidentally, I do feel that Parker at times went a bit over the top with her descriptions of the various devices and machines. I'm not an M. I. T. student, so she lost me on a few occasions.

Devices and Desires is an intelligent read filled with intrigue. Throughout the novel it is evident that the story shows a lot of potential. However, the author doesn't always deliver.

The book is well-written. Indeed, K. J. Parker's flowing prose is a delight to read. And she imbues the entire narrative with that witty British humor which is so lacking in North American works. The pace of this novel is extremely uneven. The narrative can be fluid and efficient, yet at times the rhythm becomes particularly sluggish.

The characterization is the aspect which leaves the most to be desired. While one can't wait to discover how Ziani Vaatzes' elaborate plan to wreak vengeance on Mezentia will play out, I found that I didn't much care for the rest of that cast of characters. Especially Duke Orsea and Veatriz, both of whom are rather on the lame side.

Some of the plotlines are difficult to get into, for they appear to bring little or nothing to the overall story arc. K. J.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay Nov. 18 2007
By Patrick St-Denis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The first volume of The Engineer Trilogy was the first K. J. Parker novel I ever read. I'm aware that the author is quite popular in the UK, and Orbit are undoubtedly hoping that the same phenomenon will occur on this side of the Atlantic.

The premise is interesting enough: An engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of Guild law. After murdering some of his captors to save his life, leaving his wife and daughter behind he is forced into exile.

The industrial setting is a refreshing change from the typical medieval environment which is endemic to the fantasy genre. Incidentally, I do feel that Parker at times went a bit over the top with her descriptions of the various devices and machines. I'm not an M. I. T. student, so she lost me on a few occasions.

Devices and Desires is an intelligent read filled with intrigue. Throughout the novel it is evident that the story shows a lot of potential. However, the author doesn't always deliver.

The book is well-written. Indeed, K. J. Parker's flowing prose is a delight to read. And she imbues the entire narrative with that witty British humor which is so lacking in North American works. The pace of this novel is extremely uneven. The narrative can be fluid and efficient, yet at times the rhythm becomes particularly sluggish.

The characterization is the aspect which leaves the most to be desired. While one can't wait to discover how Ziani Vaatzes' elaborate plan to wreak vengeance on Mezentia will play out, I found that I didn't much care for the rest of that cast of characters. Especially Duke Orsea and Veatriz, both of whom are rather on the lame side.

Some of the plotlines are difficult to get into, for they appear to bring little or nothing to the overall story arc. K. J. Parker nevertheless plays out her hand rather well, leaving the door open for a lot of things to come. One thing that very nearly killed this one for me, though, was how Vaatzes orchestrates everything which comes to a head at the end of the book. It was all a bit too easy, if you ask me.

Still, I'm curious to read Evil for Evil and The Escapement. Though it suffers from a number of shortcomings, Devices and Desires was compelling enough to intrigue me in a way that makes me want to discover what happens next. . .

If you're looking for something different, Devices and Desires just might be what you need.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A really strong beginning, looking forward to the rest of the trilogy. Aug. 12 2007
By frumiousb - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Like I said, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. I picked it up on a whim. Nor am I sure whether the title was some kind of sideways homage to P.D. James. Little mysteries.

Devices and Desires is a really clever alt-fantasy kind of book that avoids pretty much every typical pitfall of swords & sorcery genre. Ziani Vaazes is a fascinating anti-hero-- a kind of sociopath engineer who believes that his actions are an inevitable result of the situation in which he is placed. He may be even be right, given the assumptions behind Parker's world-building. It's a relief to have the much more likable Valens as counterpoint, even with his flaws.

There's no magic, just alternative science. You spend your time as a reader focusing on the idea of engineering and technology development rather than on rules for shooting fireballs. A welcome change of pace. There are well written discussion of fantasy, management and cultural differences.

If I could have wished for anything, I might have wished that the book was a trifle warmer. It is a cold cold place in The Engineer Trilogy. I guess that this is part of the point, but I will confess to liking my fantasy flavored with at least a hint of sentimentality.

Although I think that I'll buy the next in the series (Evil for Evil) first, it is worth mentioning that Parker has two other series under her belt-- The Fencer Trilogy and the Scavenger Trilogy. I'm sorry that it took me so long to be aware of her work.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary March 16 2006
By Swordfishtrombone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This was the first book by K.J.Parker that I've had the pleasure to read, and will certainly not be the last. I am new to the fantasy genre, though not quite a virgin (I'm well read in the Sci-Fi genre, if that counts for something). That said, "Devices And Desires" was clearly the best that I've read so far in the fantasy genre. Parker has clearly done her research with the sort of dilligence and attention to detail that rivals anything that could be expected of the central character of the book.

The story centers around Ziani Vaazes, the unlikely unconventional protagonist-victim-anti-hero. He's a single minded genius of an engineer, who, after some unfortunate events, is forced to work with the material flesh and bone, of human motivations, alliances and betrayals, to construct his grand and terrible machine, that is the only means to achieve a purpose ludicrously simple and mundane. A purpose he cannot avoid working towards, as he puts it, any more than a rock pushed of a ledge can help falling.

Devices And Desires is full of interesting personalities, depth in all fronts, intrigue of human relations with the often banal, almost trivial reasons that can lead to the slaughter of armies and the death of nations. And detail. Lots of detailed knowledge, yet never tedious.

Also a well balanced end, tying up many lose ends, giving a feeling of an end of an epoch; yet hinting at things to come, and whole new battles to fight, as Vaatzes' machine grinds it's gears.

As a SciFi fan with a naturalistic world view, I also appreciated the fact that the world is not infused with magic, ghosts and goblins, but rather is confined to the much more interesting wonders of the natural world. The only thing about the world of the book where I had to suspend my disbelief was the complete lack of religions (unless you count the mezentine's religious attitude towards precision of engineering, and the organization around it as religion). While being irreligious myself, I do believe that evidence shows that societies lacking religions or at least prominent superstitions completely (in reality, rather than just on paper) are as unlikely as any of the most fantastic absurdities fathomed by fantasy writers. This strange ommision can, howerver, be forgiven, as world created by Parker is so rich and satisfying in numerous other respects. Devices And Desires is an impressive piece of work, and a real page turner.

While anchiously waiting for the sequel, I'll certainly look into Parker's other works.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating but worth reading Feb. 12 2008
By Tommy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I twice contemplated leaving this book unfinished but the story pulled me through. A few things about her style bother me:

1) The use of contemporary slang and vernacular was distracting. You don't have to get all "let us hasten" to write fantasy but it wasn't realistic that high born nobles schooled from birth to rule would talk like high school students.

2) She's very undisciplined about point of view. She wrote omnisciently, giving us complete access to a character's thoughts and perceptions, but would then withhold critical information that the characters clearly knew. There was no justification for this other than a ham handed attempt to create tension.

3) Yes, I get it: K.J. Parker knows an awful lot about fencing, armor, and siege engines. Stop showing off and get on with the story.

Still, I will probably read the second one because I am curious to where she goes and I do like the character Valens and the depiction of Mezantine society is very interesting. The character of Ziani Vaatzes is disappointingly thin. She clearly stated his motivation but I never felt it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too many words for not enough development... June 22 2010
By Peter E. Frangel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's always a toss-up when trying to decide whether or not to start a 650 page book. Or at least the hard part is when you get to page 350 and realize that you're not sure whether you want to finish or not, but then are struck in the face with the idea that you've already read more than half, so what the heck...just finish the thing.

Devices and Desires is one of those books that has all the right ideas, all the things you are looking for in a fictional book. Character development, an awesome synopsis and plotline, great use of language and beautiful descriptions. The problem is that it's all over the top. It's all stretch out and dragged across 650 pages when it could have been very well done over about 400-450.

At least 1/4 of the entire thing is fluff. Insignificant fluff. Descriptions about mechanisms and the way they work can be interesting, and the way the mind of the engineer works is intriguing, true. I enjoyed first getting to know the man and see the scheming, calculating things that go through there...but come on, when you get to the end of the book and he's still talking about how `true' this or that is and complains about `tolerance' of something he built from scratch to compare it to the `tolerance' of the same thing in his homeland, quoting several paragraphs from a handbook for us to read and not understand. The concept is good, but a lot of it sounds like its straight out of a mechanical engineering textbook and I can barely understand a word out of those things. This doesn't allow you to relax while you read, it makes you feel like you're analyzing a essay.

Also, the characters are deep, but I don't really feel sympathy or attachment to any of them...they're all a little immature for me, all in their own way. You've got the friend who tries to be the nice guy but always ends up saying things that could completely compromise the entire government he helps rule, but nobody except for me, the reader, seems to catch those slips. You've got the naive duke at his side, opposed by the duke who is always on top of everything in the neighboring country, and they are all three fighting for the same girl who acts like she's a fourteen year old high school-er.

I don't know about this one. Obviously, I'm not portraying this book in a good light even though there are some really good things about it. K. J. Parker is a very talented writer and I could only wish to have some of her skill in sentence structure and word usage. But the truth is that there are just not enough things going on for the amount of words that she put behind them.

Devices and Desire was a decent novel, but it wasn't good enough for me to pick up the next volume, Evil for Evil, since I could barely stand to finish this one in the first place.

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