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.