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Oct 19

Book Bites | The Last Witness – K.J. Parker

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  1. About the Book

When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.

Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I’ve ever mastered. But now, I’m holding so many memories I’m not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more.

Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I’m trying to bury…

A classic Parker tale with a strong supporting cast of princes, courtiers, merchants, academics, and generally unsavory people.

144 pages (Kindle)
Published on October 6, 2015
Published by Tor.com
Buy the book

I’m a huge fan of K.J. Parker. He is one of my favorite authors, so every time I see a new book by Parker, I jump on it right away. I tend to think that Parker does better with short work than longer. I saw The Last Witness and was so excited, I bought it instantly.

The Last Witness has a different feel than Parker’s other work. The tone is dark and it’s hard to put your thumb on the morality of any of the characters (which is nothing new for Parker), but it’s also pretty confusing. The storyline gets jumbled, which is part of the appeal. It’s hard for readers, and the protagonist, to tell where he ends and where other individuals begin. Often he’ll be telling a story, remembering times past, and then he will remark that he didn’t know if it was his memory he was telling or someone else’s.

The protagonist is rather middle of the road morally. He has a darker streak, and in many ways is out for himself. He has made a few mistakes in his past, and manages to get himself in over his head more often than not. He has some issues with gambling and keeping money, and that tends to catch up with him about as often as anything else. He’s surprisingly human, which seems to be balanced by this more-than-human ability to take people’s memories. There is a price to pay for his ability, and it’s obvious that he has paid it by losing parts of himself, and being forced to live a darker life than he’d probably anticipated when he was younger.

He’s an interesting person to tell a story, as most of it is nonlinear, and you can’t really count on him for the narrative, but that’s part of the appeal. You never know what is a real account, and what isn’t. This results in a jumbled story that is incredibly appealing. The confusing aspects are beneficial as they keep you wondering and guessing what is about to come around the corner. What can you believe and what can’t you? It’s an interesting way to approach a novel, and it’s very effective.

The plot is just as confusing at the protagonist’s narrative. You never really know what is going on and why it’s happening until after it has happened, and you aren’t really sure which story is going to add to the plot and which is just something you’re being told. It sounds frustrating when I put it like that, but the fact that this novella was confusing ended up being part of what I loved about it so much. It kept me on my toes, and when everything came together, it did so flawlessly and became obvious that Parker’s weaving of this confusing story was absolutely genius.

Part of the reason why this novella has a different feel to me is because it’s told in the first person, and unless I am forgetting something, this is the first time I’ve read a Parker book that is told in the first person. It’s an intimate account, and a wise decision for this book. The protagonist is surprisingly shady, but has an easy way about telling a story that hooks readers instantly. Furthermore, I don’t think it would be as delightfully confusing in readers weren’t so intimate with the protagonists mind, and engaged by it.

The Last Witness isn’t Parker’s best work (in my humble opinion), but that shouldn’t stop you from reading it. Parker’s work is a delight, regardless. This one is a lot different than I expected, and completely unlike anything else that he’s written. In a lot of ways I think this might be more accessible to more readers than much of Parker’s other work. It’s confusing, morally gray, mind bending, and an absolute delight. Give it a shot. You won’t regret it.

 

4/5 stars

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