The Escapement – K.J. Parker

Read my review for the first two books in the Engineer TrilogyDevices and Desires and Evil for Evil

I’ve heard the term “I like it so much it hurts” before but I’ve always thought it was a rather stupid turn of phrase. How can you like something so much it hurts? Ridiculous. However, I may or may not be eating my words. I think I might like K.J. Parker (and this series in particular) so much that it hurts.

The Escapement picks up after Evil for Evil leaves off. It’s shorter than the previous two books in this trilogy, but no less packed and surprising due to that. In fact, this book almost seems more streamlined due to its shorter length than it’s longer predecessors. Perhaps that is because after reading two books without fully knowing what is being manipulated and planned, The Escapement presents readers with nearly constant revelations regarding characters and plot points which had only been hinted at and alluded to before. 

One of the things I love about Parker is that (s)he isn’t afraid to toy with deep concepts in his/her books. This is even more obvious in The Escapement where Parker seems to throw off his/her subtly with deeper ideas and starts toying with them openly in dialogue and self-monologues. Where, in previous books I was pretty sure the idea of love and good verses evil were grand concepts the whole Engineer Trilogy was founded on, The Escapement makes this clear in no uncertain terms. Conversations about whether good and evil truly exist and about the driving force and impact of love are open discussions which I find absolutely fascinating and stunningly thought provoking. Parker has a real talent for shining a brand new light on seemingly tired concepts. 

Love is not new literary topic, but Parker really takes it to a new level with this trilogy. While I am used to reading about how love conquers all and makes everything alright, Parker really takes a realistic burning knife to a concept so many of us have romanticized. While love is a uniting force, Parker also boldly shows how divisive and destructive it can be as well. Many readers might find this to be too dark and dismal for their tastes. I, however, applaud Parker’s realism and the incredible story (s)he uses to portray these fantastic ideas regarding love, good, evil, violence, war and everything else.

What impresses me the most about this trilogy closer was how streamlined Parker keeps all of these events and ideas while (s)he neatly brings all the plots, side plots and characters to a grotesquely Shakespearian, yet oddly satisfying close. The sheer magnitude of everything that Parker neatly ties together is awe-inspiring. Yet despite this, I never once felt that the plot was rushed, or that ideas and conclusions were haphazardly drawn. It was almost a relief for me to read about these ideas that had been hinted to and danced around in previous books, in plain black and white in The Escapement. There were several moments of “I knew I wasn’t insane for thinking this was what Parker was getting at in (insert scene, insert book title).”

This series is not for the faint of heart, not because it’s overly violent or sexual, or even because of vulgar language. It’s not for the faint of heart because Parker is brutally realistic in many ways that people may find uncomfortable thinking about. For example, Parker’s take on love have made several readers feel slightly depressed. It’s not a spin on such a romanticized topic that some are comfortable reading about. Furthermore, potential readers of Parker should know that while this is a fantasy series, there is no magic or religion in it. While this was refreshing for my absolutely skeptically minded self, many Parker readers are turned off by the lack of fantastic in his/her books.

Parker’s writing is top notch, and if this book did lack a little of the freshness of Devices and Desires, it’s easy to overlook. The plot moves at a nearly break-neck pace and the ending is painfully realistic and satisfying for the story being told. However, its Parker’s attention to detail and the underlying ideas being toyed with that really make this series shine, launching it to one of my top fantasy series I’ve read. It’s a series I’ll read time and time again and glean new insights and information each time. This is a detailed, deep and layered plot which is sure to satisfy those who itch for something along these lines. I, for one, find myself absolutely enamored with Parker’s brain. Any author who can boil up and create ideas this profound, complex, subtle and unique deserves attention. 

As a side note, thanks to Jared for harping on me to finish this series. I didn’t want this trilogy to end. If it wasn’t for him, I would have probably never read this book so I could prolong the series indefinitely. Ridiculous, I know….

5/5 stars 

3 Responses

  • Mark Timmony

    I've looked at her books for a while now – obviously we carry them in the shop, I just haven't ever picked one up to read.

    That will need to be fixed…

    As alwasy – great review 😀

  • Gem

    Hmm I think you may have convinced me to read more K J Parker. Shadow just did not appeal to me, it was too slowly placed and I found it difficult to connect with the characters. But this sounds like something I would enjoy.

  • Sarah

    Personally, I think the Engineer trilogy is a good place to start with Parker's work. Parker, generally, is a "below surface level" author with some wry cynicism which I just love. That does, however, put some people off…. 🙂

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