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Sharps by K. J. Parker
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Sharps (edition 2012)

by K. J. Parker

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1005120,775 (3.9)1
Member:pmatson
Title:Sharps
Authors:K. J. Parker
Info:Orbit (2012), Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fencing, intrigue, historical fiction, secondary world

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Sharps by K. J. Parker

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Showing 5 of 5
4.5 stars Originally posted at FanLit.

"Sharp swords, dirty books and pickled cabbage. Why has everything on this trip got to be horrible?"

The neighboring kingdoms of Permia and Scheria have always been enemies. Some of their citizens like it this way ?? particularly those of the military aristocracies who are valued (and therefore kept in power) by their countrymen when the two kingdoms are at war. The last war ended, though, when General Carnufex of Scheria managed to divert a few rivers and flood a major Permian city, killing its entire population of thousands of people. Itƒ??s been years since General Carnufex (now known as ƒ??the Irrigatorƒ?) pulled out of Permia and the two countries, separated by a demilitarized zone, have mostly left each other alone.

Many people in each country (especially those of the lower classes) would like to forget the past and try to forge friendship and cooperation with the neighboring country. To this end (ostensibly) the Scherian government, with the help of its church and bank (a major force in Scherian society, since it holds the money) has decided to send a peace delegation consisting of five fencers and a couple of managers across the demilitarized zone and into Permia. The Permians are crazy about fencing and will surely treat the Scherian fencers as adored heroes.

The team is made up of six characters who are not especially eager to go to Permia. Thereƒ??s Iseutz, an aggressive woman who is escaping an arranged marriage; Addo, the Irrigatorƒ??s useless youngest son; Suidas, the alcoholic Scherian fencing champion who canƒ??t afford his girlfriend and turns out to be a berserker; Giraut, who accidentally killed the senator who was about to push through some major reforms; Phrantzes, an accountant and former fencing champion who just married a prostitute; and Tzimisces, an inscrutable man who seems to be in charge.

Each character has his own story and his own reason for reluctantly joining the team. It turns out that they were right to be reluctant because the problems begin even before they get to the border and the entire trip is an exercise in suffering. Nothing goes as itƒ??s supposed to and the team has to deal with equipment failure, travel delays, bandits, bad weather, hunger, fatigue, riots, fire, language barriers, unpredictable mercenaries, an aspiring writer, and lots of pickled cabbage. But worst of all is the discovery that they wonƒ??t be fencing the way theyƒ??re used to because the Permians donƒ??t use fencing foils ƒ?? they use ƒ??sharps.ƒ? Theyƒ??re also expected to fight with a nasty curved blade aptly called a ƒ??messer.ƒ? The Scherian fencers know they may not survive, but refusing to play the Permiansƒ?? way could ignite another war. To make things even worse, the team gradually starts to suspect that they are being used by some agency in their own country to further its political or economic goals...

I havenƒ??t read all of K.J. Parkerƒ??s novels, but Iƒ??ve read enough to know that anything s/he writes goes directly to my TBR list. No need to ask my friends, no need to check Amazon or my favorite review sites, just put it on the list, and somewhere near the top. So, really, I shouldnƒ??t have to say anything about Sharps except that ƒ??itƒ??s written by K.J. Parker.ƒ? But just so you wonƒ??t think I took the easy way out, Iƒ??ll say some more stuff:

Sharps is completely entertaining from page one. The story is compelling, mysterious, often hilarious (though itƒ??s definitely not a comedy), and written in Parkerƒ??s epigrammatic, no-nonsense, perfectly paced style. Parkerƒ??s world is described briefly but comprehensively enough that we understand the relevant political, economic, and social pressures. Parker uses these pressures to consider such topics as tax law, land redistribution, slavery, competition, class warfare, and trade relations.

Each of Parkerƒ??s characters is introduced quickly but thoroughly enough to engage our empathy, each is fun to listen to (and they have a terrific dynamic together), and each develops significantly over the course of the story, though a few of them never completely reveal themselves and I didnƒ??t believe in the romance that developed between two of the characters. (This didnƒ??t detract from the story, but a more believable relationship would have been much more satisfying.) My favorite character was Suidas Deutzel; I would love to see Parker write a prequel to Sharps from his perspective. (Please, K.J. Parker, whoever you are?)

Sharps is a novel that Iƒ??ll read again ƒ?? something I very rarely do. Iƒ??m sure it will be one of my favorite novels of 2012. ( )
1 vote Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |

Excellent cast of characters in a book packed with intrigue, backstabbing, swords, cabbage, violence and a surprising amount of humanity. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
Kind of like you took several of Parker's previous books, cut them up into little pieces, and glued them back together. Still totally enjoyable, though! ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
Finally finished! After loving KJ Parker's Engineer Trilogy, I was delighted to find Sharps at the Library. I know about nothing about fencing, but figured it's KJ Parker, so I gave it a shot.

This book took me awhile to get into. I was worried with all of the character introductions that I didn't know who was where, why they mattered, and I surely didn't think I'd be able to keep track of them all. I almost gave up, but I always try my best to finish books that I've started, so I pushed the worries out of my mind and kept reading.

Basically, in Sharps, a fencing team is sent from one country to a country that they had recently been at war with. The idea was that the show of good faith would bring about peace, but it would seem that other people had different ideas about what their function was.

The book had plenty of laughs. The fencing, I assume was all accurate. Even though I don't know anything about fencing, I was always looking forward to the fencing scenes. I liked the characters and thought they were mostly well balanced in terms of screen time. I must say I don't quite get the point of reading from some of the officials (there were only a few scenes with them and it was a lot of stuff we already knew, I felt).

Overall, I enjoyed the story, but at times it felt like work to read. Which sounds bad, but it's probably because I read too much YA. ( )
  Akikorye | Feb 28, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031617775X, Paperback)

K.J. Parker's new novel is a perfectly executed tale of intrigue and deception.

For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money...

Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.

When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:14 -0400)

After forty years of war, an uneasy truce is called between two neighboring kingdoms. The chance for peace rests on diplomatic talks as well as the games, where two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.

(summary from another edition)

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Orbit Books

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