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Devices and Desires

1 rating: 4.0
First of a fantasy trilogy

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Author: K.J. Parker,
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit Books
Date Published: 2007
1 review about Devices and Desires

Excellent piece of writing that will keep the reader's interest.

  • Apr 30, 2010
  • by

First of a trilogy, this fantasy novel is about an engineer who starts a major war so he can be re-united with his wife and daughter.

Mezentia is a city-state that is the local technological superpower. They don’t let their technical knowledge get out to the surrounding kingdoms, which is how they keep their superiority. Mezentia is also a land of guilds, where technical specifications and tolerances were decided long ago. It is written into law that, for instance, a certain gear shall be no larger than a certain size (down to hundredths of an inch) or a certain lever shall be a certain length, and no longer. Ziani Vaatzes, a talented engineer, breaks the rules, unintentionally, in building a mechanical toy for his daughter. He is sentenced to death by the Mezentian Council, accused of Abomination, and manages to escape with his life.

Vaatzes is picked up by the remnants of the army of Eremia, one of the neighboring kingdoms. They are struggling to get back home after attacking Mezentia, and getting slaughtered by superior Mezentian weapons. His offer to train Eremians in how to build the weapons that just decimated their army is politely declined, but Vaatzes is set up in a factory of his own by the Eremian equivalent of a venture capitalist. Vaatzes does not just start at the beginning, he has plenty of building, planning and training to do just to reach "the beginning." In Mezentia, tolerances and specifications are expected to be exact (anything less is not good enough), but in Eremia, the best Vaatzes can do is "pretty good." He and his employees have scoured the city looking for scrap metal to use in the weapons, but they will get the job done.

Meantime, the Mezentian Council has learned that Vaatzes is still alive, and is building weapons for the Eremians. The decision is made to invade Eremia, and wipe the entire race off the map. Nothing is more important than Mezentian technological superiority. Civitas Eremiae, the Eremian capital, is built into the side of a mountain, and is nearly impossible for an invading army to conquer. But, it does have a very secret, and very ancient, "back door."

Parker is an author who Gets It. This is a big novel, but it is an excellent piece of writing that will really keep the reader’s interest. I may just read the other two, equally large, parts of this trilogy just because the storytelling is so good.


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