cover image The Hammer

The Hammer

K.J. Parker, Orbit, $14.99 trade paperback (432p) ISBN 978-0-316038-56-0

Which matters more, intent or outcome? Parker (The Folding Knife) explores this dilemma in an understated tale of vengeance, along with the social paradox of keeping the peace when justice demands stirring up old crimes. In the backwater colony of an empire whose culture is borrowed from the Italian Renaissance, we encounter Gignomai met'Oc, youngest son of an exiled noble family. Gignomai decides to repudiate his inheritance and escape to the wilderness to start a factory that will break a trade monopoly that impoverishes the colonists. In the process, he triggers a series of events that will lead to an accounting for his family's secret and independence for the colony. Parker offsets the inevitability of the plot, foreordained as a Greek tragedy, by a continual inversion of types, like peasant mobs who need to be shamed into storming the castle and savages who speak more elegantly than Gignomai's father. While the revenge plot and mocking tone would do credit to a Jacobean drama, Parker maintains a cool and detached atmosphere, giving the work the feel of a stately court dance and not a blood-racing tarantella. (Jan.)