cover image The Two of Swords, Vol. 1

The Two of Swords, Vol. 1

K.J. Parker. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (512p) ISBN 978-0-316-17772-6

An empire, similar but not identical to ancient Rome, has split down the middle and is ravaged by a civil war in Parker’s brilliant first Two of Swords fantasy. A simple farm boy, Teucer, who happens to be good at archery, is conscripted into the army; Telamon, a spy and assassin, uses dazzling intelligence and esoteric knowledge to recruit a young thief; the generals of the Eastern and Western empires, brothers bound by their intentions to kill each other, circle in eternal, bloody stalemate. And everything, including the novel itself, is structured around the imagery and placement of the Tarot-like mystical cards wielded throughout the world by a mysterious and powerful secret lodge. Parker’s plot is a delight, full of successive revelations; his characters earn sympathy even at their most pragmatically ruthless, and his sparkling prose and sardonic humor help build the dazzling shape of a game larger than two empires. Parker (Downfall of the Gods) delivers a consistently enjoyable and unpredictable ride, with the firm promise of more in the future. (Oct.)