cover image How to Rule an Empire & Get Away with It

How to Rule an Empire & Get Away with It

K.J. Parker. Orbit, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-49867-8

Parker overlays a military fantasy with a comedy of mistaken identity in this fun, standalone return to the Roman Empire–inspired world of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. Notker, a jobbing actor and playwright, is known around the City for his uncanny impersonations of notable bigwigs. When venerated war hero Lysimachus is killed by an enemy trebuchet, a trio of influential conspirators coerce Notker into impersonating him to keep public morale up amid an ongoing siege. As it happens, Lysimachus was bedding Notker’s old flame and fellow thespian, Hodda, who is also roped into the ruse. As the pair becomes increasingly tangled in a web of lies, the unknowing Senate appoints Lysimachus as Emperor, expecting him to lead the war against ruthless King Ogus and his hordes of warriors. Parker front-loads this entertaining yarn with his best jokes and set pieces, leaving the final act to settle into by-the-numbers battle strategy. Still, with Notker possessing all the charm, wit, and resourcefulness of a Shakespearean fool, readers are ensured a good time and a barrel of laughs to boot. (Aug.)