cover image My Beautiful Life

My Beautiful Life

K.J. Parker. Subterranean, $40 (112p) ISBN 978-1-59606-930-5

Dark humor, razor-sharp prose, and an air of foreboding pervade this excellent fantasy novella from Parker (Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City). In the unnamed empire fans will recognize from Parker’s earlier works, a nameless narrator recounts the unlikely path of his life from his deathbed. Born a peasant, the narrator rises to a position of political power thanks largely to the machinations of his older brother, Nico. As children, the brothers agree to sell Nico into slavery to keep the family from starvation. Nico’s new owners train him as a clerk. Through ruthlessness, cunning, and blackmail, Nico manages to rise in station, as the narrator, left behind, learns to steal to keep himself and his younger brother, Edax, alive. When Nico joins the Imperial Service, he brings his brothers to live with him, but he continues to scheme to raise his status, committing violent crimes to consolidate his power. The narrator’s present-day shame over the part he played in Nico’s atrocities leads him to vacillate between fighting to live and longing to die. The narrator’s wry exploration of fate and free will is witty, sardonic, and intelligent. Parker’s fans will be delighted by the alternating pathos and pitch-black comedy. (Dec.)