cover image Under My Skin

Under My Skin

K.J. Parker. Subterranean, $50 (680p) ISBN 978-1-64524-079-2

Dark humor and layered worldbuilding animate this expansive collection from Parker (Pulling the Wings Off Angels). Though written at different points in Parker’s career, all 13 tales take place in the same renaissance Europesque universe, and their magic systems draw from a shared theological well. Placing these pieces side by side creates a fascinating exercise in worldbuilding: the mythology feels vast and Parker’s characteristically unreliable narrators are even more untrustworthy as they contradict each other. In “All Love Excelling,” the son of a messiah recounts the dark secret behind his father’s miracles and the tolls they took on the family. A young man sets out to rescue his lover in “Stronger” and along the way discovers the horrible secret behind the bull-headed monster his people are fed to each year. The epistolary novella “Relics” follows an archduke and the man he employs to acquire religious relics; their letters both reveal and obscure the broader political machinations at play in their lives. Parker strikes his signature cynical, pragmatic tone without ever losing sight of joy. It’s a treat. (Mar.)