Finally catching up with posting my LibraryThing reviews with a few thoughts on a slim, but very impressive (and quite beautifully made) fantasy book.
K.J. Parker – Purple and Black
An epistolary novella, consisting almost exclusively of the exchange of missives between a newly-ascended emperor and the friend who he sends off to hold the frontier for him. It also is a meditation on friendship, on youth and its ideals, on politics and its lack of ideals, on the ethics of power.
It’s also (as one has to come to expect from Subterranean Press) a beautifully made book, a pleasure not just to read but to handle as well, the two-coloured print reflecting not only the use of different inks in the narrative (purple for official communication, black for private exchange), but also the fact that there is more to things here than what is apparent on first sight.
While (judging from my experiences with K.J. Parker’s Fencer trilogy) this author’s novels, brilliant as they undoubtedly are, tend to get bogged down somewhat in descriptive detail, there is nothing of that here – Parker seems to thrive on the novella form, and this book is as entertaining as it is fascinating. It’s a brief read, but it’s guaranteed to haunt its reader for a long time after closing it, and to provide food for many thoughts.