Mightier than the Sword • 2017 • Fantasy novella by K. J. Parker

★★★★★

Synopsis: Pirates have been attacking the Empire’s monasteries for a while. The Emperor’s nephew is sent out as imperial legate to assess the monasteries’ defenses, learn about the pirates, and get the problem solved. In the monasteries, he finds banished family members and friends installed as abbesses and abbots, lots of monks extending their wonderful libraries, thick walls, but zero defending fighters.

Review: Parker’s novellas are always a great joy to read, always thoughtful, and full of beautiful prose. The first person account meant as a translation of a diary is often tongue-in-the-cheek, never boasting, sometimes romantic, or in summary: a very nice, believable main character. I really had to laugh when I learned about the delicate history of some female Aunts. Its setting remembered me of a late mediaeval similar version of Constantinople with a variation of orthodox Christian traditions, e.g. Epitrachelion or Omophorion wearing abbesses. The labarum added to it, which is Constantin the Great’s imperial standard, fusing military and religion. As you can see, Parker relies on many details to immerse the reader in his fantasy world. In style and setting, I find it very similar to Kay’s Tigana or Bujold’s Curse of Chalion. Also, in the amount of action involved, although it contains tactical campaigns and a little bit of one-on-one fighting. Instead, it is a mystery story where I had to puzzle about the pirates’ background and motivation, all of which found a somewhat unexpected resolution.

A story with monks copying books and fighting pirates? How can one not love it!

The novella will be available end of June 2017 at Subterranean Press.

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