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Devices and Desires (Engineer Trilogy) Paperback – October 25, 2007

Book 1 of 3 in the Engineer Trilogy Series

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Product Details

  • Series: Engineer Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; Reprint edition (October 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316003387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316003384
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Parker (the Scavenger trilogy) raises the bar for realistic fantasy war craft with this series opener. When the engineering guild sentences Ziani Vaatzes to death for improving on its supposedly perfect specifications for mechanical toys, he manages to escape Mezentia and throws in his lot with its recently defeated enemy, city-state Eremia. In exile, Vaatzes sets up shop making weapons, but his real goal is to create a new kind of engine—one made of human components, designed to reunite him with his family. He painstakingly executes a slow-moving master plan involving love, betrayal and secrets among the two countries' leaders. The tragic aftermath of the climactic battle forces a rereading of all that went before. It takes some hard slogging to get through assiduously researched technical descriptions of everything from dressing a duke to hunting a boar, and a few too many coincidences and expository speeches mar Parker's otherwise exquisite feat of literary engineering. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Parker raises the bar for realistic fantasy war craft with this series opener."—Publishers Weekly on Devices and Desires

"When so many fantasy sagas are tired, warmed-over affairs, a writer like K.J. Parker is more of a hurricane than a breath of fresh air."—Dreamwatch

"A richly textured and emotionally complex fantasy...Highly recommended."—Library Journal (Starred Review)

Customer Reviews

Enough to keep me intrigued until the end...but not enough for me to read the next book.
Ross
Also, the characters are deep, but I don't really feel sympathy or attachment to any of them...they're all a little immature for me, all in their own way.
Peter E. Frangel
An exception to this case is when we have an unreliable narrator, which is a technique that can be brilliant, but was not in use here.
PhoenixFalls

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Patrick St-Denis, editor of Pat's Fantasy Hotlist on November 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
The first volume of The Engineer Trilogy was the first K. J. Parker novel I ever read. I'm aware that the author is quite popular in the UK, and Orbit are undoubtedly hoping that the same phenomenon will occur on this side of the Atlantic.

The premise is interesting enough: An engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of Guild law. After murdering some of his captors to save his life, leaving his wife and daughter behind he is forced into exile.

The industrial setting is a refreshing change from the typical medieval environment which is endemic to the fantasy genre. Incidentally, I do feel that Parker at times went a bit over the top with her descriptions of the various devices and machines. I'm not an M. I. T. student, so she lost me on a few occasions.

Devices and Desires is an intelligent read filled with intrigue. Throughout the novel it is evident that the story shows a lot of potential. However, the author doesn't always deliver.

The book is well-written. Indeed, K. J. Parker's flowing prose is a delight to read. And she imbues the entire narrative with that witty British humor which is so lacking in North American works. The pace of this novel is extremely uneven. The narrative can be fluid and efficient, yet at times the rhythm becomes particularly sluggish.

The characterization is the aspect which leaves the most to be desired. While one can't wait to discover how Ziani Vaatzes' elaborate plan to wreak vengeance on Mezentia will play out, I found that I didn't much care for the rest of that cast of characters. Especially Duke Orsea and Veatriz, both of whom are rather on the lame side.

Some of the plotlines are difficult to get into, for they appear to bring little or nothing to the overall story arc. K. J.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on August 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Like I said, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. I picked it up on a whim. Nor am I sure whether the title was some kind of sideways homage to P.D. James. Little mysteries.

Devices and Desires is a really clever alt-fantasy kind of book that avoids pretty much every typical pitfall of swords & sorcery genre. Ziani Vaazes is a fascinating anti-hero-- a kind of sociopath engineer who believes that his actions are an inevitable result of the situation in which he is placed. He may be even be right, given the assumptions behind Parker's world-building. It's a relief to have the much more likable Valens as counterpoint, even with his flaws.

There's no magic, just alternative science. You spend your time as a reader focusing on the idea of engineering and technology development rather than on rules for shooting fireballs. A welcome change of pace. There are well written discussion of fantasy, management and cultural differences.

If I could have wished for anything, I might have wished that the book was a trifle warmer. It is a cold cold place in The Engineer Trilogy. I guess that this is part of the point, but I will confess to liking my fantasy flavored with at least a hint of sentimentality.

Although I think that I'll buy the next in the series (Evil for Evil) first, it is worth mentioning that Parker has two other series under her belt-- The Fencer Trilogy and the Scavenger Trilogy. I'm sorry that it took me so long to be aware of her work.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Swordfishtrombone on March 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
This was the first book by K.J.Parker that I've had the pleasure to read, and will certainly not be the last. I am new to the fantasy genre, though not quite a virgin (I'm well read in the Sci-Fi genre, if that counts for something). That said, "Devices And Desires" was clearly the best that I've read so far in the fantasy genre. Parker has clearly done her research with the sort of dilligence and attention to detail that rivals anything that could be expected of the central character of the book.

The story centers around Ziani Vaazes, the unlikely unconventional protagonist-victim-anti-hero. He's a single minded genius of an engineer, who, after some unfortunate events, is forced to work with the material flesh and bone, of human motivations, alliances and betrayals, to construct his grand and terrible machine, that is the only means to achieve a purpose ludicrously simple and mundane. A purpose he cannot avoid working towards, as he puts it, any more than a rock pushed of a ledge can help falling.

Devices And Desires is full of interesting personalities, depth in all fronts, intrigue of human relations with the often banal, almost trivial reasons that can lead to the slaughter of armies and the death of nations. And detail. Lots of detailed knowledge, yet never tedious.

Also a well balanced end, tying up many lose ends, giving a feeling of an end of an epoch; yet hinting at things to come, and whole new battles to fight, as Vaatzes' machine grinds it's gears.

As a SciFi fan with a naturalistic world view, I also appreciated the fact that the world is not infused with magic, ghosts and goblins, but rather is confined to the much more interesting wonders of the natural world.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tommy on February 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I twice contemplated leaving this book unfinished but the story pulled me through. A few things about her style bother me:

1) The use of contemporary slang and vernacular was distracting. You don't have to get all "let us hasten" to write fantasy but it wasn't realistic that high born nobles schooled from birth to rule would talk like high school students.

2) She's very undisciplined about point of view. She wrote omnisciently, giving us complete access to a character's thoughts and perceptions, but would then withhold critical information that the characters clearly knew. There was no justification for this other than a ham handed attempt to create tension.

3) Yes, I get it: K.J. Parker knows an awful lot about fencing, armor, and siege engines. Stop showing off and get on with the story.

Still, I will probably read the second one because I am curious to where she goes and I do like the character Valens and the depiction of Mezantine society is very interesting. The character of Ziani Vaatzes is disappointingly thin. She clearly stated his motivation but I never felt it.
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