K. J. Parker

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K. J. Parker is the pseudonym under which the British author Tom Holt has published fantasy fiction. Parker's identity as Holt was kept secret for 17 years, until April 2015.[1][2]

While Parker's stories take place in alternate universes with invented geographies and histories, some of the typical features of fantasy fiction such as explicit use of magic are not present. The stories tend to have tragic themes with characters whose actions are unintentionally, ultimately self-destructive. Other major themes in the books are politics, technology (especially disruptive innovation), and either or both of the former as a means to power.



The Fencer trilogy[edit]

The Fencer trilogy follows Bardas Loredan, a fencer-at-law.

  • Colours in the Steel (1998)
  • The Belly of the Bow (1999)
  • The Proof House (2000)

The Scavenger trilogy[edit]

The Scavenger trilogy is about a man, or possibly god, who wakes up on a battlefield with amnesia and discovers that he is being hunted by enemies he no longer remembers.

  • Shadow (2001)
  • Pattern (2002)
  • Memory (2003)

The Engineer trilogy[edit]

The Engineer trilogy features an engineer, Ziani Vaatzes, who is forced into exile from his home city and plots an elaborate revenge.

  • Devices and Desires (2005)
  • Evil for Evil (2006)
  • The Escapement (2007)

Other novels[edit]

  • The Company (2008)
  • The Folding Knife (2010)
  • The Hammer (2011)
  • Sharps (2012)
  • The Two of Swords, serialized novel (April 2015)
  • Savages (July 2015)[3]

Short fiction[edit]

  • "Purple and Black" (July 2009, novella published by Subterranean Press)
  • "Amor Vincit Omnia" (Summer 2010, Subterranean Online)
  • "A Rich Full Week" (June 2010, first published in Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders)
  • Blue and Gold (Dec 2010, novella published by Subterranean Press)
  • A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong (Winter 2011, Subterranean Online) (winner of 2012 World Fantasy Award for best novella)[4]
  • "A Room with a View"(April 2011, first published in Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2, edited by William Schafer)
  • "Let Maps to Others" (Summer 2012, Subterranean Online) (winner of the 2013 World Fantasy Award for best novella)[4]
  • "One Little Room an Everywhere" (October 2012, Eclipse Online)
  • The Dragonslayer of Merebarton (May 2013, first published in Fearsome Journeys, edited by Jonathan Strahan)
  • "The Sun and I" (Summer 2013, Subterranean Online)
  • "'Illuminated" (Summer 2013, Subterranean Online)
  • "The Things We Do For Love" (Summer 2014, Subterranean Online)
  • "Heaven Thunders The Truth" (October 2014, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #157)
  • "Safe House (October 2014, first published in Fearsome Magics, edited by Jonathan Strahan)
  • The Last Witness (2015)


  • Academic Exercises (2014)[5]


Short essays[edit]

  • "On Sieges" (Summer 2009, Subterranean Online)
  • "Cutting Edge Technology: The Life and Sad Times of the Western Sword" (Fall 2011, Subterranean Online)
  • "Rich Men’s Skins: A Social History of Armour" (Summer 2013, Subterranean Online)

Fictional universe[edit]

Most of Parker's novels take place on a large continent that seems to be similar to Eurasia and its nearby islands, with technology ranging from nomadic to the European Renaissance. Many of the stories revolve around technology as a means to power, in particular the manufacture of weapons; these include siege engines and small firearms like snaphance pistols (referred to explicitly as "snapping-hens").

Unlike many other fantasy fiction authors, Parker does not provide maps in the novels. However, the narratives give clues to the geography:

  • There used to be a large empire that fissioned into an Eastern and a Western Empire over a thousand years ago. In Sharps it is indicated that the language of the Eastern Empire is something like Greek and that of the Western Empire something like Latin.
  • Mezentia in the Engineer Trilogy was originally a colony of an empire, possibly either the Eastern or Western Empire in Sharps. Both Mezentines and Eastern Imperials are described as dark-skinned. Mezentia seems to have become independent, as it is stated that ships arriving from "home" are infrequent.
  • The Aram Chantat are a loose grouping of nomadic tribes, living far beyond a desert to the south of the small kingdoms in the Engineer Trilogy but to the north of the Eastern Empire and Permia in Sharps. The actual Aram Chantat are actually only one of these tribes; there are several others such as the Rosinholet, no Vei, and Auzeil. Many of the Aram Chantat tribes are willing to work for other nations as mercenaries.
  • Permia and Scheria are two small independent countries that used to be border provinces of the Eastern and Western empires respectively. There is a demilitarized zone in between.
  • The colony in The Hammer is also likely an offshoot of the Eastern Empire. One of the characters sings a song referencing the Aram Rosinholet.
  • Vesani Republic (The Folding Knife)

External links[edit]