K.J. Parker's new stand-alone novel is a perfectly executed tale of intrigue and deception.
For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money...
Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.
When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?
On the surface, Parker's newest stand-alone, like the earlier Fencer Trilogy, is a ripping good adventure yarn, laced with frequent barbed witticisms and ace sword fighting. Fencing champion Suidas Deutzel of the Republic of Scheria is caught up in the aftermath of a decades-long vicious war between Scheria and its mortal enemy, Permia. A fencing team of Suidas, unintentional murderer Giraut Bryennius, general's son Addo Carnufex, and grouchy proto-feminist Iseutz Bringas reluctantly undertake a tour of Permia a supposed goodwill trip that may start another war. Beneath the hilarious horrors of a trek that suffers every possible setback, Parker details the thrusts and parries of a game between the military aristocracies that want war and the banks that don't. Parker's settings and characterizations never miss a beat, and the intricate political interplay of intrigue is suspenseful almost to the last page.