The Folding Knife

The Folding Knife is smart, fast, deep, exciting, interesting, political, action-packed, darkly humorous, touching and, best of all, a lot of fun. Jared Shurin lurks the forums as Pornokitsch. He just finished the reread of The Folding Knife for Tor. Book Club , fantasy , K. Parker , The Folding Knife.

It felt too me like too much build-up for too little payoff, and I found myself disappointed in the end. In case you missed it last week, Jared Shurin wrote up a wonderful and persuasive plea on why you should read along with us. Mail will not be published required. Leave this field empty. If you enjoy the site and would like to support us, please consider donating to keep us around. Please only do so if you can afford it.

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It's a shame that this is a stand-alone; a real, frustrating shame. If only she had just asked! Had to put it down. Preview — The Folding Knife by K. This is the first and only time that Basso gives up. Chronicalling the life of one Basso, who from childhood grows into a ruthless banker and first citizen who warps everything he touched to his will, this plot was simply breathtaking and un-put-down-able.

It is as deep as you want it to be. It is all about fantasy. Regardless, looking at the context when The Folding Knife hit the shelves: Given that, it becomes easy to see The Folding Knife as a secondary world exploration of the Iraq War. Were the Anglo-American Powers that Be good people doing a bad thing? Or bad people trying to do a good thing? And what are the reasons—the justifications—that can lead to violence at that scale? Basso has every possible advantage wealth, upbringing, technological superiority, education, raw talent , but the system of the world is still too complex for him.

Those same factors that give him an edge also undermine him: Then, Parker pulls back the curtain and, through conversations with Basso, we learn the unofficial recitation of events. He does what he does either as a reaction or as a compulsion that originates from the swampy interior of his subconscious. The reader is left to craft their own interpretation of the cause of events: My natural instinct is to meta-game: Parker likes to hide things in tiny, throwaway details. The Permian plague, for example. Secondly, a huge recurring theme is that of choice. And this is the trickiest: I think the mistake has to be something that Basso chose to do.

Which wipes out many of my best contenders. Thirdly, I think the mistake is something personal. This fits with the reasons within reasons theme of the book. I think The Mistake that topples Basso has to be something that history would overlook, but we, the reader, understand is critical. Fourth, and this is very much meta-gaming: Parker likes to reinforce the idea of working from first principles: The latter was self-defense: An obvious thing to do, so obvious it feels inconsequential: And, this is meta -meta-gaming, the book is structured around it: Why is this a mistake?

Basso uses the knife early on to change his life, and because of that it forms who and what he is. Basso uses situations and even people at times as easily as he would u Basso is the First citizen of the Vesani Republic. Basso uses situations and even people at times as easily as he would use his folding knife. The story revolves around the life of Basso. His father runs a bank, and as a young boy he is put with a slave who teaches him how to run the bank. He learns how money can control the republic, and wars. With this knowledge he grows up to be the first citizen bending rules and laws to fit his own needs.

There are only a couple people in the world he really cares about. Among them are his sister, who hates him, and her son Bassano. He sees Bassano as the all-around good kid. He strives to help his nephew, but his sister spends a lot of time trying to use her son against him. His sister was hard for me to swallow as a character.

Why You Should Read The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker

She hates her brother more than she loves anyone. At times she seemed just plain silly, but she seems the other side of the blade. There is also Aelius, the commander of the army. The army is not from the Republic, but hired from outside. Basso decides very early on that Aelius is going to be his man in the army. They have a small past, and become somewhat friends over time. This is a story of dense detail. It can sometimes bog the reader down, unless the reader is interested in old economics and government. It reminded me of a smaller kind of Rome.

As Basso gains popularity, he makes his bank the best in the city. Despite the fact it is for personal gain he always seems to end up benefiting the Republic. This is a part of his luck, the same luck his father had. The story almost feels like you are reading a history book, but it is all made up. I had a hard time at figuring out how Basso was the folding knife. Instead I thought he was more like the coins featuring his head. The story and facts are very dense, and there is not a great deal of action. Apr 06, Tijani Kay Aderemi rated it liked it. The Folding Knife is not your traditional fantasy novel, and at times seems dry when reading.

But it becomes more interesting once you realise it's book set in an ancient Roman Republic. Bassianus Severus Arcadius is an interesting man, with no pretentions as to his motives for whatever action he undertakes. That to me is as true a man can be to himself. The Book explores the Roman culture and provides a glimpse of the brilliance of the politicians of that epoch.

Bassianus did well considering, bu The Folding Knife is not your traditional fantasy novel, and at times seems dry when reading. Bassianus did well considering, but like all ambitious men had to outdo himself. Don't set your expectations too high, and it will turn out to be a fascinating read. This book is really unique. It took me a long time to get through, but I enjoyed every page. I think I needed to take my time in order to truly appreciate the story. KJ Parker has written the rise and fall of one man who is clever, cunning, and lucky.

The writing is fascinating and meticulous; it is like reading the thought process behind a particularly inspired chess player. We see Basso's ruthless decisions and how he and his advisor Antigonus can see the impacts of small decisions in the long This book is really unique. We see Basso's ruthless decisions and how he and his advisor Antigonus can see the impacts of small decisions in the long run of their plans. The characters are smart, witty, and brilliant. Even though you can see the ruthlessness behind some of Basso's decisions, you can't help but route for him, and his love for his sister and her son is really redeeming, even though that is one of the only humane things about him.

I in particular liked that Basso surrounded himself with other smart people who are willing to challenge his ideas, and thus he trusts their opinions more. The plot of this book revolves around political intrigues and plotting war in a land reminiscent of the Roman Empire. And these political intrigues aren't what you would typically assume, secret lovers or dramatic betrayals.

It is much more subtle than that, which on the surface is not particularly interesting, unless you really connect with the way Basso thinks.

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If you find Basso's machinations uninteresting, you will not enjoy this book, but I was strangely drawn in. Basso's cunning and his subsequent interactions with people around him has just enough heart involved to win you over, even when you aren't sure if you like the people you are reading about. Aug 10, Besha rated it really liked it Shelves: I have some seriously mixed feelings about KJ Parker. I had a half-joking theory that this was what Scott Lynch was doing between Gentleman Bastards books--they have some major similarities.

The Folding Knife

But Scott Lynch's plotting isn't quite as subtle, and his female characters all get names. What's Basso's sister's name? It's Placidia in one chapter, Tranquillina in two others, and just "his sister" everywhere else. It's the best argument I've seen for Parker being male. I'd love to find that a w I have some seriously mixed feelings about KJ Parker. I'd love to find that a woman is writing dense military fiction with digressions on siege tactics and banking, but I'd be seriously creeped out to find that she can't bother remembering her female characters' names, let alone making them remotely sympathetic.

Rereading this after the Fencer trilogy makes me appreciate Parker's growth in characterization; Basso is sympathetic even when he's being terrible. The plotting and the pacing are superb and the humor is as deadpan as I could ask for. Mar 01, H. The Folding Knife is K.

Basso quickly rises to become, like his father, the First Citizen of the Vesani Republic, a mercantile city-state. But unlike his father, Basso is both lucky and smart, and begins amassing a great fortune over a long political career.

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After all, even great men make The Folding Knife is K. After all, even great men make mistakes. Parker, though, leaves the reader questioning whether Basso was ever a great man and just what mistake he made. Written almost like a history book, veering between the historical perspective and a personal perspective more common to fantasy novels. Politics, the law, and economics, especially banking, are featured to far greater an extent than usual.

Almost everything is pregnant with deeper meaning, as they say. It makes for a powerful whole, if the climax is in some ways disappointing. May 02, Lena rated it liked it Shelves: Loved that the world feels fully formed with a rich history and the twists and turns in the story are hilarious. I loved Basso's character, he's an awful human lacking empathy but somehow his schemes to get even more wealthy and powerful have the nice accidental side benefit of helping the Vesani Republic. At first I was extremely disappointed with the ending.

But after thinking about it, it actually fits really well with the running theme of Basso's "luck" and it eventually running out in such a spectacular fashion. Aug 23, Drake rated it it was amazing Shelves: Parker's strength lie not in characterisation or narrative but in the elaboration and extension of a single concept into a novel or three. This book is no exception; it is a high quality craft, but will not be to everyone's tastes. Jul 02, Nate rated it it was ok Shelves: Had to put it down.

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Wasn't as ground breaking as I thought it would be, and I just didn't want a fluffy grim dark fantasy tale. May 13, Adam Whitehead rated it it was amazing. He is politically savvy, financially creative, ruthlessly ambitious and very lucky. As his power and prestige grows, so does the rift between him and his sister, and the battle for the loyalty of her son. The Folding Knife is the eleventh novel by K. Parker, a stand-alone book which is not part of any series.

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Twenty ago I picked up Parker's debut novel, Colours in the Steel, and later its two sequels and enjoyed them enormously. The Folding Knife is outstanding. This is the story of a man's life, or rather a twenty-year slice of it, but mostly focusing on the three years after he becomes First Citizen of the Republic. Basso grows up learning the family trade of banking, and through canny deals and excellent advice he soon becomes one of the richest men in the city.

He then moves into politics, using his common touch with the people and his skills of persuasion and blackmail with the nobility to become the ruler of the Republic.

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He even has a long-term plan for the entire nation: Basso plays the Republic like an instrument, working out how to make the people and politicians jump to his tune. However, as the story unfolds Basso's inability to mend the feud with his sister or make foreign powers likewise obey the rules he sets out both become dangerous, leading to more desperate gambles. There's a strong economic spine to the book, with Parker successfully showing how expensive it is to run a large kingdom even without trying to fund major wars. In fact, I'm wondering if the economic storyline is a commentary on the financial crisis, with Basso's self-justifications and ability to conjure money out of nowhere to keep things going just a bit longer being more than slightly reminiscent of recent news stories on the banks and national governments almost going bankrupt.

Basing the story on economics could be deathly dull, but Parker's well-paced writing, solid characterisation and dry sense of humour keeps things ticking along nicely. Basso is a well-written protagonist, monstrously flawed but also sympathetic, with his genius at handling money and politics contrasted against his disastrous relationships and his empty personal life.

Basso's story is something of a tragedy then, but one with more than its fair share of humour and ingenuity. Also, by Parker's standards it's not that dark or disturbing there's no Belly of the Bow 'moment' of unexpected ultraviolence here , though his twisted sense of humour remains intact. He also reigns in his tendency to interrupt the story for a three-page digression on the best way to build trebuchets though there is one detailed explanation of how to use a scorpion - a piece of field artillery - as a stealthy assassination weapon, but this is quite funny so fair enough.

This is a strong novel with only a few brief but well-described moments of action, with the focus being on political and economic intrigue. Intriguingly, whilst set in an unmapped secondary world, there is no magic or mysticism in the novel at all, but this lack is barely felt. As for criticisms, the tight focus on Basso means we don't get much of a sense of the Republic or the wider world beyond his own views on it, but that's the point of the story, I suppose.

The ending is also perhaps a little underwhelming and whilst it's not the first in a series, the ending is open enough to allow for a later sequel, if necessary. The reasons for Basso's sister's hatred of him are also under-explored, since we don't have any POV chapters from her. Finally, there are moments when things go as clockwork and Basso finds things going all his way that feels a little too clinical and not allowing for the unpredictability of human actions, but the latter part of the novel repays that in spades, so that's not too much of a problem.

Dec 26, Joy rated it really liked it.

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Perhaps the other ones I read were more on the whimsical side whereas this one is more I'm the last person to be interested in finance or banking details and I suspect I am 4. I'm the last person to be interested in finance or banking details and I suspect I am not alone but somehow this epic fantasy blend of empire building, politicking, financial jigging became a page-turner. The main character, Basso, is also an intriguing unforgettable fellow who rises to the echelon of power and wealth inadvertently some say luckily also building a stable and prosperous society for his fellow citizens.

There are many conversations about his motivations and intentions along with discussions of what makes a morally good efficient ruler, what the masses really desire etc. I found the currency and political manipulation to be fascinating, especially when Antigonus Basso's mentor was teaching him the cause and effects. There is a case to be said that some of what happens in the book can be extrapolated into the real world - overextending a nation's financial reserves, personality cults, external manipulation to control the markets, banking collapses.

Basso's first wife cheats on him with his brother-in-law. His sister becomes a vindictive vicious revenge-obsessed caricature. But the one that gets my goat is his second wife, that he employs and gives status to. The ending of the novel left me with a dissatisfied feeling: It's the illogical non-sensible female that upturns the whole apple-cart.

If only she had just asked! I feel like this contrasts with another excellent financial fantasy I read this year: The Dagger and Coin series by Daniel Abraham.

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There are some theme similarities like transitioning the economy to paper currency with the difference that the protagonist is an intelligent female trained from young in a bank. I found the three-quarter bit a bit of a slog when detailing the war which I suspect is not the author's strong suit.

Consequently a lot of Bassano's letters to Basso from the front lines were skimmed through. All in all, a consummately skillful piece of political financial fantasy liberally sprinkled with irony. Jun 15, James rated it really liked it. I tend to vere away from stand-alone novels. For me, they tend to feel either rushed and not as good as it could have been, or unfinished. This would be a perfect example; a great, brilliant story with amazing, complex characters that held so much promise that just When I first finished it it felt like a frustratingly good three Stars, but now, on reflection, it's a clever if still frustrating Four Stars.

Four Sta I tend to vere away from stand-alone novels. Four Stars As ratings go that is a completely misguiding rating, whilst also being completely correct. Chronicalling the life of one Basso, who from childhood grows into a ruthless banker and first citizen who warps everything he touched to his will, this plot was simply breathtaking and un-put-down-able. I would have given this five stars, should have given this five stars. Filled with assassination, political intrigue, action, emotion and so much more this was a blow me away story. You had a beloved sibling driving to destroy Basso, a slave turned mentor trying to keep him sane, a nephew who worships him, enemies who are awed by him, armies that bow to him, economies that depend on him, a civilisation that is based upon and supported alone by his will and benediction, and enormous luck that everything he does works out not only for him, but for the republic [even when that isn't his aim].

All of this, and somehow it manages to not be a martin-sue tale of epic greatness but a true struggle that has you rooting him at every turn, gasping in awe as he pulls it out of the bag, wincing as he is sidelined and empty when he is defeated [and I am not giving anything away by saying that - the intro states it]. This plot line creates a fantastic world reminiscent of Venetian trading power against the withdrawn eastern empire [some have compared it to a roman republic, which is nonsense - because the Roman's had an army, their power wasn't grown originally out of trade and the Vesani were anti-expansion, the romans were not], and while this is amazing world building the author does not focus upon it at all - which makes it all that much more remarkable.

Convoluted, the sheer intelligence of the plot leaves you amazed [for example, the numerous reasons that Basso gives for all his action, the realistic reactions to every single action] and struggling to understand how anyone could have come up with it, let alone create a story so compelling out of it. I simply cannot put down in writing how many sub-plots there were, or even bullet point the main ones - if I did either I would be here for ever and still not get across how great this plot was.

Which is why the ending is so harsh. His luck fails and he finds himself out on his own, alone, broke. He does get offered a small job though, which he takes, but apart from that you have no idea what happens to him. Another reviewer has said that she likes the fact it allows you to imagine a future for him [his small job did have possibilities of world domination] but it leaves me frustrated that all that work, all that brilliant plot lines, and suddenly it ends with no conclusion; no idea what happens to him Which, thinking on it, is also a great thing.

The frustration at the end is so realistic I mean, the whole plot is building to something and then, just like real life, something cuts it off, it goes wrong. In that way this book is perfect. In fact, I think I'll re-rate this four stars Yeah, right now I'm going to change it to four stars. As for the fantasy side of the plot Four Stars In a plot line driven by characters and their complex interactions, these were always going to be great - it was either that or this book would fall flat on it's face, something Parker doesn't seem capable of.

You can't define him in any one single way, he is a complex man with complex emotions who is hard to pin down. He ruthlessley destroys all his oppossition yet leaves his worst enemy, and greatest danger, alone because he loves her. He works hard for personal benefit, but somehow ends up benefiting the state as much as him, yet claims he isn't 'good'.

He venerates his nephew's goodliness, but does'nt see its weakness. He's trained and proven to be a great fighter, but somehow is physically weak and in constant danger. He is emotionless, but full of emotion. He is contradictions, passions, obsessiveness, madness, ambitious, egotisitical and so much more. He is as real a person as you can get, simply because he isn't simple; he is as complex as a real person - and more than that, he is a great character to read. One of the best I have come across in a while in fact.

Around him he has many others who seem simpler in contrast, yes, but who are also amazing real - as if you could reach out and grab them. Antigones is one; this simple living eunech, raised from slavery to head of a bank he works tirelessley for Basso. His simpleness and austerity speak volumes, almost as much as Basso's complexities. Bassano is another; a easy going lad who we see transform before our very eyes, we see him grow, harden and become less and less what Basson wanted of him [unintentionally]. Livia, obsessive with Basso's downfall to the exemption of all else, her grief and rage driving her on - even though you can't possibly understand her motivations, it's madness is striking and it's starkness a great way of proving her fatal threat - view spoiler [I almost felt sorry for her when it wasn't her who brought Basso low hide spoiler ].

Every single one of the characters involved, every one, feels full and real. Four Stars Some people may find this writing style But I think it's rich and really rewarding. The pacing is brilliant, the plot captivating, the dialogue so real and full of life, the narrative flows expertly and just strings you along helpless as you are entertained.

I'm in two minds about the end, whether it was a great critique on life and it's abrupt endings when you don't expect them, or whether it is a frustrating ending that leaves the story hanging off of a cliff.