Monday, November 13, 2017

The Escapement Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: K.J. Parker
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Steampunk
Series: Engineer Trilogy Book Three
Pages: 436

(Contains spoilers for Devices and Desires and Evil for Evil below).

With their most recent army defeated in battle, no more mercenaries to hire, and a complete upheaval in their political system, the Mezentine Empire and its new leader Lucao Psellus are in a dire a scramble to defend their city from the oncoming horde of Aram Chantat, Eremians, and Vadani. Meanwhile, Duke Valens and Ziani Vaatzes are now putting the finishing touches on their revenge, but how many more sacrifices will have to be made?

The Escapement seems to take a much different pace than its predecessors. Our protagonists are now on the offensive, or more accurately they're now the aggressors, and their actions all the sudden aren't going to be borne so much out of desperation. The Escapement seems to more or less question now that the Vadani and their allies are holding all the power, what will they do with it, and how will the world be shaped because of it? What will the Mezentine's do with their lack of power, and how desperately will they defend themselves?

I really like this situation because most fantasy series' or novels don't force their protagonists and antagonists to have to experience both sides of the same coin. It brings a lot to discuss, and really lets you get to the nature of the characters and the decisions.

Despite being fairly important characters in the previous two books Vaatzes and Valens seem to be reduced to more secondary roles, as a lot of the story focuses on Psellus and his defense of the Mezentine capital. When the plot does finally shift to the alliance, after eighty pages or so, a lot of the time focuses on Daurenja. And Daurenja has certainly become one of this trilogy's most memorable characters. His ability to do horrible things to individuals but improve the lives of many of the soldiers and the citizens of the society he's living in makes him quite the moral conundrum. 

As far as the plot goes, things do start moving quickly, once the back half of the novel closes in. A lot of time is spent discussing siege warfare tactics: how to defend a siege, how to assault heavy fortifications, etc. This is probably the most detailed account of a siege I've actually come across in reading fantasy, and Parker really did a good job bringing to light a lot of details the average person wouldn't think about. 

I was pleased by how the plot ended, and in terms of endings, I'm really reminded of Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy. I found that Parker really seemed to lose hold of his characters and what they could bring to the plot. Miel Ducas just floundered into obscurity, despite playing an important role in the first book, he just seems like a waste of space in the final two. Ziani and Valens don't do much either, at least until the end. It really feels like characters seem to be serving the plot, rather than having the plot change because of what the characters are doing. It's in this aspect where The Engineer Trilogy, falls from being a potentially great read to just an entertaining one.

Score: 7.0

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