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Blue and Gold

Posted by Dan Smyth On Friday, April 22, 2011

Subterranean Press is our favorite small publisher here at EBR. They never disappoint when it comes to providing us with great books. Awesome covers, solid construction, and stories from amazing authors. It says something about both a publisher and an author when a 100-page novella can be sold for $25 and not a word of complaint be raised by its purchasers. This book is one of those.

"Blue and Gold", the most recent offering from KJ Parker, is the story of an alchemist, Saloninus, who starts off by telling an inn keeper that he has murdered his wife. Then, he tells us about his humble heritage and the fact that he lies occasionally. This piece of information, of course, plays a central role in the story, and becomes the skein from which the tale is woven.

We find out that Saloninus has been conscripted by the prince of Paraprosdocia and long-time friend of his, Phocas, to find a way to turn base metal into gold. This, being the undeniably single holy grail of all alchemical work, is impossible, and Saloninus tells us such. But should we believe him? Along the way, he has also taken it upon himself to discover the elixir of eternal youth. Another simple task to say the least. As simple, as say, you trying to guess at what color the elixir might be. Or is it so simple?

Like many other of Parker’s works, character and story thrive at the core of the tale, while dark humor and darker intent abound. This one is quick and intriguing, and when the layers of falsehood finally unfold, we come to the conclusion with truth and satisfaction. One of the things I must mention also is Parker’s uncanny ability here to make everything feel important and part of the tale. Back story doesn’t feel like back story. Information doesn’t feel a step apart from plot progression. They’re all just pieces of the greater whole. Very well-done. Novice writers could do considerably worse than trying to mimic Parker’s integration, in this case.

Overall, the story was pretty good. Not my favorite of Parker’s (if you haven’t read "Purple and Black", also published by Subterranean Press, then get to it, it’s brilliant), but this is still a good offering to be sure. On par with the rest of her stuff. Again, fans of Parker, and all that jazz. You know that I'm one of them.

Recommended age: 16 plus
Language: A handful of strong references
Violence: Several deaths, low-detail or off-stage
Sex: None

KJ Parker’s Wiki and “Official Website”


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