|"Even great men make mistakes," proclaims the cover
of K. J. Parkers The Folding Knife. So true. The story
starts with a prologue entitled Forty Years Later. Basso is riding on the roof of
a coach. He has just lost the one possession hes always had, the eponymous folding
knife. By inference, he has lost a great deal else besides. Chapter one returns to the
"start" of the story, with Basso being born and the gradual linking of his life,
his sisters and various other characters along the way.
With that delicious
declaration on the cover, I kept wondering what his one mistake was: marrying his idiot
wife? Killing his brother-in-law? Marrying his second wife? Bassos father is a
politician cum banker-merchant in the Vesani Republic, and aspires to be First Citizen, a
position that takes a lot of money to achieve. You have to spend a lot to bribe rich men
to vote for you. Basso senior has one redeeming quality, luck. Basso the son has both luck
and brains. He improves the fortunes of first the family bank, then the Vesani Republic.
Finally, he leverages it all attempting to grow the Republic into an empire.
Most of his choices are explained after they occur, by Basso himself: either explaining
it to some idiot relative, or celebrating with his cronies, for want of a better word. His
sister becomes his nemesis when he kills in self-defence her husband, caught in
flagrante with Basso's wife. As this happens early enough in the book, this isn't a
spoiler. She even arranges at least two attempts on his life, both nearly successful. But
death comes in many forms in the medieval world, and murder is only one of them. Plague,
falling trees and cow manure are all agents of death.
This is set in the same world as the Engineer trilogy, but miles away from that
action. The Vesani Republic is an Italian city state, either Venice or Genoa, and its
mundane adventures in a wider world. That Parker doesnt feel the need to introduce
magic, demi-humans or other deus ex machina makes for a stronger fantasy. Now to
hunt down more from this boy. Read.