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

The Folding Knife (cover)The Fantasy-Faction Book Club, proving the wisdom of crowds, has selected K.J. Parker’s The Folding Knife for its September read. With a few weeks to go until it begins, there’s plenty of time to snag a copy and join in…and here are some reasons why.

1. It is incredibly easy to read.

Seriously. I don’t mean to say that it is written for 10-year-olds (although, kids these days…), but it is fast, punchy and written in an incredibly conversational way. One of the things that makes Parker such a great author is the ability to tackle complex themes and build fascinating worlds, all without resorting to made up languages, incomprehensible vocabulary or (god forbid) poetry. Plus, there are cliffhangers a-plenty, and every chapter does its damndest to get you to keep turning pages. As a further bonus, at 400ish pages, it is the slimmest fantasy you may ever read – and a self-contained story at that!

2. It is as deep as you want it to be.

As far as book clubs go, The Folding Knife is a blessing – there are themes of identity and fate and agency and morality. It is packed with questions and not all of them get answered: you can debate the book until your head explodes (although I’d rather you didn’t. Messy). It is also a book about murder, romance, war, assassination and intrigue. Read it for the themes or read it for the plot, they’re both there.

3. It is all about fantasy.

Those themes? They’re the stuff we talk about all the time on the forums. The Folding Knife discusses all of our favourite threads: the role of women, agency, imperialism, racefail, the role of violence (in all forms), badass swordplay, the Chosen One, sympathetic villains, fate…They’re all in here, and there are a thousand conversations waiting to happen.

4. Basso is awesome.

If you’re like me, and you prefer your protagonists clever-and-hard-working rather than dumb-but-destined-to-succeed, Basso’s as good as it gets. He’s arrogant, sharp and deeply flawed, but also loyal, sensitive and incredibly intelligent. He’s also a big geek: someone that sneaks out of parties to read a book, and not-so-secretly enjoys crunching numbers. Fantasy needs more of them. Most importantly, this is someone that could change the world, and The Folding Knife is the story of how he does (or doesn’t) do it…

5. It is honest about war (and that’s really interesting to read).

The Folding Knife (detail)Parker isn’t big on glorifying violence, in fact, in interviews the author talks about how The Folding Knife (and others) are explorations of the concept of “war as a last resort”. Violence from the point of view of a staunch pacifist – that sort of thing. The Folding Knife has a lot of war to it: little raids, naval battles, huge campaigns…and they’re utterly fascinating. None of the “blow trumpet and watch white-armored knights slay the heathen enemy”: lots of the interesting detail that makes it all more real. What really goes into making a war happen? What does it do to people (winner or losers)? There’s strategy and tactics a-plenty, but also the human element.

6. It is dangerously relevant.

The Folding Knife is about bankers and invasions. It came out in 2010, in the midst of banking bailouts and the war in Iraq. Brave, huh? If you ever want a book that shows how fantasy can explore the real world in a ways that other genre can’t, this is the one.

I could keep going, but I’m hoping that’s enough to convince you. The Folding Knife is smart, fast, deep, exciting, interesting, political, action-packed, darkly humorous, touching and, best of all, a lot of fun.

Grab your copy now through:

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Or your local independent bookshop, of course!

– – –

Jared Shurin lurks the forums as Pornokitsch. He just finished the reread of The Folding Knife for Tor.com and was part of the judging panel that selected it to The Kitschies shortlist in 2010. So, basically, he’s a big fan. @pornokitsch



  1. A.E. Marling says:

    You had me at “no poetry.”

  2. Bibliotropic says:

    I’ve only ever read one of Parker’s books, “The Hammer,” and sad to say that I wasn’t too impressed by it. It felt too me like too much build-up for too little payoff, and I found myself disappointed in the end.

    Still, I later read a short story of Parker’s that convinced me to give them another chance. I have a copy of “Sharps,” which sounds interesting, and if I end up liking that one, I’ll probably give “The Folding Knife” a try after that.

  3. […] Knife by K. J. Parker. In case you missed it last week, Jared Shurin wrote up a wonderful and persuasive plea on why you should read along with us. I won’t be able to do better than that, so if you did not […]

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