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African Library Project. Book Groups. Customer Recommendations. First Friday. Galley Rally. Miel himself has no other desires beyond his position. When faced with a choice to either abandon their duty or lose everything that they love, Valens acted by instinct and, for a time, cast aside the restrictions that he placed upon himself. Miel, by contrast, has numerous moments throughout the series where he knowingly acts against his own interest, doing what the Ducas must do even if he would like nothing so much as to do the opposite. As he thinks in the second book:.

You could fill a book — someone probably had — with the selflessly heroic deaths of the Ducas. Dying of thirst in the mountains, the Ducas gives the last mouthful of water to the rebel leader he's captured and is taking back to face justice; awestruck by the example, the rebel carries on to the city and meekly surrenders to his executioners. Fighting a duel to the death with the enemy captain, the Duacs gets an unfair advantage when the enemy slips and falls, to forbear to strike is to give the enemy a clear shot, which he's obligated to accept since he too is fighting for the lives of his people; the Ducas holds back and allows him self to be killed, since duty to an enemy overrides hid duty to his own kind.

In such a book, there'd be pages of notes and commentaries at the end, explaining the complex nuances of the degrees of obligation — nuances which the Ducas understood and calculated in a second, needless to say. By contrast, the Eremian duke, Orsea, is simplistic and earnest.

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He is a good man who always tries to do good to the best of his abilities — but his abilities are woefully inadequate compared to what he, as the leader of a nation, needs, and his best effort often falls horrendously short of what he would need to do to save his people.

Orsea is sympathetic and occasionally painful to read about, though his self effacing perspective can grow tiresome on occasion. The Engineer Trilogy's cast is conspicuous for its near total absence of female characters, a fact that perhaps plays into the speculations about Parker's gender.

There are two prominent women in the Engineer Trilogy — Veatriz and Vaatzes's wife — but they are both completely defined by their relationship with the men around them. While on occasion formidable, there is never an indication that they have any true hidden depths of their own. The different nations — the silver mining Vadani, the rudimentary Eremians, the sidelined Cure Doce, the far off old country, the arrogant Mezentines, the barbaric Cure Hardy — are all richly developed, and it's obvious that Parker put a great deal of thought into every aspect of their interaction, their trade routes and quirks intersecting with and influencing one another like the fine workings of an expensive watch.

That being said, there's actually the feeling that everything is too neat. Every piece of the puzzle is so well integrated that they all feel essential, inevitable, making it hard for the reader to ever conceive of a different system, rendering a supposed history of huge wars bizarre and hard to picture. The Mezentine confidence in war feels fully justified, but it's difficult to shake the feeling that, for a people so dependent on exports, they're being a tad glib in their slaughtering of half of their potential markets. In the final volume we do learn that there were other, long forgotten nations in the area, but it's too late for the knowledge to really impact our view of the world.

As I said earlier, the second volume, Evil for Evil, is where Parker really hits her stride. The Engineer Trilogy is shocking in just how much motion there is. The individual novels in the sequence really are world changing, and the picture that we end with is nothing like the one that we began with. Evil for Evil occasionally lags in pacing, but the characters are well established here, the plot gripping, and the stakes high.


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The novel's primary new thread is woven in somewhat clumsily — with not one but several dues ex machinas signifying its opening — but soon overcomes the stumble. Evil for Evil also sees the introduction of the character Daurenja. Daurenja is, basically, your standard fantasy hero. He is brilliant, deadly, gifted at everything he attempts, and lucky enough to shoot up in the ranks like he was shot out of a cannon. Oh, and he's not a good guy and wouldn't be even if Parker allowed such one dimensional concepts as 'good' and 'evil' into her work.

Daurenja is a wrench in the works, a force of nature that will either bring Vaatzes's designs to head or shatter them utterly. This is the rare character in fiction that is a total enigma and yet somehow understandable, at once terrifying and witty, equal parts savior and executor. The final volume, The Escapement, brings the final element of the narrative into play: the primitive Cure Hardy that are so numerous and warlike that even the Mezentines are scared of them. In fact, the Cure Hardy here become almost the center of the story, the ultimate change to all the players that ensures that, win or lose, the world will never be the same again.

In the first two volumes, both Duke Orsea and Duke Valens meet small numbers of the Cure Hardy and discover that a large number of their assumptions were completely off.

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When they finally step into the spotlight, everything seems poised for them to be as well thought out and fascinating as the other two races. The Cure Hardy, in fact, never step into the spotlight.

They're the main motivator for just about every character in the third volume, and yet their actual presence is negligible; they're kept off screen and only briefly evoked in war councils made up of unnamed characters. The Cure Hardy are the only faction that we never get a perspective from, that we never even get a single sympathetic character from, and the omission renders them ultimately inconsequential in the reader's mind, regardless of their importance to the story. Without caring a whit what happens to them, the climax of the final volume, involving key questions with regards to the Cure Hardy's future, is — though outwardly satisfying — devoid of the moral complexity that it's obvious Parker was striving for.

Parker's prose throughout the trilogy is as precise and detailed as he engineers' plans. That is not, however, to imply that it is dry. Parker's writing is cynical, sarcastic, and at times hilarious to read:. He opened his eyes expecting to see the kingdom of Heaven, but instead it was a dirty, gray-haired man with a bug mustache, who frowned.

Still, it was reassuring to have an impartial opinion on the subject, even though the man's tone of voice suggested that it was largely an academic issue. Which was, he reflected later, as he lay in the dark staring up, a bit like killing yourself to frame your enemy for murdering you; a sort of bleak satisfaction; looked at objectively, though, not terribly clever. The Engineer Trilogy is an incredibly interesting work that's marred by several flaws. Still, this trilogy's highs are so powerful and well made that this is still essential reading for anyone interested in realistically constructed, morally complex, and well written epic fantasy.

Posted by Nathaniel Katz at AM.

Anonymous May 20, at PM. Nathaniel Katz May 20, at PM. Newer Post Older Post Home. Subscribe to: Post Comments Atom. Duke Valens is providing shelter for the Eremian refugees, and once again Ziani Vaatzes is called upon to create an engineering solution for his protectors.

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Evil For Evil: The Engineer Trilogy: Book Two

All he still wants is his family. Orsea is as riddled with doubts as ever, and Valens is trying to preserve his own duchy in the face of the powerful mercenary armies array against him. Evil for Evil follows the same characters as Devices and Desires , but for the Eremians, life has got hard. Miel Dukas, still under a charge of treason, is slumming it with the Eremian resistance.