by K.J. Parker
Cover Artist: Vincent Chong
Review by Benjamin Wald
Subterranean Press Deluxe Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596066090
Date: 31 July 2014
Book Description: Academic Exercises is the first collection of shorter work by master novelist K.J. Parker, and it is a stunner. Weighing in at over 500 pages, this generous volume gathers together thirteen highly distinctive stories, essays, and novellas, including the recent World Fantasy Award-Winner, "Let Maps to Others". The result is a significant publishing event, a book that belongs on the shelf of every serious reader of imaginative fiction.
The collection opens with the World Fantasy Award-winning "A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong", a story of music and murder set against a complex mentor/pupil relationship, and closes with the superb novella "Blue & Gold", which features what may be the most beguiling opening lines in recent memory. In between, Parker has assembled a treasure house of narrative pleasures. In "A Rich, Full Week", an itinerant wizard undergoes a transformative encounter with a member of the restless dead. "Purple & Black", the longest story in the book, is an epistolary tale about a man who inherits the most hazardous position imaginable: Emperor. "Amor Vincit Omnia" recounts a confrontation with a mass murderer who may have mastered an impossible form of magic.
Rounding out the volume--and enriching it enormously--are three fascinating and illuminating essays that bear direct relevance to Parker's unique brand of fiction: "On Sieges", "Cutting Edge Technology", and "Rich Men's Skins".
Taken singly, each of these thirteen pieces is a lovingly crafted gem. Together, they constitute a major and enduring achievement. Rich, varied, and constantly absorbing, Academic Exercises is, without a doubt, the fantasy collection of the year.
(Source: Subterranean Press)