Devices and Desires

( 46 )


When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance — one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others...

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker's embittered hero takes up...

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When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance — one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others...

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker's embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion — his devices and desires.

"A richly textured and emotionally complex fantasy...Highly recommended."
—- Library Journal (Starred Review)

"When so many fantasy sagas are tired, warmed-over affairs, a writer like K.J. Parker is more of a hurricane than a breath of fresh air."
—- Dreamwatch

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Parker (the Scavenger trilogy) raises the bar for realistic fantasy war craft with this series opener. When the engineering guild sentences Ziani Vaatzes to death for improving on its supposedly perfect specifications for mechanical toys, he manages to escape Mezentia and throws in his lot with its recently defeated enemy, city-state Eremia. In exile, Vaatzes sets up shop making weapons, but his real goal is to create a new kind of engine-one made of human components, designed to reunite him with his family. He painstakingly executes a slow-moving master plan involving love, betrayal and secrets among the two countries' leaders. The tragic aftermath of the climactic battle forces a rereading of all that went before. It takes some hard slogging to get through assiduously researched technical descriptions of everything from dressing a duke to hunting a boar, and a few too many coincidences and expository speeches mar Parker's otherwise exquisite feat of literary engineering. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Those who prefer epics painted in sophisticated shades of gray to ultimate battles of good and evil will relish this first volume of a trilogy, published in the U.K. in 2005. The Perpetual Republic of Mezentia operates according to the principles of mass production; however, those principles are so calcified that innovation is not only stifled, it's punishable by death. When weapons engineer Ziani Vaatzes is condemned for making a nonstandard mechanical doll for his daughter's birthday, he manages to evade his jailors and escape to the small duchy of Eremia Montis. Jealous of their secrets, Mezentia is prepared to exterminate all of Eremia to prevent Vaatzes from passing on any of his knowledge. Meanwhile, Vaatzes is concocting a complex scheme that will allow him to return to his beloved wife and child. This scheme, which Vaatzes imagines as a vast machine, involves war on a massive scale and betrayals both large and small. Thousands will be destroyed in the operation of Vaatzes's device, but he simply doesn't care, as long as he gets to go home. After a flood of books that revolve around the fight for a throne, the destruction of evil and/or the search for a long-lost magical McGuffin, it's refreshing and innovative to read a work whose plot is based on simple and deeply personal stakes. Highly recommended, especially to readers tired of the usual thing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316003384
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Series: Engineer Trilogy Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 268,305
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

K.J. Parker is a pseudonym.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Enthralling sf

    Due to its incredible industrial base with advanced technology, the Mezentine Republic is the superpower. Two neighboring people, the Vadani and the Eremians resent their superiority. Whereas the Vandai leadership uses guile in its dealing with the powerful Republic, the Eremians invade only to be slaughtered by their foes due to superior technological weaponry especially the mechanical Scorpions.----------------- However, in the ruins of the slaughter, opportunity arises. Guild foreman and engineer Ziani Vaatzes has fled the Republic to avoid execution for breaking the rules. He offers the Eremians his knowledge of weaponry for safety and the opportunity to see his beloved wife and daughter one last time. However, Mezentines realizing that Ziani may sell them out and attack the Eremians to insure they remain the sole superpower.------------------ The first book of the Engineer Trilogy is a fascinating look at power mostly through the machinations of the scheming lying Ziani, who manipulates people as he climbs the social pyramid to get the support to meet his obsessed goal. He does this with the backdrop of nations selling violence and control as the key to regional ownership of a global economy. Although the antihero Ziani¿s skills are incredible, luck and coincidence helps him stay alive while his plausibility index is somewhere over Everest and his ethics somewhere in hell as he sacrifices innocent people to further his cause. Still this is an entertaining tale of one man who to achieve his quest requires him to be Machiavelli and Rove.------------ Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2009

    Go ahead and buy the whole trilogy

    I knew nothing of this writer and just picked up D&D in the store and started browsing the first few pages - still like the physical visit to a store for that unplanned selection.

    You certainly have to work with the writer (The exposition takes the whole of this book and the others in the trilogy). Strong characters - no black and white here - all seem to have redeeming and dislikable traits and these again evolve over time. The book gets pretty technical at times as we learn how to defend a castle, build cross-bows, etc but with Parker this learning is great fun.

    Buy the trilogy and that is the summer's reading sorted out!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic Book

    I am certainly no book critic but I did not want to see such a superb book sit at 3.5 stars. This book is filled with intrigue, stunning visual descriptions and a flow that makes it very hard to put down. The author has done a terrific job of getting readers to understand and relate to the plot and its key players.

    To add to its appeal this novel strays from the typical knight in shining armor hero's tale and instead is played out on a much darker field where you find yourself enjoying the lies and betrayals of Ziani as he builds his mechanism of revenge. Tens of thousands die, friends and heros are betrayed, and unlikely heros emerge from the fray.

    All in all I found this book fantastic and I think anyone with half a brain would also. If your idea of fantasy is wizards hurling fireballs or knights slaying dragons, of which this book has none, then perhaps you would be disappointed. But I doubt it. Kudos to the author, buy it, read it. You will not regret it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Very, very dry.

    The premise behind the series is a good one. The main character is definitely not your standard cookie-cutter protagonist. The writing style and how paragraphs stretched on and on without really anything substantial made the book less enjoyable. I was literally forcing myself to finish it. Also the technical terms and descriptions used for the machinery really didn't help me visualize, only burdened me with googling terms I didn't know so that I could figure out what he was talking about. At the end I was frustrated with the monologue given to explain the protagonist's motives, it made him feel two-dimensional and I was trying to find spoilers for the rest of the series so I could at least find out what happens without having to muddle through another volume I couldn't enjoy.

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  • Posted July 12, 2012

    A slow start, but by the end it is blazing hot!

    Devices and Desires is about a simple man who does simple honest work (a weapon engineer) but has the tinkerer's itch. Unfortunately this itch gets him sentenced to death, but he escapes, but to what end he does not know, since fugitives are hunted without mercy by his city, Mezentia, the most powerful city in the immediate area. By his engineering ingenuity and a fair does of luck, Ziani Vaatzes sets plans and people in motion to achieve one simple goal: to reunite him with his family. But there will be Hell to pay for standing against on "The Invincible Republic." This book reads somewhat like a psychology book in my opinion. I know that probably sounds strange, but there are no real static characters. Every major character has distinct personality quirks, strengths, and flaws. The intriguing bit is that the characters are very aware of these flaws and are constantly trying to justify them or change them. The character growth and development is a bit slow, but it is rich in its breadth, as nations clash and honor is pitted against common sense and duty is pitted against self-preservation. A real thought provoking piece that features both the wise and the foolish, the smart and the dumb. Many times characters will surprise you with what they decide to do in reaction to events surrounding them. This book is a bit of work to get through, mostly because of the backstory, but it really is a labor of love, because by the midway point you are sufficiently intrigued to see what happens next and by the end you are like "What?! Why would he/she do that???" and then you are left with a decent cliff hanger and the fate of nations lie in the balance of what is to come next. Also, as I myself an engineer, I appreciate the methodic mindset that the author takes when describing the Mezentine Empire and how Ziani perceives others and how they perceive him and his fellow Mezentines. Lastly, the book gets 4/5 stars because of the slow start. If somehow it could have picked up the pace quicker, it would have easily earned 5/5. I'm looking forward to the next two in the trilogy :) .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    Fantasy for grown-ups

    Fantasy writing that can be considered literature

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  • Posted March 8, 2012

    Story telling at it's finest. Interesting premise and believabl

    Story telling at it's finest. Interesting premise and believable characters you want to read about. Politics, intrigue, knights, castles, it's got it all. I'm already on the 2nd installment of the trilogy and enjoying it as well.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Dark Fantasy Done Right

    A wonderful tale of what one man will do when not the whole world, but HIS world, is on the line. For the entire series, the only thing I can complain about is that The Escapement is very short by comparison. All in all, this series doesn't disappoint.

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  • Posted June 26, 2011

    Strongest of the trilogy

    This is a trilogy that started very strong and then faltered. it's as if the writer had greta confidence in laying out the world and the character, and setting events in motion, but after the climactic events of book 1, wasn't sure where to go. Book 2 was IMO a letdown and book 3 just gets bogged down in some not-very-interesting siege developments. My advice is, try this and if you like it pick up #2 with some tempered expectations.

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  • Posted May 3, 2011

    A Riveting Story

    From the first few pages to the end of the final book I was completely enthralled by this story. So many twists and turns in the plot that you never know what comes next.

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  • Posted December 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Kidding me?! o.O

    I burned this. I didn't get far until I knew this sucked. Not to be rude to the author, but this didn't really make me anymore intrigued. To much thought and A LOT less talking. I was going mad because there was just () a lot of the time and mostly the characters thinking in their minds. Why the heck would you have your characters thinking mentally? Why not speaking a loud or something?

    Including that there was to many people to keep track of, also when you don't have a map on the front page before the first chapter. That would help out a lot. Tell about where places are, also would help when you REALLY don't know where the bloody characters are at. How would anyone know where the different people are if they arn't given some type of map of the world and different countries. :/

    Not sure if a author would waste his time looking at feedback but, this would need a make over because it doesn't even have a whole lot of emotion. I was pretty bored when I was at pg. 50 and I burned it after pg. 115. When I read other books I had a usual laugh here and there in a book. I had none in this, even in a book about betrayal and devastation there should be some humor, even something small place would make it worth while.

    Eh, I'm no author but, I wouldn't make a book without some comedic parts.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 28, 2010

    excellent writing, amazing plot !

    i read alot of science fiction, and this series by kj parker is the best that i have read ! from the very begging it will hold your attention. its about an engineer whos sentenced to death for an unfair ruling ! and the plot just gets better and better ! i strongly recommend it !

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    To much perspective shifting with no continuity to go with it.

    I liked the overall story and idea behind this book and it's sequels. It has a nice solid and believable story line. I mean what hero doesn't want to get back to their family regardless of how many people have to die?

    While I like the story as a whole I really did not care for K.J. Parker's writing style. There were often times I was left trying to figure out which character was talking or thinking. And sometimes in the middle of the same paragraph the perspective would shift from one character's thoughts to another's and not in a very contentious way. I often had to reread paragraphs to figure out just which character's head I was in (not a problem I typically have).

    I also had a hard time getting into K.J. Parker's attempts at humor. Again there were inconsistencies in this area. I definitely saw some Terry Prachett influences here which really did not fit well with the over-all theme and approach of the story.

    Overall it is an okay story but not one I would read again.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    Parker is an author who Gets It

    First of a trilogy, this fantasy novel is about an engineer who starts a major war so he can be re-united with his wife and daughter.

    Mezentia is a city-state that is the local technological superpower. They don't let their technical knowledge get out to the surrounding kingdoms, which is how they keep their superiority. Mezentia is also a land of guilds, where technical specifications and tolerances were decided long ago. It is written into law that, for instance, a certain gear shall be no larger than a certain size (down to hundredths of an inch) or a certain lever shall be a certain length, and no longer. Ziani Vaatzes, a talented engineer, breaks the rules, unintentionally, in building a mechanical toy for his daughter. He is sentenced to death by the Mezentian Council, accused of Abomination, and manages to escape with his life.

    Vaatzes is picked up by the remnants of the army of Eremia, one of the neighboring kingdoms. They are struggling to get back home after attacking Mezentia, and getting slaughtered by superior Mezentian weapons. His offer to train Eremians in how to build the weapons that just decimated their army is politely declined, but Vaatzes is set up in a factory of his own by the Eremian equivalent of a venture capitalist. Vaatzes does not just start at the beginning, he has plenty of building, planning and training to do just to reach "the beginning." In Mezentia, tolerances and specifications are expected to be exact (anything less is not good enough), but in Eremia, the best Vaatzes can do is "pretty good." He and his employees have scoured the city looking for scrap metal to use in the weapons, but they will get the job done.

    Meantime, the Mezentian Council has learned that Vaatzes is still alive, and is building weapons for the Eremians. The decision is made to invade Eremia, and wipe the entire race off the map. Nothing is more important than Mezentian technological superiority. Civitas Eremiae, the Eremian capital, is built into the side of a mountain, and is nearly impossible for an invading army to conquer. But, it does have a very secret, and very ancient, "back door."

    Parker is an author who Gets It. This is a big novel, but it is an excellent piece of writing that will really keep the reader's interest. I may just read the other two, equally large, parts of this trilogy just because the storytelling is so good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    Great pick for those who love intricate story lines

    It's a story of a man whose society wants to destroy him because he dares to improve upon the perfection of their engineering Spefications to create a better working toy for his daughter. How ironic, the most technologically advanced society in their world sees innovation as an abomination punishable by death. Well he escapes to a society that is basically in the dark ages and begins to impart some of his knowledge to them. Well, his home country can't allow that so they hire a huge army of mercenaries to kill him and the entire country (can't have any of their secrets get out)The further you get into the book the more complex it becomes as you start to realize how things were manipulated from the very start as part of a grand design whose purpose has yet to be revealed.
    Sounds dry and boring doesn't it? However, the book flows very well and keeps you involved. I found it hard to put the book down for long. great read for those who like some substance in the story line

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2006

    an excellent book

    Devices and Desires is a fantastic book. The characters are well developed and highly believable. The plot has many twists and turns. I could not put it down. This is the first book of a trilogy, so the plot will continue to the next books. I would highly recommend Devices and Desires. I was impressed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2010

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews

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