Parker (the Engineer trilogy) collects 10 stories and three essays to deliver all the cynicism, dry wit, and gray morality that fans have come to expect. The World Fantasy Award–winning “A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong” explores the tense relationship between a disillusioned music teacher and his brilliant but murderous student. Amoral scoundrels wreak havoc in “The Sun and I” and “Blue and Gold.” In “A Rich, Full Week” and “A Room With a View,” freelance wizards take jobs that seem simple, but turn out to be anything but. Impossible magic lies at the heart of “Amor Vincit Omnia” and “One Little Room an Everywhere,” while “Let Maps to Others” follows a misguided expedition to a lost city. “Illuminated” offers a magical battle of the sexes, and two friends trapped in horrible jobs trade letters as they try to survive in “Purple and Black.” Three essays (“On Sieges,” “Cutting Edge Technology,” and “Rich Men’s Skins”) interspersed through the collection explore different aspects of ancient military technology. This meaty compilation will please fans as well as readers who are now discovering this skilled author. (Aug.)
Known mostly for dark historical fantasies, the pseudonymous Parker (The Folding Knife; Sharps) proves his (or her) skills in the short form with these ten stories and three essays. The stories have a loose connection in that they share a setting and the characters all have some affiliation with the Studium (this medieval world's university). Some tales include magic, such as "Amor Vincit Omnia," in which a representative from the Studium is trying to track down a rogue magic user. Others are more mundane, including the two World Fantasy Award-winning stories "Let Maps to Others," about rival geographers searching for a lost island of riches, and "A Small Price To Pay for Birdsong," about a twisted relationship between a music teacher and his murderous star pupil. But whether magical or not, they all feature riveting, dark characters and twisty plots. VERDICT Those who haven't sampled Parker's talents before will find this a great introduction to the author's original skills.