The first volume of The Engineer Trilogy was the first K. J. Parker novel I ever read. I'm aware that the author is quite popular in the UK, and Orbit are undoubtedly hoping that the same phenomenon will occur on this side of the Atlantic.
The premise is interesting enough: An engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of Guild law. After murdering some of his captors to save his life, leaving his wife and daughter behind he is forced into exile.
The industrial setting is a refreshing change from the typical medieval environment which is endemic to the fantasy genre. Incidentally, I do feel that Parker at times went a bit over the top with her descriptions of the various devices and machines. I'm not an M. I. T. student, so she lost me on a few occasions.
Devices and Desires is an intelligent read filled with intrigue. Throughout the novel it is evident that the story shows a lot of potential. However, the author doesn't always deliver.
The book is well-written. Indeed, K. J. Parker's flowing prose is a delight to read. And she imbues the entire narrative with that witty British humor which is so lacking in North American works. The pace of this novel is extremely uneven. The narrative can be fluid and efficient, yet at times the rhythm becomes particularly sluggish.
The characterization is the aspect which leaves the most to be desired. While one can't wait to discover how Ziani Vaatzes' elaborate plan to wreak vengeance on Mezentia will play out, I found that I didn't much care for the rest of that cast of characters. Especially Duke Orsea and Veatriz, both of whom are rather on the lame side.
Some of the plotlines are difficult to get into, for they appear to bring little or nothing to the overall story arc. K. J. Parker nevertheless plays out her hand rather well, leaving the door open for a lot of things to come. One thing that very nearly killed this one for me, though, was how Vaatzes orchestrates everything which comes to a head at the end of the book. It was all a bit too easy, if you ask me.
Still, I'm curious to read Evil for Evil and The Escapement. Though it suffers from a number of shortcomings, Devices and Desires was compelling enough to intrigue me in a way that makes me want to discover what happens next. . .
If you're looking for something different, Devices and Desires just might be what you need.
The final verdict: 7/10