Evil for Evil is the second book in K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy and it is probably one of the strongest “middle books” I’ve read. Evil for Evil hits the road running and not once does the plot slow down or ease up. Parker’s writing is, as always, rich, detailed, evocative and dry. The theme is the same: the importance, and ultimately destructiveness, of love as well as the importance of creation and desire. While these themes may seem rather mundane and arbitrary, Parker weaves them into a complex, multi-faceted plot that can’t help but suck the reader in.
The second novel in a series is usually the weakest because the plot tends to drag as it bridges the gap between the beginning and the ending, and usually that’s exactly what a second book feels like: plodding across a gigantic bridge to some unknown end. Not Evil for Evil. Parker never lets the characterization or plot fall. There aren’t any new major characters introduced, so if you had a grip on what was going on in the first book, you won’t have a problem following this one. Instead of focusing on introducing new characters, Parker seems to spend most of the time honing and fine-tuning the characters introduced in Devices and Desires.
None of the characters in Devices and Desires were particularly loveable. Rather, they were all amazingly flawed and almost completely morally neutral. That doesn’t change in Evil for Evil. Instead, with Parker’s deft weaving, the reader is introduced to more depth in all of these existing characters. Instead of rehashing personality traits we’ve already been exposed to, we are introduced to new facets of these characters. In doing this, Parker makes the characters pop to such brilliant life I almost felt like they weren’t just written in a book, but actually existed in the real world around me.
The plot is every bit as complex and profound as it is in Devices and Desires. Reading Devices and Desires and getting a feel for the overall writing and theme of the work made it easier for me to wade through the complex themes, dialogue and plot twists. While I didn’t find myself as surprised with Evil for Evil as I was with Devices and Desires, there are quite a few wham-bam plot punches toward the end that left me reeling and nearly suffering heart palpitations.
My only true complaint is, by the end of the book, there is a fair amount of whining. While I can sympathize with the characters’ plights, I did get rather sick of hearing the same basic gripe from all points. But for such an incredible book, this was easy to overlook.
While I feel as though now I understand what all the hubbub Ziani dreamed up was about, I am still eager to see how Parker makes it all pan out in The Escapement, which is the last installment in this trilogy. There are enough open-ended questions and newly introduced plot twists in Evil for Evil to make for one hell of an exciting conclusion. I don’t know who Parker is, but anyone who can dream up a plot this tightly woven and realistic deserves to be noticed.
FanLit thanks Sarah Chorn from Bookworm Blues for contributing this guest review.