The Company: Interesting, but kind of dry

K.J. Parker The Company fantasy book reviewfantasy book review K.J. Parker The CompanyThe Company by K.J. Parker

K.J. Parker takes a very interesting subject, post-combat veterans, and builds a medieval story upon it. The Company is not a fantasy novel, and it’s not historical fiction, but lives somewhere in between. After a major war a group of veterans from the same geographical area join forces once again, this time to settle an island.

The Company depicts the complex interactions of men who have spent a long period of time at war together. The commitment that they have to each other and the trust they place in their leader dramatically shapes how they approach things. Making the decision to uproot their lives and follow Teuche Kunnesin, the now retired General, is a prime example. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but out of loyalty and perhaps habit, they decide to do it.

Kunnesin is a planner, a visionary and a crook. Some of the best writing in The Company is Parker’s depiction of Kunnesin’s careful and thorough manipulation of the bureaucratic disaster that is the military administration. It would be funnier if it didn’t feel so real.

Aidi, Muri, Kudei, Nuctos and Fly are all good soldiers — heroes, to tell the truth — but each has his secrets and problems. Those hidden secrets and long standing disagreements combine to create a carefully balanced structure that works while in combat, but may not survive the demands of peace. The men who saved each others’ lives over and over now have to see if they can work together, using their different skills, to live in a future and place that they never planned for.

The Company was interesting, but kind of dry. There were times when I felt like I was waiting for the story to get going. It felt like a L.E. Modesitt novel where the main character is a master craftsman in training and you have to wait for a great deal of development before the story really kicks in. Parker is a solid world builder, though, and paints a believable picture of the challenges that the former soldiers face.  Between the logistics of packing to settle an island and the challenges of managing a group of people all thrown together in very rough circumstances, there is plenty of grit and detail to make the story feel real.

In the end, The Company became less of an adventure and more of a study of human motivations and frailties. The characters, even the minor ones, all have issues, problems and ulterior motives that create a toxic brew. For me, it was a difficult story to get into because there wasn’t a special character that I could really identify with. That left me unsympathetic and finally almost uncaring about how the story ended. For world building and detail, I give Parker high marks; but for a story that I would recommend to others, The Company is pretty low on my list.


The Company — (2008) Publisher: Hoping for a better life, five war veterans colonize an abandoned island. They take with them everything they could possibly need — food, clothes, tools, weapons, even wives. But an unanticipated discovery shatters their dream and replaces it with a very different one. The colonists feel sure that their friendship will keep them together. Only then do they begin to realize that they’ve brought with them rather more than they bargained for. For one of them, it seems, has been hiding a terrible secret from the rest of the company. And when the truth begins to emerge, it soon becomes clear that the war is far from over. With masterful storytelling, irresistible wit, and extraordinary insight into human nature, K.J. Parker is widely acknowledged as one of the most original and exciting fantasy writers of modern times. THE COMPANY, K.J. Parker’s first stand-alone novel, is a tour de force from an author who is changing the face of the fantasy genre.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

View all posts by John Hulet (RETIRED)


  1. Wow, we sure had different reactions to this book. That’s what makes horse racing, I guess — but I found all the detail about setting up a new community rather fascinating, and I thought the ending was pretty cool.

  2. It’s funny how that works. I have read so many books about this sort of thing that the settling process was just another event. I wanted to love this book…just didn’t. Like you said…that’s what makes horse racing!

  3. I think I’d like the book for the same reason Terry did, but I can see how John didn’t find it fascinating because he’s a soldier and he reads a lot of military fiction and that sort of thing just isn’t new for him.

  4. Yeah, he probably listens to soldiers argue every day of the week and wants to get away from that in his reading! ;)

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