K J Parker’s Savages is escapist fun about the fall and the rise and the fall and the rise (maybe) of Empire told with a wry sense of humour. As this is my first taste of Parker at novel length (I read one of his award nominated novellas a couple of years back) I can’t say whether the novel’s almost self deprecatory tone is consistent with his previous work or whether there’s a dash of Tom Holt in the mix. Whatever the case it makes for an entertaining, enjoyable read.
The novel’s major drawback is that every point of view character is a man. Whether they’re a master strategist, or a pacifist cum arms merchant or a guilt ridden Emperor or a teenage King this is a novel that mostly ignores woman. The one woman who does have agency – an expert forger – does play an important role in the narrative but she never gets her own voice. For some this will be a deal breaker. Personally I found it to be a frustrating hole in a mostly clever and enjoyable fantasy novel about the waxing and waning nature of power.