If you have not already discovered K. J. Parker, there’s something missing from your reading life. If you are a committed fan, this collection is another must-read. There are thirteen rather tasty little packages delivered in this book: ten shorter and longer pieces of fiction, and three highly informative non-fiction.
It’s quite amazing that this author should have developed such a reputation as a writer of fantasy novels, when there’s no real evidence of anything supernatural happening. The author just happens to produce historical settings and plots that feel like conventional medieval European fantasy. This collection titled Academic Exercises slightly breaks the mold by having some stories in which magic works. However, it’s all done in the best possible taste. Nothing too flashy or showy. And, of course, there’s that consistently wry sense of humor running through the fiction (and some of the non-fiction) in which characters get their comeuppance, or not, depending on how powerful they are rather than what they deserve. It’s a delight! No matter what your interests in fiction, this has something for you. The prose is silky smooth. The plots are elegantly vicious. And the characters are magnificently realized as they struggle against their fate.
K. J. Parker