The Hammer by K.J. Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m not sure what is going on with all these depressing books I’ve been reading lately, but this one falls right in with the trend.
Gignomai me’Oc is the youngest son of an aristocratic family exiled to a remote island for their part in a seventy year old war. The family lives on a remote farm, far removed from the village, also peopled with outcasts and exiles from Home. They put up a pretense of nobility, when in fact, their life is no better than the others. Gig is haunted by an incident that occurred when he was young. This incident is the driving force behind most of the story, as evidenced in chapter headings, such as Seven Years Before, The Year When, Seven Years After, and Five Years Later. It is interesting that we don’t find out the details until close to the end.
Characters are interesting, if not overly complex. Gignomai’s family is a mix of personalities. Father lives in his library, reading and only interfering in the day to day business when necessary. Mother is almost non-existent. She never speaks, and drifts in and out of a few scenes, almost like a ghost. Lusomai is the soldier and hunter, leading a group of mercenaries on raids to the cattle pens of the villagers, and putting up the pretense of keeping a garrison, such as a noble family would have. Sthenomai is the overseer, and the one who does the major portion of the work, on the farm. They all have their surprises and character twists, and help keep the story interesting.
The plot seems at first to be fairly straightforward: Gig has no real place in his family, so he runs away and lives in the village with a friend’s family. He devises a plan to help the colony break free from the tyrannical oversight of Home by constructing a factory to manufacture the supplies they are now dependent on Home to provide. But it becomes clear that there is much more going on than would appear on the surface, and it all ties back to the secret that haunts Gig.
The ending, while not entirely tragic, is still less than happily ever after. What Gig ultimately does, and why, is brutal and vengeful. What it does to him is almost tragic, especially as he knows what it’s doing to him. It’s an interesting read, but one that will leave you thinking about motivation and consequences.