Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead is the latest offering from prolific World Fantasy Award winning author K. J. Parker. It is the first in The Corax Trilogy and following Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead there is Saevus Corax Captures the Castle which is out now, and the third instalment Saevus Corax Gets Away with Murder is released in December 2023. So unlike most new releases, if this is the sort of book for you, the whole set will be readily available. If readers have not come across Parker before, they may have read his works that are published as Tom Holt. This was the situation I found myself in where I have enjoyed a fair amount of the books written as Tom Holt but had never picked up a K. J. Parker one until now with Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead.
Saevus Corax is in the business of battlefield salvage. He repurposes weapons, fixes holes in uniforms, and deals with the dead. It is not the best or most glamorous of work, but it makes a fair amount of money and someone has to do it. However Saevus Corax was not always Saevus Corax, and something he did a long time ago is about to catch up with him.
Although this was my first time reading one of his novels as K. J Parker, Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead has the same dark humour I have enjoyed when reading Tom Holt novels. This novel is cleverly written, and at the end, once the puzzle is complete, the reader can really appreciate how well put together the plot has been. Saevus Corax readily admits he is not a likeable person; by his own admission he is ‘arrogant, callous, selfish and utterly devoid of any redeeming qualities’. This seems slightly unfair as I did not find Saevus to be entirely evil as that description may suggest. He is however eminently practical and (understandably) prioritised his own survival above all other things and this did lead to some rather unsavoury choices. As a protagonist Saevus’ wit and intelligence are highly entertaining and following him through the narrative kept me engaged and invested in Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead. The revelations of Saevus’ somewhat murkier past as he hopped from frying pan to fire and back made me continue with the novel.
Something that is immediately obvious when starting Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead is the Parker has written this in the first person. This was a well written first person novel but I have to admit that settling in to that style took me a very long time. That is very much an issue of mine and my personal preference more than it is a fault of Parkers. At times I also struggled with the pacing of Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead as all the chapters were similarly lengthy. For the more action packed chapters this was not an issue, however in slightly more sedate ones it felt harder to plough through. Parker always brought my attention back, and over all I enjoyed Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead.
Parker’s dry witty style was my favourite part of Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead. It is darkly funny throughout in a way that I think would be enjoyed by readers of Grimdark Magazine. The plot is thoroughly unpredictable and snarky Saevus really made the story for me. Thank you very much to K. J. Parker and the team at Orbit for sending me a copy of Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead.