Purple and Black by K.J. Parker
by Cameron N. Coulter
Posted on September 6, 2016 reading
Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2009.
I enjoyed reading K. J. Parker’s novella The Devil You Know, so when I stumbled upon another K. J. Parker novella at the library, I picked it up. When I saw that it was an epistolary novella, I knew I had to read it. Just the other week, I had the thought that the epistolary form is regrettably underused.
Fabulous choice on my part to read Purple and Black; I think I have a new favorite writer. I liked this even more than The Devil You Know. Parker brilliantly weaves accessible, fun, and funny writing with interesting philosophical ponderings. He also writes fantastically likeable characters and places them on both sides of the conflict.
In Purple and Black, Nicephorus, an academic at heart, becomes emperor after the rest of his family kills each other fighting over the throne. Since he has no one in the capitol he can trust, Nicephorus recruits his college buddies into key positions. Nicephorus places one of them, Phormio, in charge of a military campaign on the Northern frontier. Purple and Black is made up of letters exchanged between Nicephorus and Phormio, as they attempt to fend off assassination and quell a mysterious insurgency. It has a slow, enjoyable build and an absolutely thrilling ending.
If you have any interest in good writing, political philosophy, or military fiction, read Purple and Black by K. J. Parker.