My Beautiful LifeK. J. Parker
fantasy > high fantasy
A novella. Dust jacket illustration by Vincent Chong.
Over the past two decades, K. J. Parker has established himself as one of the most original voices in contemporary fantasy. Through works ranging in scale from multi-volume epics (The Engineer Trilogy) to standalone novels (The Company) to a vivid assortment of stories and novellas, he has earned his reputation as an imaginative, consistently absorbing storyteller. His latest novella, My Beautiful Life, can only enhance that reputation.
As the ironic title indicates, Parker’s latest tells the story of an individual life that takes extraordinary turns. As the story begins, the nameless, dying narrator takes us back to his childhood home in a remote corner of the ubiquitous Empire. The second of three sons, he lives there with his mother in a state of unrelieved poverty. Life eventually becomes so dire that the mother — who can only find work as a prostitute — is forced to sell one of her children. The oldest son, Nico, volunteers to be sold in order to protect his family, and that decision sets in motion everything that follows. Nico’s journey takes him, in time, to the heart of the Empire and the very center of power. Over time, he acquires considerable power of his own and uses it to bring his younger brothers into the circle of his influence, changing their lives forever. Under Nico’s guidance, the middle brother — our nameless narrator — achieves a destiny that will alter not only his own life, but the life of the Empire itself.
Written with wit, economy, and considerable style, My Beautiful Life is at once a profoundly gripping narrative and a rueful meditation on the workings of fate. Equally suitable both for long-time fans and for newcomers to Parker’s fictional universe, it is an essential — and hugely enjoyable — addition to a distinguished body of work.