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Evil for Evil is the second book in the Engineer trilogy written by English writer KJ Parker, nominally labelled fantasy but in truth this series has little to do with classic fantasy novel as there is little classic fantasy fare, this is a fantasy novel in human concepts rather than wizards and dragons.
The first novel in the series Devices and desires introduced us to the dominant character the engineer Ziani Vaartes, he is a Mezentine. Mezentia is a type of automated Roman culture, where specification, accuracy and precision are gods. They through their love of engineering are the dominant power and have a love of conquering neighbours based on their military superiority and a mercenary army. The engineer Vaartez is given the death penalty when a child's toy is found at home which he guild outside accepted building practices, he escapes and runs to Mezentine's neighbours the Eremenians. The Eremenians and Mezentine's have been at war and Ziani offers to show the Eremenians how to defend themselves, the Eremenians are ruled by a Duke Orsea and his right hand man Ducas Miel. Needless to say everything goes wrong Ziani, Orsea and Miel are captured not be the Mezentines but by their other neighbours the Valenz, who's Duke Valens has long loved Orsea's wife.
That's the end of the first novel and the second book begins with Ziani, Orsea, and Valenz all travelling back to the Valenz capital. The first novel I introduced the strong character of Ziani, all industrious and determined Orsea the weak duke and sporadically the energetic Valenz. All three continue their character development here, though Orsea does tend to fade away as the novel progresses. The other character Miel became my favourite as the book progressed, he escapes and initiates a freedom campaign for Eremenia against the Mezentines whilst having serious issues about how to survive without any servants.
The book progresses as with the first, plenty of technical information, plot development and the nice occasional twist, the depiction of a kind of pre-gunpowder super Roman civilisation battling backwards but complex countries is a kind of play on the expansion of the Roman empire under Caesars like Trajan, Domitian and Marcus Aurelious. The plot though word heavily doesn't feel long and ponderous, the characters are believable and do change as the story progresses. This book leaves the trilogy nicely poised and I for one is looking forward to the third part and finding out about the fate of the Mezentines, Eremenians and Valenz.
Book Series: The Engineer Trilogy