Book Review: The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know
By K.J. Parker

My (Our?) Edition:
Paperback, 124 pages
2016, Tor
ISBN: 9780765387899

Saloninus is perhaps the greatest philosopher of all time and he’s looking to sell his soul to the devil for twenty more years on Earth and nearly unlimited power. But the demon assigned to his case, a big fan of the philosopher’s work actually, can’t shake the feeling that his team is missing something.

We have a few Parker books in the house (I also learned Parker is Tom Holt so technically we have even more of his work) and I’ve wanted to read something of his for years (well, actually, something of Tom Holt’s because I discovered him first and didn’t know they were one in the same), but just never made time. I recently picked up this novella for my Sweetbeeps since he’s back on a Parker kick and ended up reading it before he did. -snicker-

I connected immediately with Parker’s writing. Here we have a little tale told mostly from the point of view of the demon (whose name we never learn) and his thoughts on the philosopher Saloninus, who has recently sold his soul with the standard contract. The demon is actually a fan of Saloninus’s work and enjoys talking shop with his “customer”, as well as a patron of the arts and an all-around “good guy” which wasn’t what I was expecting. He doesn’t enjoy doing evil but is the best in the business because he takes his job so seriously.

Saloninus was a little flat – the predictable old trickster who is cleverer than the demons because of his humanity. But I didn’t mind because even though this tale is about him outwitting the devil (er-well, his minion), I think it’s really more about the demon himself and how he handles the situation and the bureaucracy of his organization.  The changes between the demon’s POV and Saloninus’s were also abrupt and a little disorienting, but not a major problem.

I’ve no idea whether the characters or the land are part of another series, but I read this as a stand-alone novella with no problem. This has certainly motivated me to read more of Parker’s work. If you’ve never read anything by him, perhaps this novella is a good place to get your feet wet!

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