The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.
But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus – the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.
He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?
This novella is apparently the second in a series, but I picked it up when I was at the library having never read the first one because it sounded fun. You don’t really need to read anything else to enjoy this one from my experience so feel free to pick this one up and dive right in! And you’re going to want to because it’s a really fun read.
This book is told from two alternating point of views, Saloninus, a famous philosopher of his day, and the devil. Or maybe not the devil, but a demon, and one of the best at his job. One day Soloninus decides he wants to sell his soul and so begins the journey.
I LOVE the humor in this novella. Now, I know K.J. Parker is also author Tom Holt who is known for writing humorous fantasy novels, but I didn’t expect so much humor to come through in this one written under his pen name. And it’s the little things too, like going over the contract and the ideas of demons being bogged down by paperwork and such. It’s pretty hilarious.
The thing that drives this story is the interaction between the demon and Saloninus. At first the demon is like ‘why is this guy offering up his soul when he’s not in a bind?’ and then when everything is in order with the contract he shrugs it off as Saloninus being a bit of an eccentric. But as time goes by, he clearly seems to be up to something, but the demon just can’t put his finger on it. There’s an added layer to things because the demon, a lover of earthly delights, is a huge fan of Saloninus’ work.
This is such an exquisitely crafted story, such a delight to read. The pacing is great and as the story goes on you really feel that drive to the end, to figure out what’s really going on. and it plays a lot with expectations. There are a few red herrings, just to throw everyone off and keep us (and the demon) guessing, and those worked great. I really loved this novella and I can’t recommend it enough. 5/5 stars.
Have you read this one? Leave a note in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
13 thoughts on “Book Review: The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker”
I remember when this came out, but I never heard much about it. I’m glad you read it and loved it, I’ll have to find a copy😁
It’s a quick read and I loved it so I definitely think it’s worth checking out. I was surprised my library had it!
This sounds like such a fun read, I am going to see if my library has a copy. Great review!
Thanks! It’s definitely fun, and also quick! Hope you enjoy!
It’s not *really* part of a series (as far as I know)… but most of Parker’s short fiction takes place in the same setting, many referring Saloninus actually.
I was going off of goodreads, but well, we all know how that can be as far as accuracy. BUT. Since a lot of people look at goodreads when adding books to their lists, better to mention it so they know it can be read on its own.
I had to look up which one was being considered the first one; “Blue and Gold” was pretty good! That one is also included in Parker’s collection “Academic Exercises” where I first read it.
Good to know, thanks!
I’m with Tammy, I also recall when this came out, and also recall being interested but then it just seemed to go out of my mind. Great review. I’m intrigued and this time I will add it to my wishlist.
The great thing is that it’s a quick read! Hope you enjoy!
Well good you don’t need to have read the other one to enjoy this. And cool that it was so funny and well crafted! Sounds well worth checking out. Awesome review!
Thanks! Definitely worth checking out. 🙂