The Hammer takes place on a vast island somewhere far away from Home, the civilized world. There are colonists who live a good life on the coast, though they pay high taxes to The Company (The Company features largely in some of Parker's other novels, but not in this one.) There are aborigines, too, but they live farther away and hardly interact with the settlers, mostly due to their belief that the colonists don't actually exist except in their minds. And then there are the met'Oc, a noble family exiled to the island 70 years ago that have no money, but refuse to interact with the settlers. Instead, they live an almost subsistence lifestyle, full of pride and honor, surviving only due to their many raids of the settlers' farms.
But Gignomai, the youngest met'Oc, has friends in the settlement. And he interacts with the aborigines. And he is very smart. And, for reasons kept hidden from the readers until close to the end of the novel, he despises his family and wants to punish them. These facts all combine to create a perfect storm and the island is never the same.
I was pretty meh about this book the whole way through. I had really wanted to read Parker due to the author's excellent reputation with epic fantasy fans. The story is interesting and the writing is engaging, but this just didn't click for me. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters, particularly Gignomai, who seemed like a snob with too much spare time on his hands. He wasn't really that nice a person, and as we spent no time in his head, it was hard to understand anything at all about his motivations. I liked some of the other characters - Marzo the reluctant town Mayor, especially - but most fell flat for me. The key character is Gignomai, and as I didn't feel like I knew him, I didn't feel connected with any of the others, either.
And so much of this story hinges on a Great Reveal. When the secret finally came out, I was surprised, yes, but it didn't floor me, and it didn't feel to me like everything that came before and after suddenly made sense. Gignomai was still just as hard to read as he had been before, except now we learn why he is so angry.
I just kept flipping pages, hoping to understand what happened. And then I did find out and was underwhelmed. What should have been a very emotional scene did not resonate with me. I wonder if part of this effect is because I was reading The Ask and the Answer at the same time that I was reading The Hammer, and The Ask and the Answer is NON-STOP EMOTION. In fact, I found it somewhat manipulative with all the cliffhangers. (More on that in a separate review.) But perhaps because of all the emotional roller coaster-ing with the one book, I just had nothing left for this one. Just in case that's true, I'm going to give Parker another try - just not sure when or which book to try!