Savine dan Glotka – “One man’s mad is another’s perceptive”
Isern-i-Phail – “One man’s mad is another’s remarkable”
In the mid 2000’s I discovered Joe Abercrombie’s gritty and brutal “First Law Trilogy”. It was unlike any fantasy I had read up to that point and I tore through it. But for whatever reason I never picked up the standalone volumes that occurred afterwards. A few years ago Abercrombie put out a YA fantasy series that I was overall disappointed with, excellent first book, second was okay, third was a big let down. Once that was finished he shared about coming to a deal with his publisher to write all three volumes of his newest trilogy at once, and then release a book a year, so no waiting years between books! The impetus for the idea was so that by writing it all together, he could go backwards and forwards changing or updating as the story unfolded, and not have any awkward surprises while writing the third book, when it’s too late to change anything. It has been interesting following along with his writing adventures online. At author events he expressed that he thought it worked out well but isn’t eager to replicate the feat.
If grisly combat descriptions about splattering brain matter, limbs being hacked off, and gouts of dark blood, or the casual use of the word ‘cunt’ are problematic for you, then pass on these books. Violence isn’t constant but when it happens, it’s grim. Despite the visceral brutality, there is no rape. The closest the story comes is that at one point it was implied to be about to happen off screen in the midst of an uprising. Abercrombie is not a pretty writer but he is clever, funny, crafts excellent fight sequences, and this book is chock full of social commentary. He has also become a more balanced writer, the main protagonists are evenly split male and female, there are far more women throughout the book and particularly in positions of power than in previous works.
This trilogy is subtitled the Age of Madness and Abercrombie has advanced his civilization to where an industrial revolution is underway. Magic seems to be even more scarce in an already low magic world. A generation of relative peace has passed since the tumult of wars in the “First Law” books. Children of heroes are now grown adults, never having known the hardship their parents endured. The peace has allowed the advancement of technology and the rise of mass production. Previous wars have left the kingdom’s coffers bare resulting in higher taxes squeezing nobles. Nobles are dividing up their properties and pushing common folk off their land. Common folk are flooding the the few cities that have jobs. But the jobs in the mills and factories are dangerous for meager pay as the workers are wrung out for more profit. That’s if you’re lucky enough to get a job. Society is on the edge of a powder keg with resentment brewing among the working class. To the North, in Angland, a new war is fomenting as the Northmen seek to reclaim land lost in previous wars and the crown doesn’t have the money to send troops to defend this part of the Union.
Leo dan Brock, the Young Lion, is the presumptive heir to Angland, with his mother holding the title in trust. He’s eager to prove his mettle on the battlefield and earn a Name through duels, to join the ranks of heroes from the past. Leo’s fighting impulses have been held in check as his mother has been ruling but that time is coming to an end. Good hearted but has to overcome his testosterone, Leo’s destined to lock horns with Stour Nightfall, grandson and presumptive heir to the Northern King.
Rikke is the daughter of a Named hero, and blessed, or cursed, with the Long-Eye, an ability to get glimpses of the future, sometimes as symbols and some direct images. Rikke is unable to open the Long-Eye herself and instead gets taken unawares as her body goes into convulsions. She’s a curious young woman that has often been shunned due her fits and blunt nature.
Savine dan Glotka is daughter of the most feared man in the Union, Arch Lector San dan Glotka, head of the Inquisition. She has channeled all of her father’s cunning into booming business, with holdings across many different type of business endeavors. She has amassed enough wealth that the money isn’t important it’s about power and keeping score amongst the gentry and nobility. Feared and desired, Savine is always the center of attention by her design.
Crown Prince Orso is a wastrel of a prince. He has a thoroughly disreputable fellow fond of drinking, whoring, and drugs. Orso has no desire for the position of prince and no responsibilities, therefore he utterly lacks purpose and floats along through life in ennui on the comfort of his title. But that’s about to change as he finds a desire to take command when the Closed Council is too stymied in bureaucracy to do any action.
These four carry the book but Abercrombie also gives the perspective of two common folk, Vick (Victarine Teufel) and Gunnar Broad. Vick, a former slave and now member of the Inquisition, trusted hand of the Arch Lector himself, uses her ability to be an everyman and infiltrate agitators pushing for workers’ rights and leaving the Union. Gunnar Broad served in the Union’s military through multiple losing campaigns. Being in the wars gave him a place to unleash an underlying level of violence that’s always bubbling just beneath his surface. Returning to civilian life has been a challenge, ashamed at what he has done, and is capable of, and continually swearing to his wife and daughter that that life is behind him. But trouble requiring his fists seems to keep finding him.
Abercrombie will switch perspectives to give the reader a broader spectrum of what is going on outside of what the characters are doing. During the uprising, he swiftly goes from person to person showing all the different facets of the conflict in a stomach churning array of savagery and survival.
Abercrombie’s books are not for everyone. To be honest, it took me a while to start the series, even though I was deeply curious about it, because I wanted to make sure I was in a headspace for it. What pushed A Little Hatred to the top of the TBR was my husband reading it this past December and continually cackling with laughter during the funny bits. Then he raced through the rest of the trilogy immediately afterward. It has been fun discussing the book together as I react to what I was reading.