Today I’m kicking off not one but two blog tours, and the first is for one of the hottest new releases of this year, A Little Hatred!
Book: A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
Read before: No
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by publisher. All opinions my own.
Content Warnings: Strong bloody violence
The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.
On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.
Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.
The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…
First of all, I should say that I’ve never read anything else by Joe Abercrombie, so I came into A Little Hatred without any prior knowledge of the world. I think it does a really good job of being a jumping-in point – my friend Justine of I Should Read That says that there were lots of elements that drew from earlier books, so fans will find lots of notes to love, but new readers will be absolutely fine. Abercrombie has a real knack for showing small elements of a scene that give you a clear idea of the wider picture, and despite the scale of things going on, I never felt lost. There’s a lot happening, and you definitely get the sense that any one of the characters involved could have a whole book written about them – these are very real people in a very complicated world, and though we focus on a few of them, they’re not necessarily the main characters in the grand scheme of things. And there are no good or bad characters – though some may seem more personally palatable than others, there’s no overarching split between Good and Evil.
I enjoyed Savine’s chapters the most – she’s a self-serving, ambitious woman who is unashamed of her own powers of manipulation, whether in business or in a ballroom. I do always like to see a Slytherin heroine in a book, and Savine fills that role admirably. She’s not a cackling Evil Queen sort swanning around feeling fabulous (in fact, she’s fairly naive in places and quite young-feeling), but you get the sense that she is determined to be the strongest possible in all situations. I loved her weaponised beauty, and particularly enjoyed seeing her doing her political thing, though there is a lot more to her story than what you might expect when she first arrives on page. I also liked the reversal of the ‘young hero’ trope with Leo dan Brock, a handsome, golden-haired warrior who in any traditional fantasy would be a saviour and white knight, but here is completely in his mother’s pocket and is honestly, a bit of a dick.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of grimdark fantasy in general – I prefer my stories to have a little more wish-fulfilment and a little less pox and fleas and misery – but I did really appreciate how well-described the setting was, and the sense it gave you of what life was like for regular people who had to put up with the effects of the huge conflicts going on in the background. This is a world in which the industrial revolution is bringing peasant revolutions, and the impacts of both are shown in an extremely believable way. There is a subplot about an ex-soldier and his family trying to make a living as their city changes around them that is quietly, depressingly powerful, and no character is safe from the horrors of war, post-war, and revolt. And there are still some moments that a classic fantasy novel would be proud of: there’s a stellar swordfight, for one, that played out like a sweeping cinematic scene.
If you’re already a fan of Abercrombie’s writing, it seems like a no-brainer that you’ll love this. If you’re new to him, this is a great place to get started – it’s certainly a great start to the trilogy! Four out of five cats!