Tag Archives: joe abercrombie

Daily Distractables!

I’m having a bit of a repeat of the sinusitis/labyrinthitis funtimes from the last couple of months today. Storming headache. Hence I am overdosing on distractions!

Via NethSpace, check out the summary for Joe Abercrombie‘s next book A Red Country:

“Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier. Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust…”

I am well excited. Abercrombie is fantastic, a favourite of mine, and anyone unfamiliar with him and his hilarious yet dark and brutal writing should pick up The Blade Itself as soon as possible. Like, now.

If you are the type (like I am) to sit in a coffee shop and people-watch for a time, then People On The Tube is a brilliant tumblr that has given me terrible giggles.

Orkney Library have demonstrated the power of twitter (and cosy crime) by live-tweeting The Body In The Library, Agatha Christie’s classic, in support of Save Libraries Day (hashtag: #NLD12). Marvellous project and I love it when people come up with these ideas.

And I’ll leave you with what I saw t’other day when I came into the kitchen. That’s our cat, who is a complete asshat of an animal, but I like him anyway. He’s entertaining.



Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves

Fantasy got to the stage a while ago where it’s less “Them’s the evil dodgy types, we’re the doe-eyed loveable lot” and more “Golly check out all these lovely shades of grey!” which is a bit of relief considering that fantasy is usually known for the Lord of the Rings style epic Good vs Evil chess games that totally have their place, but felt a bit stale. Along came George RR Martin with his wickedly wicked A Song of Ice and Fire series, and in his wake Scott Lynch with his fantastic Gentleman Bastard sequence as well as Joe Abercrombie with the First Law trilogy (et al) and various other authors, all of whom are doing very well painting fantasy a very fetching shade of gritty, witty grey. Seeing characters with more darkness and grime makes them seem even more engaged with their world so all the world-building the authors do becomes so much more worthwhile and believable, and leavened with the right amount of humour and thrills, the plots feel like more of a rollicking read.

And I enjoy a good rollicking read, I do. Like, for instance, Douglas Hulick’s Among Thieves, let’s say.

What we have here is a guy introduced to us while he’s torturing a guy, as you do. It’s fun, quite gory and sets a nice grim earthy tone for the rest of the book. Welcome to Drothe! He is a nice man really (persistent, intelligent and thoughtful) but he does some very mean and painful things to people. He has a social-climber sister with whom he is slightly at odds with and it’s his job to ferret things out (or Nose about, as you will) for his mob boss, Nicco. There’s an old and mystical book, which is so fantastically genre-centric and genre-savvy and yet not what you expect. It’s a nice set-up with a few little swerves and the odd satisfying twist (always nice to have twists that illustrate the world further and aren’t set up to make the reader feel like a moron). The fight scenes are nicely done with a sort of cinematic quality to them that made each one distinct and easy to visualize and in parts they’re really quite inventive, as is the magic system – there isn’t one explicitly set forth as Drothe isn’t a magic user except for being possessed of night sight, but what you see of the magic used by other characters and what we’re told about the Imperial magic is all tantalizing.

The pacing was a bit off in places, it felt too short and I wish there was more Christiana, but it’s a solid début – it’s a good, intriguing, exciting book. It’s “more of the same” along the lines of the authors listed above but it’s gone in a curious direction that ensures it stands on its own merit, although it isn’t quite up to the dizzying heights of an Abercrombie just yet.

What I loved most is that as it’s written in first  person the whole thing is about him, his experiences, the city of Ildrecca from his perspective, and he is a fun character to see it all through. It glances over enough details about history, magic and politics to give us a good sense of the city and the world and how things work but it’s all crying out for detail, or other complementary view points. Slightly spoilery: the ending seemed rushed and a bit haphazard.  It didn’t make sense given the other characters at play, but that said, I liked it, mainly because it gives rise to a really interesting situation.  It had the air of establishing characters and setting before getting to the real meat of the story.  There’s a lot of promise here; it’s a rollicking read with the potential to develop into a properly interesting and original series, so obviously I hope there’s more.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Too much of a good thing can be absolutely wonderful, but it can also get incredibly wearing.

I had this pegged as an easy review because I love Joe Abercrombie’s writing a great deal; his characters are tremendously well-crafted, his plots and story arcs are fascinatingly done and he has a wonderful way with words that allows for humour both subtle and unsubtle to share the page with some incredibly violent and brutal scenes.  His First Law trilogy was an immense read and I absolutely loved it; Best Served Cold, a tale of revenge set in the same world, tells the story of Monza Murcatto and her band of not-so-merry men (and a couple of women).

Amazon summarizes it better than I can:

Mercenaries are a wonderful thing: they fight as you tell them, whom you tell them, and when you tell them, for nothing more precious or complicated than money. And Monzcarro Mercatto, and her brother Benna Mercatto, are the two most successful, most popular, and most wealthy mercenaries in Styria. . . . but wealthy, popular mercenaries are not such a good thing. In fact they’re a downright dangerous thing. Which is why Grand Duke Orso of Styria arranges to have them dealt with. Permanently. With hindsight, he may come to consider this a tactical error. Through sheer good luck – which her brother doesn’t share – Monzcarro survives the long and fatal drop Orso arranged for her, and staggers away from her encounter with a ruined right hand, [a husk] addiction . . . and a plan to come back with a fortune, plently of bladed weapons, and a single-minded determination to kill the seven men in the room when her brother was murdered. Preferably in as gruesome a manner as she can . . .

Best Served Cold I loved for three-quarters of its length and then, suddenly, when I realised there was more bloodshed and brutality and smashing people’s faces in, I felt… tired.  There’s too much of it.  It’s well-written, each and every scene, but it definitely crossed the line to the “excessive” stage.

I liked the characters, although I’m aware I probably wasn’t supposed to.  Monza, Shivers, Morveer, Day, Friendly – and especially the returning Costa, who is absolutely wonderful.  They’re all seriously flawed people.  Monza is a difficult character to understand for most of the book but she gradually grows more human, whereas Shivers, another recurring character from the First Law books, does the opposite.  Shiver’s character was both the best and the worst aspect of the book.  He was the one person the reader could identify with the most, which makes his arc all the more brutal.  The whole plot is about cynicism and optimism and good vs. bad; as we see one character rebuild and strengthen, we see another torn down.

What really makes Best Served Cold worth reading – despite how uncomfortable and, at times, unrelenting it can be – is that all the characters feel the effects of their course of action.  They all kill, murder, betray, lie, and it all has an impact.  All too often characters can get away with hacking through hundreds of bodies in a book and it doesn’t prey on their minds one bit, but here, mixed with the hefty amount of revenge being doled out, there are ramifications for it all.

This isn’t the best Abercrombie can do.  It’s not a terrible book and it’s not a tremendous book; it’s diverting, it’s bloodthirsty, it’s a great examination of some moral issues linked in with small-scale and large-scale slaughter that a lot of fantasy overlooks.  If I hadn’t read the First Law trilogy I’d have loved it more, and although I knew I was getting into a gruesome, chaotic tale of revenge and betrayal and bloody warfare, at times it just got too much.

For all this wasn’t a book for me, I’m very excited about Abercombie’s next book, The Heroes – an excerpt of which can be found at the Gollancz blog.