A Little Hatred


Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say it's been a while since he last wrote an adult fantasy novel.

It's been seven years since Red Country was released and in publishing that's a mighty long time. Of course, in the meantime there has been a YA trilogy and a collection of short fiction. These were compelling enough reads in their own right, yet not as satisfying as the works that preceded them. The Shattered Sea series proved to be brutal, engaging, and entertaining, but these books showcased a more self-restrained Joe Abercrombie, one that pulled some of his punches and didn't go all out the way he did in his grimdark titles. And the stories featured in Sharp Ends just made you want to beg for the author's next novel-length project.

That was back in 2016. Then came the author's decision to write the next trilogy in its entirety before releasing the first installment. Like most of you, I was eagerly awaiting Abercrombie's monthly progress reports. Hoping that progress was indeed being made and that the new novels were truly on their way. Then came the news that A Little Hatred was done and would be published in the fall of 2019. Then came the UK cover art, the blurb, the American cover art, and a confirmed release date. Then came the authors' blurbs and they were raving about this new book.

And finally, a galley of A Little Hatred showed up in my mailbox! Other than my tax return, there is nothing more pleasing I've received in the mail this year! Went through the novel in no time. So was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding yes! And then some!

Here's the blurb:

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…

Should you reread the previous novels to fully enjoy this new series? Not necessarily. I did not and I thoroughly liked A Little Hatred. My memory was a bit hazy regarding certain details, but other than that it was smooth sailing throughout. However, a reread of the first trilogy, as well as Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country will definitely make you pick up on various details and catch some nuances that I probably did not get immediately. So it's up to you. There can never be too much Joe Abercrombie in your life, after all.

A Little Hatred takes place nearly three decades following the end of the First Law trilogy and about fourteen years after the events recounted in Red Country. Evolution and industrialisation have changed the landscape of Midderland, especially in Adua. Neighborhoods and villages have disappeared to give way to great factories. And because you can't stop progress, peasants, skilled artisans, and farmers have lost their lands, their shops, and their homes, and must move into urban areas to look for work in dismal manufactories in order to survive in this new world. Amid the turmoil caused by this industrialisation, three disastrous military campaigns in Styria have beggared the Union and left it with a shortage of experienced troops. Which means that when Uffrith is put to the torch and its people butchered by Stour Nightfall's army, Adua cannot afford to send reinforcements, even if that means that the whole of Angland could be lost. Add to that a refugee crisis caused by the collapse of the Gurkish Empire, with masses of migrants leaving the continent to escape the chaos, as well as workers living in abject poverty demanding reasonable wages and better working conditions resorting to violence and vandalism to get their voices heard, and you realize that Arch Lector Sand dan Glokta and the rest of the Closed Council rather have their hands full in such a political backdrop. All the while, there are Bayaz and Yoru Sulfur pulling strings from behind the scenes. Both claim to want peace and stability, but with these two one never knows. . .

As everything goes down the crapper, we witness events through the eyes of seven disparate protagonists. Joe Abercrombie always had a knack for creating compelling characters and A Little Hatred is no exception. Yet again, the author came up with a great bunch of flawed men and women. Savine dan Glokta is a hardcore socialite bitch and a ruthless investor. She is feared as much as she is admired, yet regardless of her business acumen and her take-no-prisoner attitude she's not smart enough to see that given her name and her father's position and reputation the game has always been rigged in her favor. But when the proverbial shit hits the fan and she realizes how much of a spoiled and powerless brat she truly is, the helplessness will make her experience blood-curdling despair for the first time in her life. And that will change her forever. Since the acorn never falls far from the tree, it's no wonder that King Jezal’s son takes after his father. Hard to believe, I know, but Prince Orso turns out to be an even worse wastrel. I mean, the heir to the throne makes Mark Lawrence's Prince Jalan look like Aragorn. And when circumstances conspire against him and he is forced to try to do the right thing for once in his life, he'll discover things seldom go according to plan. Blessed or cursed with the Long Eye, the ability to see the future, Rikke, the Dogman's daughter, is on the run, desperate to evade the army that destroyed her city and those she loved. After living for so long in the shadow of his parents, Leo dan Brock is a talented but reckless warrior. And when Union troops fail to show up to help turn the tide of the battle, his mother has no choice but to let him fight against Stour Nightfall's forces if the Protectorate is to continue to exist. Victarine dan Teufel survived the harsh life of the camps and mines in the North. She now wants to become part of the Breakers and strike a blow for the common man by destroying factories and creating social unrest. Gunnar Broad returns home from the military campaigns in Styria a broken man. After fighting a losing war on a foreign shore, he finds out that his country doesn't really want him back. Things have changed and not for the better. Forced to move in the city with his family where they hope to find work, it will dawn upon him that he may have left the war but the war remains in him. Finally, there is Jonas Clover. Getting his ass handed to him in the Circle and somehow surviving to tell the tale has given the man a new appreciation for life. Once reckoned a famous warrior in the North, these days he wants nothing more than to take it easy and watch the world go by. Alas, even though he's been avoiding fighting as much as humanly possible, when he is chosen to become one of Stour Nightfall's advisors, his life is turned upside down. And though he's now considered a good-for-nothing lazy ass, if pushed enough he can still be the merciless hard as nails man he used to be. The supporting cast is comprised of a panoply of familiar faces such as Bremer dan Gorst, King Jezal, Superior Pike, Queen Terez, Tunny and Yolk, Ardee, Black Calder, the Dogman, Isern-i-Phail, Caul Shivers, Finree dan Brock, Bayaz, Yoru Sulfur, and many more. Add to that interesting newcomers like Zuri, Savine's "secretary," Stour Nightfall, May Broad, among many others, and you have yourself a characterization that is head and shoulders above most of what you can find in the fantasy genre these days. These flawed protagonists are everything you want them to be, which bodes well for this new generation in the First Law universe.

As the author mentioned in his progress reports, each new installment will be split into three parts. And though each volume tells its own story, like The Blade Itself, A Little Hatred remains a vast introduction meant to establish the political backdrop, the events, and the characters. As such, it doesn't stand as well on its own as Abercrombie's stand-alone novels. Understandably, these needed to be self-contained stories, while A Little Hatred is the first book in a new trilogy. Having said that, there is nevertheless a lot to love about it and it sets the stage for plenty of fireworks to come in its two forthcoming sequels, The Trouble With Peace, and The Beautiful Machine. Once more, the wit, cynicism, and dark humor that characterize Abercrombie's backlist are all present, and he probably cranks it up another notch. I guess Joe is getting older. Maybe even wiser? Jury's still out on that one. . .

For the most part, the author keeps the plot moving at a very good clip. There are no pacing issues or dull moments between the covers. After so long a wait, like me fans will doubtless go through A Little Hatred in no time. The body count may not be as impressive as that of Abercrombie's last First Law offerings, but there is enough blood and gore to satisfy grimdark aficionados. Those hoping for a happy ending will have to look elsewhere, it goes without saying.

So how does A Little Hatred stack up against its predecessors? Second only to Best Served Cold in terms of quality and originality, in this house at least. And as good as Red Country, The Heroes, and Last Argument of Kings. As mentioned, it leaves the door open for countless possibilities and the ending throws a monkey wrench into everything. Chaos, as they say, will ensue. Lots of it, if the plot of this book is any indication. Should be awesome!

Darker, smarter, more ambitious, and even more cynical. That's A Little Hatred in a nutshell. Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he's back. Kicking some serious ass!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe


9 commentaires:

TeufelHund said...

Looking forward to this - will probably go right on the top of my pile of shame.

It's interesting you liked "Best Served Cold" best out of his previous books as I thought this was his weakest effort given its reliance on the tedious revenge killing one off at a time structure (works fine in a two hour movie like Commando but gets a bit dull across a novel).

David Wagner said...

Excellent, I can't wait. I love me some Abercrombie. The Heroes is one of my favorite books of all time - just finished this year's re-read, actually. I look forward to this new series with a persistent hunger...

DontDriveAngry said...

I am REALLY looking forward to this. Raised on the fantasy of the 80's, even as a kid I was always baffled at how stagnant their worlds had become despite thousands of years of established history, never mind all of the additional magical resources available to them that could've triggered mechanical progress, you rarely saw any sort of progress at all, so seeing the inevitable rise of industry is welcome, but then again that sort of subversion of the genre is the hallmark of Abercrombie in this series

(I admit, I don't get to read as much as I used to, so I am unaware if other authors have done this)

Feist addressed the drawbacks of as stagnant culture in the Empire Trilogy, and while the The Wheel of Time was technically a post-post-apocalyptic world building itself back up, it really took a long time for them to introduce gunpowder and, as I recall, slate roofs were starting to trend, much to Cenn Buie's dismay.

I always thought Eddings' wizards were a massive failure in that regard- you're all thousands of years old, have unparalleled ability to manipulate the world around you and yet the entire world is still stuck in a feudal agrarian society?

Went off a bit there, but glad to see the good review!

DontDriveAngry said...

...and I initially missed it, but this review gives me something to believe in.

Oregon Dan said...

I will read it day one, but it sounds a little too like our current world. I don't read fantasy to see our current problems and possibly political agenda's or statements. Also, I find those themes get lost over time anyway. A reader 30 years from now will have little idea what the deal was. I read fantasy to get away. So I'm a bit leary but we shall see.

Fred said...

I've only read the First Law trilogy but I did like it. Are the single books better?

Patrick said...

The three stand-alone novels are in many ways better because they are self-contained stories that take the plot of the First Law trilogy further.

DontDriveAngry said...

I loved the standalones. The first trilogy was a subversion of the fantasy tropes many of us grew up with in the 80's and the standalones continued that subversion, but as Pat states, they were self-contained but also in a very distinct style. Best Served Cold was a classic Revenge thriller a la Count of Monte Cristo, The Heroes was a War novel that covered a single three-day battle, and, Red Country was effectively a Western, very much akin to Unforgiven. Just something real cool and unique about each, yet with familiar characters. Abercrombie is one of my favorites, and I'm tempted to do (another) full reread of the series leading into A Little Hatred.

Fred said...

Thank you both, guess I know what I'll read when I get that Fantasy itch.