A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

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 specialises 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…

To say I’m a fan of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law novels would be a bit of an understatement. They are some of my favourite books, to the extent that I still use them as the benchmark to judge any “grimdark” book I read. I’ve been waiting (very impatiently, it has to be said) for years for the sequel trilogy to be released. I don’t think I’ve ever anticipated a release more.

So when a copy of A Little Hatred found its way into my porch — totally without my knowledge — you can imagine how excited I was. I don’t think my fiancée will ever let me live down the squeal I made when I opened the parcel.

But with all that excitement, and all that anticipation, there was an undercurrent of nervousness. What if it didn’t live up to all that hype? What if I was setting myself up for a fall?

Honestly, I needn’t have bothered worrying.

There’s something about Joe Abercrombie’s world and characters that seems so… vibrant. It’s a cliché, but they really do leap off the page. When you shut the book (as if you could ever bring yourself to), you get the feeling that the characters are still getting on with their lives when you aren’t reading. Plotting and stabbing and posturing.

A lot has changed since the time of The First Law and its stand-alone sequels. Quite a bit of time has passed, and now we have a new group of characters to love and loathe. Three of the “main” POV characters, as mentioned in the blurb, are all children of characters from the original trilogy.

There’s Prince Orso, son of King Jezal. Spoiled beyond belief, cleverer than people give him credit for, and perhaps a better man than he gives himself credit for. It’s not a secret that I usually can’t stand pampered, privileged, or noble/royal characters. But… Orso is all of those things, and I think he might have been my favourite character.

There’s Savine dan Glokta. Daughter of you-know-who. She’s mentally brilliant, a ruthless businesswoman, and she isn’t so bad with a sword either (thanks to lessons with a certain someone). Just like her daddy. Except… Savine has lived a bit of a privileged life, too. She’s never really had a good look at the world outside of the realms of the higher-classes, and that comes back to bite her when Abercrombie does Abercrombie things. Come to think of it, maybe Savine was my favourite character.

And then there’s Rikke. Daughter of a certain northman (not telling you who). She’s blessed with the Long Eye, meaning that she can steal glimpses into the future. Rikke has a hell of a mouth on her, which is a bit unfortunate considering she spends the beginning of the story on the run from perhaps the most dangerous man in the North. The more I think of her, maybe Rikke was my favou—

Okay. Look. Cards on the table, I loved all of these characters. I can’t pick a favourite. Abercrombie is gifted at making you love what you should hate, just by sheer force of charisma and humour. By the end, I was attached to all of the characters who remained standing. I’m well aware that this means there’s probably some heartbreak in store for me in the future.

All of the above characters — including two or three more POV characters, among others — are thrown into a mixing pot along with a war in the North, a revolution against the industrial revolution in the not-so-far North, and all the history and intricacies that come with the previous books in the series. What comes out of that mixing pot is a book which is distinctly Abercrombie, but entirely unique. It’s maybe my favourite opening to a trilogy, ever.

If you haven’t read any First Law books before, you could probably start with this one if you wanted to. However, I would say that you would enjoy it far more if you read them chronologically. Plenty of old faces return, and even just their presence can shift the atmosphere of a scene in a way that you’ll completely miss if you’re not familiar with the world. This sort of thing happens plenty of times throughout the book, and it’s quite masterfully done.

I’m hesitant to say too much about the plot, because I don’t want to give too much away. There’s a war. There’s a revolution. With both, you get to see both sides. It’s tempting to say that A Little Hatred is painted in shades of grey, but honestly it feels far too colourful for that. While a lot of grimdark books can get bogged down in the dark and dreary, this one absolutely doesn’t. There’s hope here. A lot of it. Hope and love and friendship… But then also death, loss, and fear.

It’s a book of contrasts. And it’s brilliant.

I encourage pretty much everyone to read it.

We received a copy of this book from the publisher, Gollancz, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Little Hatred will release on 17th September 2019.

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