This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
17.09.19 / Gollancz / Fantasy / Hardback / 480pp / 978-0575095861
Target Audience: For fantasy readers who like to invest in a constantly evolving world with an astonishing amount of lore and history behind it. For those who like a huge and diverse cast of characters that bring a variety of tones and atmospheres to the narrative.
About A Little Hatred
Introducing a cast of unforgettable new characters, A LITTLE HATRED is the start of a brand new trilogy set in the world of the First Law which will have you gripped from the very start . . .
War. Politics. Revolution.
The Age of Madness has arrived . . .
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 . . .
A Little Hatred Review
A Little Hatred is a calamitous, savage, witty and extremely compulsive novel that brings Joe Abercrombie’s highly acclaimed grimdark First Law series into the Age Of Madness and I was just glad to be along for the ride. I have to disclose that this is the first Joe Abercrombie book I have ever read. So I went into A Little Hatred not knowing anything about the lore or the history. Was it a disadvantage? Initially it felt that way. The weight of the history in this series was somewhat intimidating at first as it is so vast, rich and complex. Though it swiftly becomes almost intoxicating and I now desperately want to read all the previous instalments to get caught up.
Being a novel that passes the torch from the old guard to a new generation of characters facing their own turmoils and recklessness, I can confidently say that A Little Hatred can be approached on its own. Be warned though, it is easy to get lost in all the connectivity, grudges, feuds and battles that proceeded this novel so be prepared to want to go back to the beginning of the series.
Times are changing. Industrialisation is re-shaping the world and civilisation is booming. Jobs are disappearing and in their place stand manufactories. Machines replace hard-working citizens and poverty is rising fast. Factions of Burners and Breakers work in the shadows to take down these innovations to remind the rich and the powerful that they still exist. They’ve barely made an impact, until now. The King’s inquisition work hard to quash such revolutionary activities but a siege is boiling in the town of Valbeck that is greater than they’ve ever seen.
Savine dan Glokta is a business woman. Savine has climbed her way to the top using her masterful social skills, keen eye for investments and intimidating approach to negotiation. Savine has built a life for herself away from her infamous father’s control. With that comes confidence in her actions and her ability to gain influence. When Savine finds herself at one of her own factories during a full-blown rebellion, in which she is targeted by a mob of her own workers, Savine must shed everything she has worked so hard for to survive.
The Crown Prince Orso has squandered his life with booze, women and poor attempts at leadership. Being the heir to a kingdom is not an outcome that excites Orso and he physically acts against the idea. Orso has little regard for himself, much like everyone else, but he does have Savine. After taking initiative and organising to take men to assist in a brewing war in the North, the troops are suddenly diverted when it is heard that Valbeck is under siege. Orso knows that Savine is trapped there and rushes to her aid to prove himself.
The factions in the North are facing war. The Dogman and his daughter Rikke are on the run from Black Calder and his nephew Stour Nightfall (The Great Wolf), the-king-in-waiting, who marches to face Leo dan Brock in battle for control over the future of the North. Rikke (rhymes with pricker) has the long eye, a blessing and a curse, which allows her to glimpse into the future during unceremonious fits (it is really cool and a fantastic aspect of JA’s writing). Rikke is key to winning the war but her futures aren’t as easy to decipher as they need to be. As The Young Lion clashes with The Great Wolf, Rikke may be the only person to turn the tide. As everyone continues to fight the rapidly changing landscape of civilisation, the age of madness begins.
There is so much to unpack here in A Little Hatred and that is without discussing the past instalments. Even looking at the Dramatis Personae left me with an audible gulp. Let’s just put it out there, I thought A Little Hatred was awesome. There are a few nitpicks but as a whole, I was awestruck, unsettled, invigorated and intriguied for the entirety of this novel. Such a brutal and enticing clash of class, savagery, grit, badassery and youthful hope being quashed by harsh realities.
It was the dualities that gripped me the most in terms of the setting, the story, the characters and the writing. Rich vs poor. Strong vs weak. Good vs evil. Wild vs civilised. Power vs people. Joe Abercrombie’s writing accommodates this perspective perfectly and it was strangely brilliant to see it in action. It’s clever and when you add that to great dialogue, satisfying grit, salty language, unflinching brutality, gripping visuals and many shades of amusement, you get A Little Hatred. How Joe Abercrombie managed to juggle a socio-political saga with romance, rebellion, war, magic, coming of age stories and overcoming anger and poverty is beyond my comprehension yet it seems like he did it with ease.
JA’s characterisations are appealing, interesting and thoughtful though the archetypes are relatively familiar to most fantasy readers with wildlings, young arrogant fighters, old warriors, lazy princes and mysterious mages filling out the roster. It is satisfying easy to invest in most of these characters from the offset. I enjoyed how grounded (though unhinged at times) the cast were. Only Stour Nightfall and Leon dan Brock fall out of this category as they are pumped up full of naive youthful vigour and confidence as they head towards their confrontation.
There are a lot of characters to talk about and they each bring a distinctive atmosphere to the entire novel. My favourites were Savine, Rikke and Gunnar Broad. Savine because she has the most tense and eye-opening experience and she is a intriguing individual to unravel. Rikke mostly because of her long eye as her enigmatic dreams and the ghostly images that she sees imprinted on reality are fascinating and you never know if what she is seeing is the future or the present and her potential is really exciting. And Broad because he is a family man who was unhinged by war. He wants what is best for his wife and daughter but he is losing his grip on his urge to unleash violence on those who oppress. Prince Orso is another great character as is Jonas Clover. They are more amusing than everyone else but they definitely have their moments that lighten the mood, well for the most part.
The narrative is mainly split into two areas in which characters converge over the course of the book. The siege of Valbeck and the war in the North. It is a good sequence of events that serve to showcase the newer set of characters whilst honouring those who came before them. The story definitely had some really brilliant show-stopping moments that impressed me even as a seasoned fantasy reader. Twists that even I should have seen coming but was still surprised by the chaos. Though I do also feel that as there are so many individuals involved in the plot all at once that it did feel like more of a set-up novel for future events than I would have wanted. That said, there are enough set pieces, twists and turns, memorable moments and compelling scenes to admire along the way.
The themes in A Little Hatred are abundant and hard-hitting at times. Poverty, politics, violence, war, gender and love all take their place in proceedings and offer a lot for many different readers. If you can get past the foul language, violence and moments you can’t unsee that is. I did mention a few nitpicks. I had a few pacing issues, mainly at the beginning, that threw me off guard. Initially the many plot lines jump around all over the place and it can be somewhat challenging to process every thread as they begin to develop. It does resolve itself fairly quickly though, drawing characters together and having their voices converge actually highlighted how cool JA’s writing is. I enjoyed his syntax, the way he makes each conversation and perspective on an event both relevant and multi-dimensional was great to experience.
My other minor point of issue, which is a matter of personal taste, was there are some very cheesy moments and eye-rolling opportunities especially with the younger characters. Apart from that it was smooth sailing. Bloody, intense and battle hardened. But smooth none the less. I highly recommend A Little Hatred to all types of fantasy fans. It has its dark, unsettling moments of violence and torture but it also has some amazingly light moments to counter-balance. There is plenty of deceit, courage, honour and secrets to fill the middle ground too. A Little Hatred was my introduction to Joe Abercrombie and now I want more!
About Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Manchester University, where he studied psychology. He moved into television production before taking up a career as a freelance film editor. During a break between jobs he began writing The Blade Itself in 2002, completing it in 2004. It was published by Gollancz in 2006 and was followed by two other books in The First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. He currently lives and works in London with his wife and daughter. In early 2008 Joe Abercrombie was one of the contributors to the BBC Worlds of Fantasy series, alongside other contributors such as Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett and China Mieville. (Goodreads Bio)