Review: A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
Magic is leaking from the world of The First Law. What better to fill the cavity magic leaves behind than industrialization? What cost is Adua willing to pay in the name of progress?
A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie is book one in The Age of Madness trilogy. It takes place 30 years after the events of The First Law trilogy. If you haven’t read The First Law, I recommend you do so before you read A Little Hatred. I would also recommend the stand-alone novels based in the world of the First Law. Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country are amazing reads, but I would not say they are required reading before you start The Age of Madness, like The First Law trilogy is.
Joe Abercrombie has made a name for himself as Lord Grimdark, and you can certainly see that in his writing. Abercrombie’s flavor of fantasy is violent, gritty, in my opinion, quite believable. People are imperfect and often choose the low road when it’s easier than doing the right thing. Abercrombie’s writing captures this. He writes about bad people doing horribly things in tough situations. So if you don’t enjoy grimdark fantasy, I would not recommend Abercrombie’s writing.
In A Little Hatred, familiar, loved, and hated characters return as gray-bearded men and old women. Their children venture forth into the world they have helped shape, for better or for worse.
The Dogman governs Angland: a protectorate of Adua. His daughter, Rikke has been blessed or cursed with the long eye. The power to see the future has its costs. The visions can be cryptic and imprecise. They often send Rikke into a fit of seizures that leaves her aching and sitting in soiled pants. The Dogman sends her to a northern witch to develop her ability and take control of her fits. Rikke foresees the destruction of her home, Uffrith, but she returns too late. She finds the city in flames. Stour Nightfall, son of Black Calder and heir to the norther throne had already launched a surprise assault on Angland. His warbands scour the land in search of Rikke.
Meanwhile, to the south, Savine dan Glokta is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful women in Adua and a formidable ally or opponent in the world of investment and industry. Her ambition knows no bounds, and this is evident in who she shares her bed with, or an empty writer’s office anyway. None other than Crown Prince Orso, heir to the throne of Adua, son of King Jezal the First. Rich, refined, and powerful could all describe Savine, but so can greedy, manipulative, and dangerous. Progress in manufacturing goods as cheaply as possible is beneficial to the wealthy business owners. The working class, however, suffer.
Gunnar Broad returns from the war in the south to find a different Midderland than the one he left; the one he bled for. He and his family are forced to abandon their farm. Many farmers in their area are forced out in the name of progress. They move to the city in search of work. Within the walls, Gunnar finds overcrowding, horrendous living and working conditions, child labor, lack of food and sleep, and injuries from machinery as a result. Gunnar has promised his wife to leave his violent ways behind him, but this new Midderland does not make it easy for him. A mysterious man known as The Weaver gives the lower class direction and motivation to revolt. Gunnar is once again drawn into the fray and he struggles to remain a peaceful man, capable of such violence.
The burden of quelling this rebellion falls on the less than capable shoulders of Crown Prince Orso. He had been happy drinking, whoring, and snorting his life away until recently. He finds new ambition with the new lady in his life, Savine dan Glokta. Orso strives to make use of himself, plunging into the world of politics and leadership. His life had not prepared him for this.
Abercrombie constantly subverts expectations. When you see another door you think he will take, a third option appears out of nowhere and slaps the reader in the face.
Abercrombie once again induces cringe with awkward sex scenes, though they are purposely awkward. I think he meant for them to induce an uneasy feeling and he succeeded, at least, with me. None so far as weird as Logan Ninefingers and Ferro Maljin in Before They Are Hanged: book 2 in the First Law trilogy. That one would be difficult to top.
Once again, Abercrombie’s character work is the best part of his writing. Each character comes through as clearly their own person, fleshed out and fully realized, even as they discover themselves. I feel for them and I understand their thoughts even if the decisions they make are the wrong ones. This is a difficult thing to accomplish, and Abercrombie does it so well.
I love the setting. The world I have come to know so well with The First Law and the standalone books advanced 30 years is an amazing way to intrigue the existing fans of this universe as well as adding enough new stuff to keep it interesting. I had a bunch of, “ah, I remember you,” moments throughout my read.
Though A little Hatred is the first of the trilogy and much of it was set up for the rest of the series, I didn’t feel like it was just set up. This is one of the problems I had with The Blade Itself. A bunch of set up and promise of action. The First Law delivered eventually, of course. A little Hatred set up and delivered gut-wrenching plot throughout as well as leaving some tasty morsels for the rest of the trilogy.
The ending was painful for me for that exact reason. For the first time since I began The Blade Itself, I’ve run out of The First Law universe to read. September feels like such a long way off. I can’t wait for the release of The Problem With Peace.
I give A Little Hatred 5 stars. Though there were some little problems here or there for me, I couldn’t find enough of them to bring my rating down a star. I enjoyed it too much. Joe Abercrombie writes his ugly world in such a beautiful way and I look forward to reading more.
Thanks for reading my review on A Little Hatred. The winner of the hardcover copy of A Little Hatred is Teresa Plunkett. Thanks for subscribing to my mailing list, Teresa. For anyone who might be out of the loop, Whenever I post a review on my blog, I raffle off a copy of that book for subscribers to my newsletter. New subscribers also receive an ePub copy of my novel, Well of Bones just for signing up.
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Next week, I’ll resume my short story series with Nothing in the Songs: part 4, so be sure to read parts 1-3 before next Friday, if you aren’t caught up already.
Thanks again for reading.
Until next week,