A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred book cover
Rating 9.6/10
This book is exceptional. Indisputably, spectacularly, criminally good.

‘War? It’s a fight so big almost no one comes out of it well’

First of all, this is not fantasy as we know it. In fact, this is barely fantasy at all. Undoubtedly epic, with more than a hint of magic, this is a high fantasy world with a low fantasy feel. It's a sign of the times- even the big hitters are pursing influence though finance and banking instead of sorcery… The First Law world is, for all intents and purposes, our world. As a result, the book reads a bit more like historical fiction. A lot more like history. If nothing else, the author must have done some serious research into the Industrial and French revolutions to so evocatively and effectively depict this kind of terror, these sorts of turbulent times. It’s nothing less than a deconstruction of humanity. And because of that, it’s the very best kind of story telling. This is history in action, bloody and indifferent. It’s a clear eyed look at who people really are and what they really do, in wealth or poverty, in revolution, in war. Revealed here are the dangers of idealised Progress, especially when it’s really just about Profit, and action for and by the People, especially when it’s just about Power. Look around, fellow readers, at the world we live in now; this isn’t just a book about the past. Fear not though, if this all sounds a bit serious, this is pure Abercrombie. Plots within plots, brutal violence, death and destruction, surprises, and a gold thread of humour to balance the grim.

The author isn’t the only one who has been looking at the past for inspiration, the narrative is steeped in the supposed glory days of what came before. The events detailed in the First Law Trilogy form more than just the backdrop for this book, they inform the actions and attitudes of all the players. Perhaps you could begin your reading journey here but I highly recommend you don’t. Not only are there characters from past books playing significant roles (no, I’m not telling who), many of the issues in play come directly from the other books in the series. Or at least, the memory of them or their legend. Everyone’s favourite psychopath, Logen Ninefingers, figures heavily in the hero worship of this new age of young warriors, exerting the kind of influence that changes the course of the future. If this is a book about what the past has to teach us, it’s clear to me that many of the characters have learned all the wrong lessons.

And what characters they are. Since there’s only limited information in the blurb, I’m not going to spoil any surprises, but at least one of the new introductions is heading towards my favourites list already. Maybe even two. Every flaw, every bit of self-delusion, every failed attempt at virtue is on show, the good in people repeatedly shoved aside by circumstance or self-interest. It’s the kind of real that has you chuckling darkly to yourself in recognition. And if you’re not? Well, perhaps you should take another look… It’s not all gritty inhumanity. Mostly, but not all. Even Abercrombie leaves some room for hope. Except now I’m remembering the overarching pattern of the first trilogy and wondering whether he’s playing on my innate optimism? I wouldn’t put it past him. 

Anyway, this book is exceptional. Indisputably, spectacularly, criminally good. Clever, funny, and packed with cutting commentary, it’s well worth the wait.

ARC via publisher

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