This week Josh interviews Joe Abercrombie, author of the highly acclaimed First Law trilogy. They talk about Joe's new book Red Country, darkness in modern fantasy, and what Joe is doing on tour in Australia.
Photo by Lou Abercrombie
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Joe Abercrombie was born in Lancaster, England, on the last day of 1974. He was educated at the stiflingly all-boy Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where he spent much of his time playing computer games, rolling dice, and drawing maps of places that don't exist. He went on to Manchester University to study Psychology. The dice and the maps stopped, but the computer games continued. Having long dreamed of single-handedly redefining the fantasy genre, he started to write an epic trilogy based around the misadventures of thinking man's barbarian Logen Ninefingers. The result was pompous toss, and swiftly abandoned.
With heroic help and support from his family the first volume, The Blade Itself, was completed in 2004. Following a heart-breaking trail of rejection at the hands of several of Britain's foremost literary agencies, The First Law trilogy was snatched up by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz in 2005 in a seven-figure deal (if you count the pence columns). A year later The Blade Itself was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. It now has publishers in thirteen countries. The sequels, Before They are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings were published in 2007 and 2008, when Joe was a finalist for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. Best Served Cold, a standalone book set in the same world, was published in June 2009, and a second standalone, The Heroes, came in January 2011 and made no. 3 on the Sunday Times Hardcover Bestseller List. A third standalone, Red Country, is due in October 2012.
Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, his daughters Grace and Eve, and his son Teddy. He still occasionally edits concerts and music festivals for TV, but spends most of his time writing edgy yet humorous fantasy novels…
The awesome music you'll hear at the beginning and end of this podcast is by musician and composer Bart Stoop, who you can find on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bartstoop and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/bartstoop1991
The First Law trilogy was a real game changer for the fantasy genre. It worked in shades of grey. It makes the reader like characters they should possibly, really dislike. And dislike characters they should possibly, really like. The dialogue is witty and often the cause of out-loud laughter. It’s a captivating read and has everything a fantasy fan could wish for. Any books that can add humour to torture scenes has something special going on.
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could. But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy...
"There is little, nay nothing, that I can find negative with this book. Abercrombie is certainly a master at work, and I eagerly look forward to the next instalment in the series." Jo Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review
Sometimes a girl is touched by mother war. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named murderer by the very man who trained her to kill. Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. Fate traps her in the schemes - and on the ship - of the deep-cunning minister Father Yarvi. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit. Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. Beside her on her gruelling journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill. A failure in his eyes and hers, he has one chance at redemption. And weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn forever be a tool in the hands of the powerful or can she carve her own path? Is there a place beyond legend for a woman with a blade?
"Half the World is a fantastic book that clearly demonstrates Abercrombie's proficiency in the fantasy genre. Half a War cannot come soon enough."
Bitter and merciless war is coming to the frozen north. It's bloody and dangerous and the Union army, split by politics and hamstrung by incompetence, is utterly unprepared for the slaughter that's coming. Lacking experience, training, and in some cases even weapons the army is scarcely equipped to repel Bethod's scouts, let alone the cream of his forces. In the heat-ravaged south the Gurkish are massing to assault the city of Dagoska, defended by Inquisitor Glokta. The city is braced for the inevitable defeat and massacre to come, preparations are made to make the Gurkish pay for every inch of land... but a plot is festering to hand the city to its beseigers without a fight, and the previous Inquisitor of Dagoska vanished without trace. Threatened from within and without the city, Glokta needs answers, and he needs them soon. And to the east a small band of malefactors travel to the edge of the world to reclaim a device from history - a Seed, hidden for generations - with tremendous destructive potential. A device which could put a end to war, to the army of Eaters in the South, to the invasion of Shanka from the North - but only if it can be found, and only if its power can be controlled...
"Gripping, thrilling, gritty and pretty damn awesome."
Sometimes you find that perfect book, the one that hits you at the exact right moment. Everything aligns. The writing, the characters & the world-building just makes your soul sing. A Little Hatred is that for me. It's beautifully, authentically First Law. Joe Abercrombie has done it again. Goddamn.
This one has it all. The Trouble with Peace is a quintessential Abercrombie story that draws pieces from all seven First Law novels before it. It features all your returning favorites: trademark humor, horrifying violence, grim wisdom, and an ending that will leave you craving for more. At this point, would you expect anything less?
In this much anticipated and last instalment of the First Law trilogy from Joe Abercrombie we find the answers to all our questions and some we didn’t even realise existed!
They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried. Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust... The past never stays buried...
"If you can’t stand - or don’t like your kids - to read a story in which there is plenty of, gritty violent scenes, swearing, questionable characters and sexual relationships then this isn't your book. Abercrombie’s style is to write a fantasy story in which the characters react like realistic people. You’ll never see a ‘teenage-prodigy’, heroes are non-existent or in for the cash, and there are plenty of crooked and corrupt characters, just like the real world." Brian Herstig, Fantasy Book Review
WORDS ARE WEAPONS. Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright. ONLY HALF A WAR IS FOUGHT WITH SWORDS. The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head - a man who worships only Death. SOMETIMES ONE MUST FIGHT EVIL WITH EVIL. Some - like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith - are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others - like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver - would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness...
"What makes Half a War a fantastic read is how often Abercrombie subverts your expectations. You think you know where the story is heading, and suddenly it’ll all get turned on its head. It’s this that keeps you hooked throughout, never knowing where the story might go."
So honestly, I am glad I’ve read it. This story is a great read. It’s fast, exciting and brutal. The characters are clear and realistic even when they are psychopathic, axe wielding generals. If you want something totally different in this genre, you should read it, but if you expect the ‘usual Heroic Fantasy’ you’ll get a surprise on you plate.
Monza is a cut throat heartless commander general of the Thousand Swords; a lethal group of mercenaries. That is until her gainful employer Grand Duke Orso decides to murder her and her brother. Throw Monza's body from his mountain terrace to the forest floor below before confirming that she was indeed dead proves a mistake Duke Orso will live to regret. Broken to pieces Monzcarro Murcatto surprisingly does not die and is put back together in quite good fashion by a mysterious bone thief. Once she has her wits back about her and body in semi decent working order there is only one thing that burns in Monza's mind.
"Cruel, original and brilliant characters. A true master."
The Union army may be full of bastards, but there's only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta. Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is. Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp. And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There's only one obstacle left - his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine... Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue's gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.
"That isn’t to say that this is a bad anthology – on the contrary, the majority of it is as amusing, bloody and fast-paced as Abercrombie’s other works. You may just need to forgive him on a couple of the stories. I would recommend reading his First Law trilogy first however."