Gritty, brutal, filled with intrigue, mixed with a touch of humour, and quite simply magnificent. A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie returns us to the world of his highly acclaimed and best-selling First Law trilogy and the three subsequent stand-alones novels, but you don’t need to have read those books to enjoy this. I haven’t read the stand-alones yet. Though, I do want to. This book is very much its own beast and can easily be enjoyed this way. Though, I would say that with the knowledge these books bring, you may enjoy this one a little more because of that.
Set roughly 30 years after the end of The Last Argument of Kings, this book sees modernity striking The Union as it undergoes an industrial revolution, while still dealing with the consequences of the previous books. As factories and manufacturing fill the cities and choke the air with smoke, poverty and resentment build amongst the population as privileged few make unimaginable amounts of wealth of their backs and untold masses of migrants arrive from the chaos in the south following the fall of the Gurkish Empire. Meanwhile, in the northern province of Angland the North invades once more under a new and bloody warlord, Stour Nightfall.
Amongst all this turmoil, we meet a whole new generation and cast of characters. Rikke, daughter of the Dogman, pairs up with the ‘mad’ mountainwoman Isern-i-Phail as she flees from bloody invasion as she struggles to come to terms with her newfound powers in the Long-Eye, while Leo dan Brock, nicknamed The Young Lion, seeks glory and fame amongst the battlefields of the North. In Adua, the heart and capital of the Union, we meet the ruthless Savine dan Glokta (yes, look at that surname!) as she fights and scrambles to the top of society while building an industrial empire, – naturally her best weapon is her name. Our final main PoV character, thoughn we have a couple of other smaller ones, is Crown Prince Orso, heir to the throne and son of King Jezal. He carries an unparalleled reputation for drinking and whoring, and seems determined to disappoint just about everyone.
As with his previous books, Abercrombie has masterfully imagined and brought each character to life. Each of our main view point characters brings their own style and unique voice to this story in much the same way that those in the original First Law trilogy did, and – this may be heresy – I think they may top the originals as a collective cast. Maybe. It’s close. Which really goes to show how good Abercrombie is at writing characters. My favourite in this book was Rikke, especially when she is with Isern. Their camaraderie, banter and general way of just saying things as they see them was just brilliant and hilarious throughout!
Aside from his amazing characters, a couple of other points really stood out as making this book shine. First, he has struck a perfect balance between being dark, gritty brutality that is the main character of grimdark fantasy, while sprinkling in enough hope and humour to make it not feel oppressive – Abercrombie’ ability to find that balance always seems to be on point. Secondly, his writing of battles are quite simply some of the best I think I have ever read. There are quite a few violent battles in this, a couple of really jump to mind but I don’t want to give any spoilers through giving any context, and quite simply, he made them terrifying to read – they are an absolute whirlpool of chaos and blood.
Overall, this is a book that I would 100% recommend to any fantasy fan, or even anyone interested in the genre. The end of this one brilliantly sets up a series of rivalries, conflicts and plot lines for the next book, and I can’t wait for it to come out! In the meantime, I’ll just have to pick up the stand alone books. As I said at the start, you don’t need to have read Abercrombie’s other books to read this one, but you won’t regret it if you do. Either way, this is definitely one of my favourite books of the year!