ARC provided by the publisher—Gollancz—in exchange for an honest review.
A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Age of Madness (Book #1 of 3), First Law World (Book, #8 of 10)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy
Pages: 480 pages (Hardback)
Published: 17th September 2019 by Gollancz (UK) & 17th September 2019 by Orbit (US)
Grim, dark, fun, and glorious; A Little Hatred is irrefutably worth the wait.
Let me begin by saying that although this is a new series in the First Law World and you can technically start your journey into this world here, it’s quite mandatory to read at least The First Law trilogy in order to fully appreciate the intricacies of this book; even better if you’ve also read Best Served Cold and The Heroes. Reading A Little Hatred without knowledge of the previous books would be a similar experience to reading Pierce Brown’s Iron Gold without reading his previous three books or reading Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy without reading Farseer trilogy first. Do yourself a favor and make sure you read The First Law trilogy first before you start A Little Hatred, I even binge reread the entire trilogy to make sure that I can start this book with refreshed information. Make some time for it, not only it’s a brilliant trilogy, but you’ll also be doing a huge disservice to the book and most of all your reading experience if you don’t do it. On to the actual review now.
“Nothing like being wanted, is there? Wanted by someone you want. Always seems like magic, that something can feel so good but cost nothing.”
Red Country was first published on October 2012; it’s been seven years since Abercrombie released a novel within his First Law World series. A Little Hatred is the first book in The Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie; chronologically this is the eight—seventh if you exclude Sharp Ends anthology—installment in his First Law World series. Honestly, A Little Hatred and Dark Age by Pierce Brown—which I’ll read after I post this review—are two of my most anticipated books of the year; to say that I’m excited about reading these books are a huge understatement. It gladdens me wholeheartedly to say that A Little Hatred successfully exceeded my high expectations, to say the least.
The story in A Little Hatred takes place roughly 30 years after the end of Last Argument of Kings, that’s 15 years after the end of Red Country. Many years have passed and with it, the world has entered a new age: the industrial revolution, it’s a time of innovations, progress, technologies, and commerce. Despite the arrival of a new age, fans of the series have nothing to be scared of, everything that’s familiar and awesome about First Law World was evidently easy to find in this book. Times have changed, but money, politics, power, and bloody war remained as the central driving themes of the story; told in his trademarked gritty, at times humorous, and dark storytelling style, Abercrombie once again tells a compelling story that shows how good or bad are most of the times decided merely by different perspectives and which side you stand on.
“Believe it or not, we all want what’s best. The root o’ the world’s ills is that no one can agree on what it is.”
Abercrombie is pretty well known for his well-realized and memorable characters, there’s no shortage of them in the series so far: Logen Ninefingers, Sand dan Glokta, Jezal dan Luthar, Bayaz, Collem West, Nicomo Cosca, Caul Shivers, Dogman, Black Dow, The Feared, Bremer dan Gorst, and Monza Murcatto to name a few. In A Little Hatred, we follow the perspectives of a new cast of memorable characters. One way or another, almost all of the perspective characters were related to characters that have appeared before in the series. Familiar faces and names do appear quite a lot; there are so much depth and complexity in the background of the characters and world-building that’s impossible to appreciate if you jump into this immediately. For example, even after three decades have passed in the world, the legend of the Bloody-Nine’s glory still triumphed in the North; many warriors admire his deeds and try their best to follow his footsteps. Also, without entering spoiler territory, for those of you who’ve read the first trilogy, you should know by now who the main despicable villain of this series is. He’s back again, and rest assured he brings havoc, treachery, and maximum manipulations with his arrival.
“Now all a man’s worth is how much work can be squeezed from him. We’re husks to be scraped out and tossed away. We’re cogs in the big machine.”
The new cast of characters was fantastic to read. In A Little Hatred, we mostly follow the perspectives of seven characters: Rikke, Leo, Savine, Orso, Vic, Broad, and Clover. Every single POV was imbued with a distinctive voice that captivated me. I honestly have a hard time deciding which new perspective I loved most within this book. Almost halfway through the book, I became addicted to reading every storyline, and I think I have to settle with saying that I love reading every new perspective equally. Each character’s internal struggles, different motivations, and their characterizations were extremely well-written; seeing how their paths connect with one another was truly delightful.
“She had long ago learned that at least half of everything is presentation. Seem a victim, soon become one. Seem in charge, people fall over themselves to obey.”
Superbly written and incredibly vivid battle scenes are one of Abercrombie’s strongest strength as an author, and A Little Hatred doesn’t disappoint. The two big action sequences in A Little Hatred were simply jaw-dropping. Abercrombie used the same storytelling style he implemented previously in one or two chapters in Last Argument of Kings and The Heroes to create a chain of events with a seamless perspective’s transition that portrayed mayhem, destruction, and madness towards every participant in a conflict. The poor tend to pay the biggest price of war, and this was showed magnificently. Say one thing for Abercrombie, say he writes some of the best duel scenes in fantasy. The monstrous rage, the noise of clashing steels, the crushing impacts, and the bloody deathblows delivered; everything about the pulse-pounding duel featured in A Little Hatred reached a super palpable quality that made my reading experience totally engaging and immersive.
“Why folk insisted on singing about great warriors all the time, Rikke couldn’t have said. Why not sing about really good fishermen, or bakers, or roofers, or some other folk who actually left the world a better place, rather than heaping up corpses and setting fire to things? Was that behavior to encourage?”
I can vouch with temerity that Abercrombie has crafted another amazing book; expect great things from him and he shall deliver. Fans of grimdark fantasy and The First Law trilogy will have an utterly terrific time reading this must-read book, I’m sure of it. Abercrombie has created a ground-breaking impact with The First Law trilogy; a lot of modern grimdark fantasy series have been inspired by it. Based on the experience from the reading the first book of this trilogy alone, I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim that The Age of Madness will strengthen that notion. Fueled by furious action sequences, profound passages, compelling narratives, and characters that get under your skin; A Little Hatred is a bloody brilliant and breathtaking book. This absolutely stunning return to Abercrombie’s beloved First Law World once again established himself as the reigning lord of grimdark fantasy. A new age for grimdark is here, and it is called The Age of Madness.
Official release date: 17th September 2019
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.