A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie
You have never heard me gush over a novel by Joe Abercrombie, but times have changed and gushing will now commence. A Little Hatred (2019) is fabulous. It’s got everything I’m looking for in a fantasy novel.
A Little Hatred is the first book in Abercrombie’s new fantasy series, THE AGE OF MADNESS. It’s set in the same world as his FIRST LAW series (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings, Best Served Cold, The Heroes, Red Country, Sharp Ends). I read most, but not all of those books, years ago. It was helpful to recognize some of the ancestors and other historical characters referred to in A Little Hatred, but I would have been okay without this prior knowledge. Therefore, A Little Hatred is a fine place to jump into Abercrombie’s world, though it will be most satisfying if you’ve previously read at least the first three FIRST LAW books.
The story, which is complex and sprawling, is told from several viewpoints. There is a large cast of characters, the most prominent of which are the children of some of the heroes and villains from the FIRST LAW series. Here we meet:
- Orso, son of King Jezal, a pampered prince who spends his time and money on his various addictions.
- Stour Nightfall, “The Wolf,” who is the son of Black Calder and has been named heir to the throne of the North by his uncle King Scale Ironhand. The Wolf wants to reclaim land currently held by the Union.
- Businesswoman Savine dan Glokta, the daughter of the (somehow) beloved torturer Sand dan Glokta. Savine is as smart, wily, and ruthless as we’d expect of Glokta’s heir.
- Leo, the Young Lion, the son of the governor of Angland, Finree dan Brock. Leo is not particularly bright, but he’s good-hearted. His eagerness to prove himself on the battlefield sometimes makes him reckless.
- Rikke, The Dogman’s daughter, who has the “long eye,” and sometimes sees visions of the future. Lately her visions have been ominous and she’s worried.
- Vick, a young woman who is fighting for fair labor practices, is not exactly what she seems, and is conflicted about that.
- Clover, who used to be a great warrior but now appears to be a coward, and is teaching the younger generation of northmen how to fight.
- Gunnar Broad, a veteran who returns home to find that his farm has been taken away from his wife and daughter. He is looking for someone to blame.
Though their world has been at peace for a generation, not everyone is satisfied with the state of affairs and there are signs of hard times ahead. Stour Nightfall’s army is making incursions onto lands protected by the Union. Two ambitious but bored princes long for glory. Rapid industrialization has led to labor disputes and class warfare. Veterans are not being treated with the honor they deserve. Eventually all of these tensions (and characters) collide and boil over.
Each of Abercrombie’s characters is unique, interesting, comprehensively (but not too exhaustively) portrayed, and, if not entirely likeable, at least totally understandable. The conflicts and friendships that arise among them feel natural and uncontrived. The dialogue is realistic, witty, and often greatly amusing.
The plot of A Little Hatred is exciting from start to finish. There are invasions, battles, rebellions, protests, strikes, escapes, parties, love affairs, treachery, and shocking revelations and plot twists. I loved almost every moment. (As usual with Abercrombie, some of it was a bit too brutal for me.) At the end, Abercrombie has set up a situation that promises even more tension and excitement for a sequel. I can’t wait.
I listened to Hachette Audio’s edition of A Little Hatred. It’s 20.5 hours long and narrated by Steven Pacey who gives an outstanding performance. I loved his interpretations of the characters and the way he acted out the scenes, even panting during the sword fights. I highly recommend A Little Hatred in audio format.
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