Before They Are Hanged, Joe Abercrombie
It’s surprising, looking back now I’ve finished Before They Are Hanged, to discover how little progress has really been made in the book. I originally commented that this book mostly sees character development, and that’s the case again — we see more of Logen’s dark side, more of Ferro’s softer side (which is only really marginally softer), and we begin to see Jezal shaping up into a half-decent sort of person. West and Glokta continue to be conflicted figures (though all the characters, really, are conflicted), caught between their flaws and their devotion to their duties, and whether those duties are even the right thing to do in the first place. And Malacus Quai… becomes more of an enigma; I was interested by the slow hints of his development, though we don’t really spend any time in his head, and I don’t recall what happens to the character.
As with the first book, half of these characters are pretty terrible people. Either they’ve done terrible things, they want to do terrible things, they’re doing terrible things, or they will do terrible things. Or terrible things have been done to them. The tentative relationships between Glokta and Ardee, Ferro and Logen, Glokta and Vitari, the growing trust between all of Logen’s group… All of these are well done as well. Mismatches and uncertainty and snatching things where you can find them… Again, it all feels real.
In many ways, this is typical fantasy. The Shanka are basically orcs, Bayaz appears to be Gandalf, the set up for Jezal to be a king is rather obvious… But there’s also grit and realism which was absent in The Lord of the Rings, which people usually point to as the archetype. I’m not sure I wanted to know that men’s nipples chafe when travelling in a rainstorm, but I know for sure that Tolkien wouldn’t have included that in his mythology!
Yes, it’s fairly obviously a part of the tradition. But I think it comments on it, too, and stretches it a little. It’s not all typical. And if you’re expecting Tolkien’s eucatastrophe, Joe Abercrombie seems fairly set to disappoint you.
The Blade Itself, Joe Abercrombie
I read this trilogy a few years ago, around the same time as I read Scott Lynch, and I was totally excited about the new voices in fantasy at the time. I remembered that much, and also that this was very much “grimdark” and gritty and portrayed a not-so-pleasant world. But I knew I’d have to reread it, at least for my own personal satisfaction, before I finally get round to other works in the same world. With the vague memories I have of the first time I read this trilogy, it’s apparent just from reading The Blade Itself that this is better crafted than I realised at the time. Things I didn’t notice before are popping up and demanding my attention.
The whole world is… not very pleasant. And every character seems to have their flaws — battle rage, abusive tendencies, the simple fact that they take joy in their work of torturing people, the fact that they’re spoilt, drinking, anger issues… And yet at the same time, they’re very compelling to me. They’re real, because Major West (one example) is a good man who works hard and wants the best for his sister, as well as being the guy that lashes out at her because she doesn’t act the way he wants. Jezal dan Luthar learns to care about people other than himself, to see women as more than decoration, because of his interest in Ardee. They’re flawed and yet they’re changing, growing; there’s hope. You can even find moments of sympathy with the torturer Glokta, because he’s been twisted and broken by other people. Because his anger and pain are justified and honest.
The world is also interesting, because it feels lived in. There are ruins, monuments, old places where no one has gone. There are things each country doesn’t know about the others.
You do have to read the whole trilogy to get the real satisfaction of this book, I think; the ending isn’t a cliffhanger, but it also isn’t a resolution, either.
Hello, everyone! This week, I have a relatively small haul — I think it might be the first time in a while I’ve really shown any restraint! I’m now trying not to buy any books until Christmas, so it’ll hopefully just be library books from here on out… I have just one new-to-me owned book this week, and that came via Illumicrate (which I need to review).
I’ve heard a lot about this one, so I’m excited for it!
The Abercrombie books are rereads; I’ve never read Mercedes Lackey and spotted the omnibus of those at the library and thought, eh, why not?; Cait @ Paper Fury demanded I read some Maggie Stiefvater; and finally, I had access to Wolfhound Century on Netgalley… many moons ago. It’s time I actually reviewed it.
How’s everyone been? Interesting hauls? Tell!
Incidentally, I recently passed my 1,000th post and my 1,000th follower, and this is my 100th STS post. Definitely time to celebrate! But, does anyone know of a giveaway widget that works with WordPress-hosted blogs? Rafflecopter does not, as I recall.
Sooo, it’s been a nice week for books for me. I did buy a few more that aren’t here just to have physical copies, but I’ve featured them here before.
Dark Run basically sounds like Firefly. Colour me hopeful. The Godless, I, uh, had to review. Long ago. The Child Eater just caught my attention.
My copy of Half a War is actually signed, too! It’s not as special to me when I don’t actually meet the author/get a personal inscription, but it’s still kind of cool. And hurrah, I can take Half the World back to the library for whatever poor person wanted it after me… Speaking of!
I don’t think I ever owned these Harry Potter books, though I might’ve had Order of the Phoenix. So, raided the community library for them. Order of the Phoenix, though, the size of the thing! Did Rowling’s editor quit? Heh. I haven’t got the third of Freda Warrington’s books — The Dark Blood of Poppies — so I’m really hoping the library gets it in before I go away… Other than that, a round up of stuff I’ve been recommended.
Just one comic this week; most of the comics on my pull list seem to be on hiatus or something? Probably a good thing, I’m spending enough money… Thinking I’ll pick up Bitch Planet soon, though.
What’s everyone else been getting? C’mon, show off your hauls.
Half a King, Joe Abercrombie
I originally had this as an ARC. It’s now out in paperback, so I do actually own a copy. I feel terrible about taking so long to get round to it; I can only cite a long, long, long, long… backlog. Also, I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood; I’ve read the First Law trilogy, and that is generally pretty violent and depressing. This was still… gritty, I guess, though that word might be overused, but the characters and situation are interesting enough.
I was actually amused by the parallels (initially) with The Goblin Emperor, which I love so much. It took almost every trope I was glad that Addison avoided, and used them to spin a new story. The result isn’t entirely original (I mean, I could go “oh goodie, it’s about time for the epic cross country trek followed by a battle”), but it is fun and very readable, and Abercrombie can ditch the worst of the profanity and write something that most people wouldn’t mind their teen reading. (I shouldn’t be surprised, given I know Chuck Wendig can do it too, and that man loves profanity like I love ketchup.)
Overall, the result is an interesting bunch of characters, a not-so-typical relationship between some of them (like, the teenage crush doesn’t come to anything), and a very readable book. I’ve got Half the World from the library, and intend to get to it very soon.
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is ‘Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To’. I probably just need to look back at my Netgalley account for this one, ha.
- Willful Child, Steven Erikson. A spoof on Star Trek, by Steven Erikson? Yes, please. I had this as an ARC, but… Yeah.
- The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley. I’m just hangin’ my head here, guys.
- Half a King, Joe Abercrombie. Uh, ditto.
- The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley. Had an ARC. Am terrible. ’nuff said.
- Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor. I love this series. I think I might be a bit afraid to read the last book.
- Landline, Rainbow Rowell. In fairness, I didn’t ‘discover’ Rowell’s work until Landline was already due to come out.
- Illusive, Emily Lloyd-Jones. Superpowers! Heists! An ARC I still need to get round to…*
- The Girl With All The Gifts, M.R. Carey. I think I picked up a library copy of this near the start of 2014. I dread to look.
- Of Metal and Wishes, Sarah Fine. I’ve seen some mixed reviews, but I wanted to pick this up just from the cover… I don’t quite know why.
- The Falconer, Elizabeth May. I picked this up a few months ago and still haven’t got round to it. Gah.
There’s just too many books, too little time, am I right?
*I should perhaps at this point note that I will get round to every ARC I’ve received, though in many cases I have to order them from libraries or buy them now that they’re no longer available to download.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “top ten books you’re looking forward to in 2015”. Now, I actually don’t keep a very good track of this, so I might not manage the full ten, but we’ll see how I do…
- Jo Walton, The Just City. Yeah, I know I have an eARC and I’ve borrowed someone else’s ARC, but I’m still looking forward to it being out and getting to discuss it more widely.
- Maria V. Snyder, Shadow Study. More Yelena! I still need to do my reread, but these are totally my popcorn books and it’ll be nice to have more to look forward to. I might actually manage to read the Avry trilogy when I know there’s more awaiting me…
- V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic. I don’t know that much about it, but it sounds awesome, and I keep being recommended Schwab’s work.
- Joe Abercrombie, Half a World. I still need to get round to reading Half a King, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it, and this is another in the same world.
- Catherynne M. Valente, Radiance. From reading the summary, I’m not quite sure about it, but I adore Valente’s way with words, so it’s going to be worth a try.
- Naomi Novik, Uprooted. I remember enjoying the Temeraire books, and I love reading retellings of myths/legends/folktales/fables, so this sounds right up my street.
- N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season. Gimme! Gimme!
- Marie Brennan, The Voyage of the Basilisk. I need to read the second book, but still. Still. Badass Victorian lady!
- Nicole Burstein, Othergirl. Just spotted this on someone else’s list of upcoming 2015 books. Sounds like fun, and there’s superpowers, sooo. I’m a sucker, I know.
- Brandon Sanderson, Firefight. Another one where I still need to read the previous book, but shush. Superpowers!
Oof, I managed it. What’s anyone else looking forward to?
It’s apparently a freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I saw someone else talk about the top ten books/series they want to get round to rereading if they have time, which sounds like a good idea. I’m a chronic rereader, with some favourites I never get tired of, but I feel guilty doing it because I have so much I should be reading already!
- Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. I’m actually trying to work on rereading this, since I have the new one as an ARC, but there’s so many books out there, it’s hard to find the time. I remember being utterly enchanted back when I first read the books, though, so I hope the shine hasn’t worn off.
- Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone. I just recall finding this one really fun, and enjoying the romance plot.
- Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red books. I love these. I have them to reread, it’s just getting round to it. Adrian is the most badass ex-navy SEAL drag queen you could wish for, and I love the unconventional family Raylene builds up around herself.
- Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. I ate these up the first and second time, but it’s been a while now. I’m looking at the new, cheap editions as ebooks and thinking it might be about time. I’m not a big fan of Imriel’s series, but I adore Phèdre and Joscelin, and the politics of it all. “I’ll be damned in full and not by halves” is one of the more memorable quotes in any book I’ve read.
- Jo Walton’s Sulien books. Plus A Prize in the Game, which isn’t strictly about Sulien. Asexual protagonist who is a kickass woman in the Arthurian world, what’s not to love? Plus interesting relationships with the people around her. I remember this really fondly.
- Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. There’s something about Sunshine and the unrelated Chalice that pull me back again and again. It’s the characters, I think, the way people interact, the way magic works. And the focus on homely things as well, like Sunshine baking and the heroine of Chalice keeping bees.
- Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan. Well, actually all of his books (I’m revisiting them in publication order, to watch the development of his style), but especially Lions because I think that’s the only one apart from Under Heaven and the latest that I haven’t read at least twice, and I invariably appreciate GGK’s work more on the second go.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. This is more or less a permanent state of being for me. Having studied the books, I can see so many more layers and bits of interest than I ever did before. It’s also interesting because I’m exploring the world via a different medium, in Lord of the Rings Online, which no doubt will make me pay attention to different details.
- Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. I have the ebooks, all ready for a reread, it’s just getting round to it. I remember enjoying these books a lot, and my partner’s just recently read them and feels the same, so I have high hopes.
- Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles. I loved Cornwell’s take on Arthur and his men, and this is another case where I’ve bought e-copies for my collection and for an excuse to reread, and… am taking forever to get round to it. Well, hopefully not forever.
So, what interesting top tens are you seeing around, people? Any you’d like to see me do?