Review: A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…

Review

Big thanks to Hachette Audio and Libro.fm for my advance listening copy of the A Little Hatred audiobook.

Simply put, A Little Hatred is Joe Abercrombie at his best.

Cunning characters. Witty banter. Sickening twists. Bloody… well, blood. The hallmarks of Abercrombie books, and all are presented in new and fascinating ways in A Little Hatred.

Leo dan Brock is the son of Finree dan Brock, the well-respected and much-loved general of the Union forces in the North. Raised listening to stories of named men like The Bloody Nine, Leo is bold and reckless and longs for glory. Finree would see her son stay back from the front lines, play a strategic war against the Northerners, and minimize bloodshed. Leo would rather charge in with sword held high than sit back and strategize. With Stour Nightfall and his army of Northmen at his back, Leo struggles to maintain his composure with such a great chance for glory at his fingertips.

“Leonalt dan Brock,” Glokta sneered, showing his empty gums again. “The Young Lion.”
“Who comes up with these ridiculous names?”
“Writers, I daresay.”

Rikke has the gift (she’ll say it’s a curse) of The Long Eye. Trained in the ways of the moon by the notorious hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to channel the power of her gift. As such, she tends to have bouts of fits where she must bite down on a wooden dowel else risk losing her tongue. It’s because of these fits, and because of her gift, that her father The Dogman sent her to live with Isern. Now, Rikke has seen more than she cares to see – chaos and bloodshed in the future, particularly for her childhood friend Leo dan Brock.

Her eyes went wide, and one burned hot. Hot as a glowing coal in her skull. She heard the flapping click of the bowstring. She saw the arrow. But she saw it with The Long Eye. And for an instant, like the dawn sun blazing into her room as the shutters were blown wide, the absolute knowing of that arrow burst upon her. She saw where it was, all it was, where it had been and would be. She saw its making: smith with teeth clenched, fletcher with tongue wedged in his cheek as he trimmed the flights. She saw its ending, shaft rotted and head flaked away to rust among the brambles. She saw it in the quiver slung over the foot of the archer’s bed as he kissed his wife Riam goodbye and hoped that her broken toe mended. She knew with utter certainty where that arrow would be, always. So she flicked her hand out, and when it came to meet her as she knew it must, it was the easiest thing to push it, just to nudge it with her finger so it missed Isern and spun off harmless into the trees, bouncing once and coming to rest in the undergrowth in its right place, in the only place it could be, where she’d seen it rot away among the brambles. She stared at the archer, his brow knitted up in shock as he stared back, his jaw dropping lower and lower.
A great joyous wonderful giggle bubbled up at the impossible thing she’d done, and Rikke stuck her fist up and screamed “Give my regards to Riam! Hope her toe mends!”

Finally Savine dan Glokta is as brilliant and ruthless as they come. A savvy businesswoman with mounds upon mounds of money, not to mention the most powerful and feared man in the Union as her father, Savine is as brutal at a formal dinner as The Bloody Nine was in the circle. Angland has entered an age of innovation and ideas, and Savine stands to gain at every turn. Funding the next age of man is profitable work, but Savine soon realizes that her life of manipulation has left her nearly friendless.

“Don’t marry an idiot! Marry a rich man who likes men. At least you’ll have that in common.” [Ardee] peered thoughtfully up at the ceiling. “Or at least marry a pretty idiot, that way you have something nice to look at while you regret it.”
“That was your plan, was it?” asked Savine, sipping her own drink.
“Actually yes, but when I got to the counter, all they had left was crippled mastermind.”
Savine laughed so suddenly she blew wine out of her nose, had to jerk from her chair so that she didn’t spatter it on her dress, and ended up flicking it on the carpet in a most unladylike manner. Her mother chuckled at her discomfort, then sighed. “And do you know,” she gave the monstrous diamond on her wedding band a lopsided grin, “I haven’t regretted a day of it.”

With wars in the North (I do love my wars in the North) and an upwelling of rebellion, A Little Hatred begins The Age of Madness with a bang. The old world of magic and myth is suffused into this new world of steam and motors and manpower. The result is a sublime mix of everything you love about Abercrombie told in new, exciting, compelling ways.

For those worrying you won’t get to see some old favorite characters, worry no more. Abercrombie treads the line perfectly between nostalgia for the old world and the development of the new. Familiar faces abound: Jezal dan Luthar, Black Calder, Bremer dan Gorst, Finree dan Brock, Wonderful, the insufferably pompous Bayaz, and a particular wrinkly, toothless old man in a wheelchair, among others.

Abercrombie builds upon the world he has already created in his other First Law books, using the events of A Little Hatred to catalyze the destruction and the growth of the characters we are introduced to and the ones we already love. I personally loved having secondary, non POV characters that I had read before. It’s almost as if I could tell what was going through their heads when something happened with one of the main characters.

One big question mark for me is Clover. I want to know his past. There’s going to be more to come with this mysterious fellow. That bit at the end with Stour. Wow.

One thing that really goes without saying is how magnificent Steven Pacey is with this and all of the Abercrombie audiobooks. If you’ve ever listened to an audiobook from the First Law world, which I have exclusively, you’ll know you’re in for a treat.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. I’ve got to give it some time to settle but it’s already in my favorites. You can still enjoy this book even if you haven’t read any other Abercrombie, but longtime readers will find a hundred little nods to previous works. So either way, go give it a shot!

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