My Rating: 9/10
Savine dan Glokta, once Adua’s most powerful investor, finds her judgement, fortune and reputation in tatters. But she still has all her ambitions, and no scruple will be permitted to stand in her way. For heroes like Leo dan Brock and Stour Nightfall, only happy with swords drawn, peace is an ordeal to end as soon as possible. But grievances must be nursed, power seized, and allies gathered first, while Rikke must master the power of the Long Eye . . . before it kills her. Unrest worms into every layer of society. The Breakers still lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while noblemen bicker for their own advantage. Orso struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only for his enemies, and his debts, to multiply. The old ways are swept aside, and the old leaders with them, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace lasts forever.
“People like things that are simple. Black and white. Good and evil. They want to make a choice and tell themselves they were right. But as His Eminence is fond of saying, the real world is painted in greys. The truth is complicated, full of mixed emotions and blurred outcomes and each-way bets. The truth … is a hard sell.”
Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he writes a damn good book. Not every author can pull off a series that is based on the second generation. I often find myself wishing for the original characters when it comes to next generation books, but I found myself super invested in Orso, Savine, and Leo. It was so anxiety inducing to watch some of these characters pit themselves against one another, but expecting harmony in an Abercrombie book is like expecting the sun not to shine. I think it is safe to say that he is my favorite grimdark author.
Don’t step into an Abercrombie novel expecting happy endings. Expect tragedy, gruesome deaths, political maneuvering. For all of this, there’s humor and moments that endear you to these characters. They’re all terribly flawed but they can be quite charming as well. Orso has the same magnetism as his father Jezal, but he’s also quite a bit smarter, bolder. Savine is as cunning as Glokta, but with a lethal combination of beauty and grace attached to it. Leo is courageous, proud, but easily swayed. They are all ambitious and mercy to their ambitions. I truly find myself enjoying Orso as a king. He will be harsh when he needs to, but he doesn’t take joy in the wreckage. He holds very little maliciousness in his ruling.
“You can’t change the fact the world’s full of arseholes. You can only change how you deal with them.”
The political maneuvering takes a heavy hand in this novel and I enjoyed it. Sometimes people complain about a lack of plot in Abercrombie’s books and though that hasn’t been an issue for me, I think that this trilogy has a bit more substance in that regard. I am absolutely someone who believes you should read all of the books in publication order (starting with The Blade Itself) because even though it isn’t necessary, all of the prior build up between the first generation of character adds to the background story for this second generation. We see this set of characters have to grapple with the events and alliances set in motion from their predecessors. Some of them choose to actively work against their forefathers, others choose to follow their path. This presents a conundrum as old as time; when do we stick with tradition and when do we look to the future?
“If you wanted to change the world you should have won.”
Even the smallest character in an Abercrombie book can make the biggest difference. Often, those characters come into focus in the next novel. I love that as we go through these novels set in the same world, it’s a constant trickle of interconnecting storylines. These webs get deeper and more convoluted. It’s truly like reading an unbiased history book, we get to follow along lines of succession and the crumbling of dynasties, the awakening of new ones— except we get to personally know the players in the game along the way.
As always, this ended this novel on an explosive note. I can’t wait to see where our characters are in the next novel. Lives and territories have been destroyed, but life always goes on. Our characters don’t get super shiny endings. Even those that make it out of the carnage have the gruesome scars to show for it. Abercrombie has solidified his place as an auto-buy author for me!