Posted in reviews

2023 In Review

My God, can it truly be that another year has flashed past? Happy Birthday to me! 49 today, 17 years since I was first published and god damn it if I’m not still a fresh new voice in this genre. This time last year I was hoping for better times ahead following twelve months of war and political turbulence, and it feels like we we’ve had nothing but even worse warfare and political turbulence since, with next year looking no better in prospect. Starting to wonder if this might be a bad time to be writing intensely dark and cynical fiction. Maybe I should try my hand at something light and hopeful… Ha! As if…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – It’s now been a full two years since I had a new novel in the marketplace but there have been a few Joe Abercrombie related releases. The Great Change and Other Lies – a very handsome novella length collection of short stories to go alongside the Age of Madness, and with art by John Anthony di Giovanni – came out from Sub Press. The physical copies are all gone but I believe you can still get it on ebook. And some truly beautiful letterpress editions of The Blade Itself with art by Tommy Arnold were released by Curious King, who are doing some awesome things in the ultra-high end limited edition space. Kind of incredible how that part of the market has developed over recent years, that a few hundred books costing between 200 and 2,300 (!) pounds could all sell out within an hour or two of going on sale. Vance Kovacs is currently at work on the art for Before They are Hanged, and we’re hoping that one will work its way out at some point next year…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Not my most productive year on record, I will admit, but I have made steady progress: finished The Devils, edited and revised it, and I’m just now getting towards the end of the line edit (that’s where your editors go through and mark up the manuscript with specific concerns and recommendations). I still want to give it a last read over and polish in the first half of january, then it’ll go for copy edit (that’s where a specialised copy editor goes through with an eye on the technical details), but it’s very close to finished – we’re even pretty close to a finished cover concept, which looks like it’s gonna be quite a departure for me…

How do I feel about it? Always tough to say at this stage. Fewer than a dozen people have actually read it so my own feelings change whenever I get a new opinion. I generally hate every book while I’m writing it then get gradually more pleased with it as I revise, and that’s happened here. It’s certainly a bit longer than intended (which happens pretty much every time). Currently running at 215,000 words which puts it on the longer side of my books – longer than the Blade Itself or any of the Age of Madness (or any of the Lord of the Rings volumes, I believe, though those seem petite by today’s standards) – but shorter than Best Served Cold or Last Argument of Kings. Certainly it’s a bit of a different tone from the First Law – very much adult still, I guess you’d say, with much sex, violence and horror, but more episodic, more knockabout, maybe, less deliberately dark and cynical, more deliberately humorous though I doubt anyone would call it a comedy. Way higher on the fantasy elements than the First Law though also much less of an epic fantasy, set as it is in a kinda sorta messed up version of our world. I will not dignify it with the term alternate history. It’s a tough book to categorise, though I’m sure that will not stop people trying.

Disappointing for some of you, I am sure, but it’s currently looking like The Devils won’t publish until early/mid 2025, which’ll make this the longest gap in my publishing thus far. Partly that was a date we plucked from the air which gained a kind of inevitability the longer it stayed in the diary. Partly it’s a function of the bigger, slower and more distributed US market, where I’m less well established, and my publisher want plenty of time to get the word out and set this up as something new and exciting and different to give it the best chance of the MASSIVE SUCCESS it, and I, obviously deserve. Still, there’s always an upside, and with any luck the time will mean translators can get busy and have some of the key foreign editions come out around the same time as the UK/US ones. Hopefully a later release for the first book also means a shorter gap before the second, which I’ve started writing, and I’m already a couple of chapters into. This one’s gonna be shorter (of course), and I hate it already (of course).

TV AND FILM – I’ve actually been writing on various film and tv projects for years now – starting on adaptations of my own books (as yet unmade), but more recently adapting other people’s work (also largely as yet unmade) – which is one reason why the book output over the last decade has been a little lumpy, let’s say. In general I really enjoy it – with books you get pretty much sole creative control, but it’s also often lonely work where you spend a lot of time in your own head – so it’s nice to spend some time working as part of a bigger team, and sometimes on things where the emotional investment isn’t quite so huge. But it can also be a seriously frustrating business, which comes in fits and starts, all consuming for a few months then suddenly gone. There are lots of stakeholders, lots of opinions to be considered, lots of notes to act on, you rarely get to do things just your way. Projects get picked up with huge excitement, race forward, then stall and collapse only to be unpredictably born again in a new form. You can spend years quite profitably developing things that never get made, or even announced.

But this year one of these projects actually did get announced – a film adaptation of Best Served Coldwritten by me, with Tim Miller (who I’ve been working with to bring the First Law to the screen for years) attached as the director and Rebecca Ferguson attached to play Monza. Another frustrating thing about this world is you can’t really talk about anything until someone else talks about it, so all I can really say about it right now is that it’s in the works, development continues, but there are no certainties, we’ll see what we see. I might be on set in a few months . . . or I might very easily never be.

Working in the business myself starts to make it feel a bit weird criticising other people’s work, so let me dial back my usual roundup of what I’ve watched this year and just recommend a couple of things I’ve really enjoyed. In the film space, I’d say Leave the World Behind was the thing I liked most – perhaps didn’t pay off as well as it might have, but a really fascinating premise with some gobsmacking moments. Animation-wise I continued to enjoy Vinland Saga and I really liked Blue-Eye Samurai – who knew I’d go for a female-led gritty revenge story with vividly realised characters in a dark and ruthless world? Then on TV I still find Brassic a lot of fun – love me some Joseph Gilgun ever since his This is England days, I liked Boiling Point – love me some Stephen Graham ever since his This is England days, I find Slow Horses very reliable, finely crafted and acted entertainment, and the second season of The Bear was maybe a little patchier than the first, but when it was good, truly excellent.

GAMES – Everyone says it’s been a great year for games, but I’ve actually found it a little bit underwhelming. Maybe more me than the games. Started out by replaying Cyberpunk on the PS5, which I actually really enjoyed, though honestly I’d quite enjoyed it on the PS4. Final Fantasy XVI, very unusually for me, I just got bored of half way through, and stopped playing. It was… okay, I guess? Diablo IV I had some fun crunching through with a friend, but though it has its charms I found it got pretty dull after a while. Alan Wake 2 looks very interesting – I’m a big fan of Remedy Games and loved Control – they really do stuff like no one else. But I’ve only just started that. Which really does leave quite the open goal for Baldur’s Gate III as my game of the year. That really should be a home run for me, I loved the first two back in the day, and I certainly did enjoy it, a lot at times, but, I dunno. Maybe it was the huge hype and orgasmic reactions all around but I actually found large stretches of it a little bit – disappointing would be the wrong word – just not as great as I’d hoped? I’m sure it’s rose tinted specs but though on paper it’s an enormous game with unmatched quantities of content, great voice acting and characters etc. etc. it somehow felt, I dunno, confined? Never got the sense of exploring a huge world. I enjoyed it a lot, and there’s much to admire, but it never gave me the feeling of awe I got from Elden Ring last year.

THE YEAR AHEAD – With The Devils not due to come out till 2025, 2024 looks like it’ll be a bit of a strange one. Working on the sequel, of course, and hoping to get a good chunk of that under my belt. Couple of events coming up, including Gollanczfest in March. Then there are a range of Film and TV things teetering on the brink of going which will undoubtedly take up a fair bit of time and energy, but when, and how much, and whether they’ll ever actually make it to the screen, remains to be seen. If I hear, you’ll be the first to know…

Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards, and (for yet another time) let’s just hope this one is better than the last…

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The Wisdom of Crowds – Out Today

And so The Wisdom of Crowds is published in the UK (by Gollancz) and the US (by Orbit) this very day in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook read by the magisterial Steven Pacey. Always a bitter-sweet moment for an author, like dropping your kid off at college and hoping they’ll get on okay without you, but […]

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Progress Report August ’20

Believe it or not, The Trouble With Peace is out in two short weeks, and the US and UK hardcovers are both in my possession: UK art by Tomas Almeida, US by Sam Weber and Lauren Panepinto, and both beautiful in their own pleasingly distinct and different ways. Promotion ramps up, as you’d imagine. You […]

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SFX on Half a War

SFX, the world’s biggest SF&F magazine, have spoken on the forthcoming Half a War, and they have spoken 5 starrily: “The final instalment in the Shattered Sea series is the perfect ending to an outstanding YA trilogy … Joe Abercrombie has long been the master of grim and gritty fantasy, but Half a War proves that he’s […]

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Half a King Published in the UK!

I am delighted to announce that the UK edition of Half a King is published today: in Hardcover, Ebook, and unabridged audiobook read by Ben Elliot. “Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain his throne. First he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one […]

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Publishers Weekly on Half a King

Let’s face it, if you’re a regular visitor to this site, the chances are reasonably high you’re already planning to give Half a King a try when it comes out in July.  But just in case any of you are still lurking on the fence, Publishers Weekly have given the book a very enthusiastic starred review (and […]

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Hot Young Fantasists

Delighted to say that I got a quote for Half a King from some George RR Martin guy. Not familiar with his work myself but apparently he wrote some Game of Thrones thing which is quite popular at the moment… “Joe Abercrombie does it again. Half a King is another page-turner from Britain’s hottest young […]

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Half a King – Early Reactions

Advance Reader Copies of Half a King have been out in the wild for a couple of weeks now and a few bold pioneers have already read and commented upon them, and I must say the onslaught of positivity is almost enough to thaw the splinter of deadly ice I have for a heart.  Shall […]

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2013 in Review

Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday dear MEEEE-EEEEE.  Three cheers, anyone? Yes, indeed, another year has flowed beneath the bridge at ever-increasing speed and I am 39 today.  It’s round about 12 years since I started writing The Blade Itself back in 2001.  Some 9 years since I signed my first […]

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