People keep asking me whether Half a King is a Young Adult book. Well, yes it is. Kind of. But also an adult fantasy. Kind of. Crossover, you know. Depends a little on who you ask…
Categorisation is always a bit of a strange business. Books are often put into a certain genre, or shelved in a certain part of a bookstore, because of things that are nothing to do with the content of the book – the history of the author, the nature of the publisher, the whim of a bookseller, the font on the spine. Young Adult is a particularly tough category to define as it straddles all kinds of different styles – fantasy, historical, thrillers, romance, tough real world stories. The one thing a young adult book must have is a young adult protagonist, but outside of that, there are no hard rules. They’re often shorter and more focused than adult books, but not always. They’re often less explicit in the areas of sex and violence, but not always. They’re often softer on the swearing, except when they’re not.
And of course all these categories are constantly in flux. The boundaries of what’s permissible in a young adult book are constantly expanding, and books that might once have been considered firmly in the camp of adult fantasy (like Eddings’ Belgariad, for example), are sometimes rebranded YA as the years roll on.
A little background as to how I came to write Half a King. I had a meeting with Nick Lake, young adult publisher at Harper Collins, what feels like a hundred years ago but was maybe four. He liked my adult fantasy and thought I might have a good young adult book in me. At the time I was finishing up the Heroes, I think, and the idea sat with me, in a vague sort of way, for some time until, by chance, as these things do, the seed of the idea for Half a King took root in my brain loam. Having written six big, chunky, complicated, relatively similar, unapologetically adult books I felt the need for something of a change. So I started writing.
Now, I will admit to being no kind of expert on young adult literature. Some people might think it’s rather presumptuous of me to try writing it. Maybe it is. Sorry bout that. But then I have a far from encyclopaedic knowledge of adult fantasy either. I’ve always felt strongly that you don’t write something good by trying to slavishly assess what’s working in the marketplace, still less by trying to read everything in a category so that you somehow eliminate everything done before and leave yourself only with the fresh and original. I think you write something good by drawing on all kinds of diverse influences from fiction, from non-fiction, from film and tv and games and life and combining them in a way that only you can to write the kind of book that you would like to read. Or, perhaps, the kind of book you wanted to read at 14.
My main touchstones in the young adult arena were things I read and loved when I was younger – notably Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical books (Blood Feud especially) and John Cristopher’s post-apocalyptic Sword of the Spirits. These were books full of authenticity, honesty, moral ambiguity, shocks and tough choices. These were not books that ever simplified, preached, or talked down to their audience. But I also had in mind the powerful voices of some adult viking fiction, like Frans Bengtsson’s classic The Long Ships, Robert Low’s The Whale Road and sequels, Bernard Cornwell’s Anglo Saxon Chronicles and others.
I started from the standpoint that young adults are, above all, adults. Just young ones. Many of them are extremely sophisticated in their reading. What they want to read isn’t radically different from what old adults (like me) want to read. I get emails, after all, from 11 year olds who read my adult work. When I was 14 I was reading Dragonlance and David Eddings. I was also reading Dickens and Dostoevsky (I may have been enjoying them less than Dragonlance, but you take my point). People in that 12-18 age range are dealing with serious issues of sex, money, identity, responsibility. The last thing they want to read is simplified, childish, toothless pap. The last thing they want to be is talked down to. Talked to as if they’re children. What adult does?
So my aim was not to soften, or bowdlerise, or pull the teeth of my existing style, but to modify it for a new audience, a younger adult audience, but also a wider adult audience who might have found themselves turned off by the big size of some of the fantasy out there. My aim was to write something shorter, tighter, more focused, perhaps a smidge less cynical and pessimistic. I spent some time with horror writer Adam Neville not long ago, and he explained to me his philosophy of life and death on every page. I modified that just a little to a slap in the face on every page. No wasted space. A driving single thread which is all killer, no filler. My aim was to write something tighter and simpler in its narrative, perhaps, but certainly not simpler in the way it was written or in the themes that it tackles. Something a little less explicit in the sex, violence and swearing departments but absolutely with the edges left on, with the same shades of grey, the same moral complexity, the same shocks and challenges, the same visceral action, the same rich vein of dark humour that I fondly imagine my other books have offered. Whatever I came up with, I wanted it to retain the strength of my other work, to bring new readers to that work, and absolutely to appeal to the readers I already had.
There’s a degree to which, once it’s finished and released into the wild, it’s not necessarily up to me to say whether Half a King is Young Adult or not. Publishers, booksellers and, of course, readers, will make their own determinations. The fact that I’m already known for adult fantasy certainly plays a role. In the UK there were 6 publishers interested – 1 children’s, 2 general fiction, 2 adult fantasy and a collaboration between an adult fantasy and a young adult list, all of them with slightly different ideas and emphases on how they’d package and market it. There was much talk of Crossover – that sweet spot between children’s and adult fiction where many of our most beloved fantasies sit, but is always difficult to aim at. It was the collaboration that won through in the end, between Harper Voyager (adult fantasy) and Harper Collins’ YA list with what you might call a comprehensive approach aiming at both markets. In the US, where categories are less flexible, Del Rey will be selling the book primarily in fantasy sections, but with wide-ranging attempts to bring in a young adult readership too. There are already ten or so translation deals done and the various international publishers – some of whom already publish the First Law books and some of whom are new to me – will all have slightly differing approaches depending on their own strengths and their own market.
The term YA is sometimes used disparagingly (probably by folks who’ve never really read any) to mean something superficial, fluffy, disposable, lacking in depth and edge. That is not what I had it in mind to write. That is not what I believe I’ve produced. That is not what I think any serious writer of YA fiction produces. From a recent review by the redoubtable Adam Whitehead, at the Wertzone:
“This is still very much a Joe Abercrombie novel, meaning there’s an air of both cynicism and humour to proceedings and there’s a fair amount of violence. There isn’t much swearing and no sex at all, but beyond that the only way you’d know this was a YA novel is because the author said so on his website.”
I would argue there’s a degree to which – other than by the way it’s talked about, marketed, packaged, and sold – I’m not sure you should be able to tell a good young adult novel from a good adult novel. For me they’ll both be tough, honest, truthful. They’ll both have wit, excitement, strong dialogue and vivid characters. They’ll both leave you desperate to turn the next page, and when you’ve turned the last page, they’ll both leave you with something to think about.
I read a chapter from Half a King at the World Fantasy Convention last year, and at the end, as you do, I asked for questions. Someone called out, ‘is that meant to be toned down?’ That got a laugh from the room, and from me as much as anyone.
Because no, it isn’t meant to be toned down.
Why would it be?
60 comments so far
I’m really glad I read this. I didn’t know what ot expect but now I’m pretty certain that this is going to be awesome.
I presumed that the label of ‘YA’ had been given to you by your publisher, I didn’t know you had deliberately set about writing one.
But then, I’ve been reading a lot of varying genres over the past few years and one of the things I’ve learned is you don’t necessarily need sex and curse words to be shocking. Sometimes you don’t need violence either. And from the reviews you’ve posted recently, it seems you’ve managed the same amount of, dare I say it, “Grimdark” regardless of Half a King’s YA marketing labeling.
On a side note, do you think you could have written a YA book set in the First Law world?
Good luck with HaK (I like that acronym). Without sounding too jaded, isn’t there a touch of the marketeer about it? Nothing wrong with that IMO, after all ‘YA’ books have been deeply profitable and even I can see a niche in the market for a fantasy version of ‘The Hunger Games’ (like I said, good luck with bells on).
As a fan, you’re rep is one of gnarly, violent adult fantasy. I’d see from a publisher’s POV why they’d want to 360 that for a project like this, and if the YA cap fits then why not?
But issues like this, along the lines of “why is Abercrombie not giving me MOAR GRIMDARK!” are almost inevitable. Any strategy that irons out concerns and broadens market appeal can’t be a bad thing.
So good luck (again) !
I think we can safely say that there are going to be plenty of “Is HALF A KING grimdark or not?” questions on the internet in the future, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth and people trying to work out what grimdark is anyway.
I am counting on it.
Just got my advanced copy delivered. Already almost half way through. Sooo glad I don’t have to wait till July! Means I have to wait longer for the sequel though…
Yes! 10-15 is a blurry time when a book is more likely to make an adult uncomfortable than the Young Adult who reads it.
There are not enough straight genre books in the YA category. I look forward to buying it for my son (now 10, and hoovering through Feist)
Just as long as you don’t go all Twilight YA on us, lol. Since your trying a slightly different approach with these novels do you think you might ever tackle a heavier version of fantasy? No unicorns vomiting cotton candy but perhaps a Grimgrittydark (trade marked, lol) version of Tolkien? Until then, looking forward to Half a King.
P.S. No younglings were harmed in the making of this post
Is the lack of sex in a YA book meant to be ironic or does it just not fit in with the story?
You certainly might find sex in YA books, but you wouldn’t expect the level of explicitness you’ll find in something like Best Served Cold. Half a King has some romance, no sex. Just the nature of that story. The sequel, Half the World, does have sex. Not quite so explicit as in my other work, though the ground covered is still quite challenging in its own way…
This really hit home with me. My favourite author growing up was Garth Nix and I can’t think of any particular reason why his books are regarded as YA, other than being shorter than most adult books. It was more imaginative, vivid and powerful than most adult books I had read and am reading now, as a slightly-older-than-young adult. His Abhorsen trilogy remains one of my favourite books to this day.
Best of luck with this trilogy; it sounds like it will be a fantastic read.
Do you not think you are in danger of loosing your adult fans by writing some kids , sorry young adult fantasy book , those kind of books tend to be mostly lame and there is an abundance of them around.
I’m willing to let loose the sort of fans who decide they don’t like a book without reading it. Those kind of fans tend to be mostly lame and there is an abundance of them around.
Those who judge the book after reading it, I have no worries about. They’ll mostly love it.
Thanks for the info, Joe. I have an 8-year-old who is already neck-deep in Rick Riordan books, and has been eyeballing my Terry Brooks collection. He is well aware of who Logen Ninefingers is and, with a little “gee, dear, it’s a Young Adult Joe Abercrombie book” sleight-of-hand, may find a copy of HaK mixed in with his birthday gifts this July. I will, of course, have to read it first to make sure it’s okay for him . . .
It’s sad to think that just because a fantasy book is lacking in sex, violence, and swearing that we automatically perceive it as a young adult novel. Kinda says a lot about our culture’s view on the genre.
YA seems to be a relatively new category in books, and then we go and have “New Adult”, too.
I, too, read The Belgariad in my teens. I neither thought of it as YA or adult… it was just a fantasy series, and I enjoyed it. As I enjoyed Iain Banks’ work at the time, and many others (all the while never considering myself a reader, because I knew people who read far more than I). It’s funny how we have to create these boxes and stuff people (and art/creations) in them. I guess it makes it easier to sell an item when you can say what it IS in few words, with labels.
All I can say is, I can’t wait to share many of my favourites with my son (currently 3.5yrs). I suspect he’ll be reading them all at a younger age than I did… and then I’ll leave him to explore…
Oh, and I’m very much looking forward to more from a certain writer with the initials J.A.
All the various “Categorisations” drive me to distraction, but what you gunna do?. People are basically, taken in a group, horrible mockeries of rationality.
Young men who would never bring themselves to read something written by a “mere woman”. All the women ( the vast majority thereof ) you find on GoodReads, their like lists ENTIRELY and EXCLUSIVELY containing female writers. Advertising and marketing departments who can say things like “This is a really great book, but we either have to lose the vampires, or lose the robots . . . we can’t target a specific audience if we have vampires AND robots”.
I wonder if the problem is because they know too much about marketing, or too little about reading?.
Maybe it isn’t a complement, though I certainly mean it as such, but, I will read any shit you care to write, Mr Abercrombie. You make me laugh, and swear, and also clench my teeth. Sometimes all in the same sentence.
Well 8 is pretty young. I’ll let you make the call there. Second book is a bit edgier on the sex/violence/swearing front as well.
Deb E, AntMac,
The categories serve a purpose as far as connecting readers with books they might well like – fantasy’s no different, in that sense. Things always get fuzzy around the edges of any given category, though, and there are a lot of books that could be categorised as one thing or another depending on where a publisher perceives its best audience to be.
@AJ In a similar situation with a slightly older child who was like yours at 8.
In the mean time, you might try Feist’s Magician series, and Howard Andrew Jones Dabir and Asim books. Also, some of the Conan stories are age appropriate(ish).
The only straight Fantasy I know of that is specifically late Middle Grade/YA is Rangers Apprentice. However you’ll find some good steampunk, especially Predator Cities and Airborne.
@Joe Abercrombie: Swearing and violence? Have you seen Andy MacNab’s “Boy Soldier” books? Amusing to look at the reviews on Amazon – horrified parents, gleeful boys.
Never thought I’d like a revenge story, but I did. Never thought I’d like a western either, but guess what, I did. YA? Sure, if it’s from Abercrombie kitchen, give it to me.
I got myself an ARSE! I got myself an ARSE! I also got pretty odd looks whilst reading the book on the tube this morning as the cover is rather startling.
Nothing like a long tube ride with your head stuck into a great ARSE.
This is a option piece on Y.A. I plan to share with people on the Borders Class 2011 FB page. I worked at Borders Books for 13 years before I sent packing and there we had many a discussion on Y.A books of all genres. With most us feeling that we couldn’t figure what the hell the publishers were thinking about in many cases. Any thanks for your thoughts on this topic.
I get confused by the various labels we put on things but at the end, if it’s good. It’s good. So I am looking forward to it.
Still gutted that the graphic novel seems to have gone back into the mud…..
A scathing response from the Joe, I meant no offense, its just have I seen some of my favourite franchise’s go to pot because of going for the younger audience, look at 2 of my favourite films , predator and Aliens, made for adults 9 although I was a kid when I watched them) and the subsequent follow up movies all brought down to 15’s to capture a younger market and well they really destroyed the franchise. Now I’ve read a couple of young adult fantasy , Feist and wheel of time etc and they are readable , not great , very black and white , here are the good guys and here are the bad guys , by the end of the first law trilogy I didn’t know who was the good guys or who was the bad, a fact I loved! Plus sh*t cool characters such as the bloody nine or the hound or the mountain are really from adult books, I cant see them becoming legendary in young adult books, in those books you get guys such as Rand or Pug! but hey Ill still read it and look forward to you proving me wrong! Ps Dan Gorst was a legend!! I fucking love war!
[…] -Goodreads is now available on the first-gen Kindle Paperwhites. Details. -Joe Abercrombie wrote a blog post with more details about Half A King, how it came to be, and how the YA label applies. I for one am […]
Is this trilogy set in the same universe as the First Law or is it separate?
Milos makes a very good point there.
It is almost as if Mr Abercrombie is being VERY SNEAKY. “Of course it is Sword’n’Sorcery, the cover’s got knives on it, don’t it?”. *sneaks all sorts of stuff into the books*
It’s easy to classify Young Adult books. The dead giveaway is such:
1. The plot is simplistic and insultingly predictable, cliches are everywhere (teenagers have a limited thought range anyway so I suppose that makes sense. I mean, why bother do anything more complicated when cliches will entertain them just as well?)
2. The characters are flat and boring and have the personality of a shoe (and again, if you’ve only lived 20 years you’re likely not to notice)
3. The writing is abhorrent (because most teenagers can’t tell the difference between good and bad writing, so again, why put in the effort to make it good writing)
I therefore want books to be clearly labeled as Young Adult because then I would never ever buy them. I’ve been told Young Adult books don’t have to be this predictable and stupid but I’ve never actually seen anything different, so whatever.
However, Joe Abercrombie has a superb writing style so I’m having a hard time imagining him writing the drivel I usually associate with Young Adult. I will read Half a King, if only because after The First Law series Joe has a lot of credibility to bank on… Although I gave Brandon Sanderson the benefit of the doubt because of Mistborn and The Way of Kings, and then he wrote Steelheart…!! Steelheart is for young adults, it just so obviously must be. It was the most horrible book I read in 2013. *I* could have written Steelheart. It was that bad.
Anyway, keeping my fingers crossed that Half a King will be decent.
The only thing that reliably distinguishes young adult from adult fiction is young adult protagonists. Other than that all bets are off.
Some books are labeled YA that are appallingly brutal and nihilistic. Like the author is cramming as much dehumanizing torture and sadism as possible into every chapter. Books like that aren’t suitable for me, much less the youths.
I’m a fan of all Joe’s books and Half a King is on my reading list. I might enjoy it yet still think it’s not suitable for teens. Or I might think it is. Just have to read it and see. But usually I get the sense Joe isn’t writing violence just for the cheap slasher-flick shock value.
I actually really enjoyed Steelheart and thought it was Sanderson’s best written (prose-wise) book to date…
Surprised a label has caused this much outrage. I always think I should read a book before I judge it, myself. But hey, each to their own.
yes, yes, I know. But 4 out of the 10 last books I bought were classified as scifi or fantasy and should have instead been classfied as children’s books. Books are my drug, I have to buy them on impulse, can’t be expected to research each purchase for an hour. I need to consume them constantly, and young adult books so far have always killed my buzz. So I’m coming from a place of bitter disappointment with the current classification system. Considering the depth of my bitterness and the extent of my addiction I think I was very civil and restrained in my earlier statement. 🙂
Great, now I sound insane.
Lots of interesting viewpoints here. Personally I agree that classifying something as YA can be a little confusing and vague. A great book is a great book-simple as that. If it appeals to a wide-ranging audience surely that says something about the craft of the writer and their skill. We do like to put everything in a draw these days-I suppose it helps to place it on a shelf in a store if nothing else.
The thing that interests me is hearing Joe’s take on how much he had to consider the audience as he wrote in regard to voice and the nuts and bolts of language.
I am going through the ordeal of submitting my first novel at the minute (got my first rejection today-I believe I did well not to take solace in the arms of my old friend J and B tonight, I’ll save the whisky for tomorrow) which is a historical-fantasy.
It wasn’t so much the themes/issues/swearing/sex/what to put in or leave out that I found troubling-more the voice and language choices. I know writers inhabit their characters but I found it troubling at times trying to ensure I didn’t give too adult a take on the plague/heresy/slavery/bigotry issues my 14th century character experienced.
Joe-did you find that on re-reading/drafting that your main character was speaking in a more adult (more typically Abercrombian)way? Was your narrative voice noticeably different to your usual style? Basically, was it hard to make that sideways shift you talked about?
It’s great to hear that you believe there should be no dumbing down or attempt to ‘pull the teeth’ of your usual style. I am just interested in knowing if you found discovering ‘the voice’ more difficult than you had imagined it would be.
aoxsic, you are “not EVEN wrong”, mate.
Andre Norton?. R.A. Heinlein?. oh, but then you have not read any of their YA works, right?.
As an admirer of your novels, and a school librarian, I can’t wait!
[…] writing YA Thought this was an interesting argument about the treatment of YA by Abercrombie: He Killed the Younglings! | Joe Abercrombie […]
[…] Half a King, the first book in a fantasy trilogy, will be released in the US on July 8 (hardcover, ebook). The UK release date is July 3. The entire trilogy is supposed to be released in the span of a year with Half the World scheduled for publication in February 2015 and Half a War in July 2015. I had heard it was a young adult fantasy, but it sounds as though it’s going to be marketed as both adult fantasy and young adult. You can read more about the complexities of determining which books to categorize as young adult and the categorization of this particular series on the author’s blog. […]
I’ve been teaching middle school ELA for thirteen years and you have the right approach–these kids want honest, gritty, REAL stories. The market is cluttered with contrived, watered-down garbage. I’m overjoyed, though not at all surprised, that you are going to produce some honest work for them. There are some gems in the YA realm–take a look at the work of Alexie and Zusak. Kevin Brooks’ The Road of the Dead is another favorite of mine. We need more writers who understand that kids don’t want to hold hands under the yum yum tree all the goddamn time. Thanks for understanding their desire for honesty in the books they read.
In my library when I was wee there was children’s books and adult books. I was a voracious reader and was already reading my dad’s novel’s by age 11. So I got my mum to sign a letter confirming telling a fib I was 13 so I could join the adult part of the library. I then proceeded to reading everything on the science fiction and horror shelves. Some I’ve re-read since. I do find the categorisation of fiction a bit wearying but I also head straight to the science fiction/fantasy in my local bookstore which I couldn’t do otherwise. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books and I loved Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy. My other half can’t understand why adults would read Harry Potter except it’s different for me apparently as I read lots of other stuff as well!!!! I tried to explain that just because it’s got child protagonists doesn’t mean it’s a children’s book only. It’s just a good book. Alice in Wonderland is marketed as a children’s book but it’s so clever and adults enjoy it just as much if not more than children. And even if it is a “children’s/YA” they enjoy good writing as much as adults. I mean Wind in the Willows is one of my favourite books of all time. I’m currently loving sharing things I’ve read with my nephew who was reading Poe at 12 (courtesy of me).
I’ve also read a lot of classics (I did English & Scottish Lit. at uni) some of which I enjoyed, some not. All I’m trying to say is I love good, believable writing. And that’s why I love Joe Abercrombie. His wickedly dark sense of humour seems to sum up life. And that’s why I will read anything he cares to write.
Just wondering, will you progress this new series from YA to adult? When a series is written and released the timeframe is often long enough that the young adults that start the series are often full grown adults when the series is wrapped up.
I was looking forward to this boom so so so much. But I will be honest the young adult thing is really worrying.
I also don’t think it’s very fair to say the fans who don’t want to read young adult books and judge them before reading are lame is a bit of shit thing to say.
If I see a book in a young adult section I won’t even pick it up to look at it.
The reason your books are so great and you have a lot of fans of your work is because of your gritty style and grey characters. Also your complex and unforgiving plots.
I can’t imagine this stuff being in a young adult book.
I admire your work really and I think your a great guy.
But I feel an author has a responsibility to finish his work.
I didn’t like red country at all because of the time jump. It kills momentum in your world you have created I actually felt cheated reading it and seeing an old fucked up Cosca. And not half a king will be a young adult book….
I just wish you had continued the same style and pace after heroes. That was by far one of the best books I’ve ever read and after reading that I was sold as a fan. But and u think most people would agree…. Closure…… Finish your work in one style…. If you want to do a western book it should have been in a different world.
I feel like a dick writing this but I’ll buy and read half a king.
If it’s awesome I’ll apologise and never question again
Being older, the issues most relevant to YAs (and thus typically written about) are not relevant to me, so I don’t generally read YA books unless one is brought to my attention. I have read both the Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogies as they were recommended.
Even though HaK is in the YA faction, I’m divergent so I’ll read it.
[…] I loved this super-interesting blog-post from Joe Abercrombie, an author kind of known for his dark fantasy novels, discussing his entry point into YA. […]
I wish the Young Adult category was a lot more defined. A number of times I have picked up a book and a chapter in, it clicks that it’s a Young Adult book (as someone pointed out, they do tend to have a certain style of writing). Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed a few, but mostly, they are books I’ll read when I’m at a loss for something or I want something a little more ‘light’.
‘It’s sad to think that just because a fantasy book is lacking in sex, violence, and swearing that we automatically perceive it as a young adult novel. Kinda says a lot about our culture’s view on the genre.’
Speak for yourself. It says nothing about our culture, it only says what your morals are and what you expect. I like the Sex, Violence & Swearing especially when it is written well (Joe Abercrombie, GRRM, two obvious authors). Personal taste is just that, personal…therefore subjective.
I’m a fan of Joe Abercrombie, so, Young Adult or not, I’ll end up buying it anyway. When I first read the First Law books, it changed my expectations of what to expect and what I like about Fantasy, who’s to say he won’t do the same (for me at least) for the Young Adult category too.
[…] providing a review. This would be Abercrombie’s first foray into writing a young adult novel, and while he has commented on his own blog about what that means to him, it’s a departure from a style that has created a frothing fanbase […]
[…] con atmosfere vichinghe ^^) potete assaggiarne un estratto piuttosto consistente e leggere le opinioni (non condivise del tutto dalla sottoscritta, ma non si può avere tutto dalla vita) […]
This is like Mozart giving up composing to play the drums
To the detractors and nay-sayers: Don’t you remember being 12? Wouldn’t you have liked a Joe Abercrombie book to read?
[…] games too!?), they swear (shock!), they fall in love and are, as Joe Abercrombie himself said in a very good blog, “above all, adults. Just young […]
[…] This is Abercrombie hobbled, with his fangs pulled and his arms lopped off. Here’s the thing. In this blog post by Joe, he emphasizes that he refused to tone down his style. After all, young adults are nevertheless […]
First, the book is brilliant and you should all read it. The sort of production that combines radiance with concision. You might be up all night, but thankfully it’ll just be one night! I would, however, like some clarification from the author, as I’m having trouble with his initial posting.
Joe, you say that you don’t consider the book toned down, but for me, that’s the ONLY difference between this and the First Law world. The setting, characters, and plot could all have occurred in Bayaz’s stomping grounds. There’s only 1 viewpoint, but as far as the actual characterization, I think your regular fans will feel comfortably at home. So the only real separation involves occasional language tweaking and fewer bawdy descriptions. Slaves now “squat over a bucket” instead of shitting over the side. And gone are the ribald, important remarks on the female form. This absence is most blatantly apparent on the ship, where perhaps 50 chained men get to watch a gorgeous dame walk around free (gosh, I’ve got nothing to do but pull an oar all day, and I can’t find time to think up ONE decent lascivious comment). These omissions do take something away from it all, and the result is certainly one that feels toned down. Again, it’s still brilliant, but I couldn’t help but wonder why you didn’t just pour it all on. The characters would have been richer, and there would have been more at stake. No one wants to read about a rape on every page, but if there’s not even the POSSIBILITY of the girl getting raped, it’s hard to take the story seriously. Obviously, I know that you understand this since you and Martin share the award for greatest gritty fantasy writer by far. But if you felt bored with First Law, you could have tried crime fiction. Instead you chose to give us another amazing fantasy book, just a slightly toned down one!
Our son is 12 and has finished lord of the rings. Would you think it would be ok for him to read the half king or is it aimed to older audience? Thanks
[…] averne un assaggio dei primi sette capitoli potete passare qua; qui, invece, alcune interessanti considerazioni (più o meno condivisibili, ma interessanti comunque) dell’autore sulla letteratura per […]
[…] Yes, even for Grimdark Fantasy. Especially for it, perhaps. Even if it all goes to shit (like in Joe Abercrombie’s books), it’s real. Characters we love die or face death and torture, and we want more of […]
On Red Country now, then Sharp Ends. Hopefully Joe spits out another epic book by the time I finish….I might have to slow down a bit.
[…] from the rest of his works. (Abercrombie himself has some interesting thoughts on the matter here.) It’s still stark, still brutal, still cynical about human nature and what we do to each […]