Scalding, lukewarm, hot, hot…ish

February 22nd, 2008

Sci-Fi & Fantasy forum and review site SFFWorld, where I am occasionally to be found singing my own praises, have been voting on their favourite books of 2007 and guess what came top? Only Before They are Hanged. The Blade Itself was also fifth on the list for the second year running, which was nice. The full rundown, you ask? Well, if you insist:

1. Before They are Hanged
2. The Name of the Wind – Pat Rothfuss
3. Reaper’s Gale – Steve Erikson
4. Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb
5. The Blade Itself/The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

See how I’ve put the books that I wrote in bold face so that no-one misses them. Heavy on the series-based epic fantasy, I think it’s safe to say, but I’m not complaining.

Ken, over at Neth Space, rated The Blade Itself highly, but had a rather more lukewarm response to the sequel:

“If you enjoyed The Blade Itself, then chances are high that you’ll enjoy Before They Are Hanged … but since this is the second book of the trilogy, the novelty of the approach has worn off. With the novelty gone, things almost become tiresome in places … Without Abercrombie’s superior characterization and sardonic wit the plot would drag these books into obscurity instead of serving an adequate vehicle for what he’s really about.”

Interesting. I’m always a bit surprised when people don’t like the second book as much, as I (and my Mum, incidentally) think it’s better in pretty much every way. Most folks seem to agree, especially those who were perhaps a bit underwhelmed by the first, but there have definitely been a few commentators who really like the first book that are disappointed with the second. Perhaps it’s that the plot seems to follow a more well-worn epic fantasy style path in Before They are Hanged. I think that time will vindicate me, but, well, I guess you can’t please everyone.

Only look at Lilith St. Crow, author of Urban Fantasies such as Working for the Devil. She just so happens to have been reading The Blade Itself, and she despised it.

Only kidding!

“There’s wizards, mythology, kings, princes, a self-absorbed nobleman, ancient legends, fencing – all written so well I was grinding my teeth with envy whenever I HAD to put the book down. This is a fantastic start to a trilogy, and I can’t wait to get the next two books so I can see what happens next. There are some tropes, true, but they’re handled so deftly and characterised so beautifully they take on the status of old friends instead of worn-out archetypes.

In short, I can’t say enough good things about this book, and I highly recommend it.”

And finally … Pat, of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, who had, shall we say, qualified praise for the first two books, has cast his critical eye over Last Argument of Kings, and given it a pretty decent write up, I have to say:

“Last Argument of Kings is an excellent conclusion to what turned out to be a very entertaining series. And by demonstrating that he can close the show with a bang, Joe Abercrombie now holds the pole position as far as “the bright new voices of the fantasy genre” are concerned.”

Proof positive that I do indeed, as many have often suspected, “hold the pole.” OK, he gives it 8/10, but it’s an improvement on my previous pair of 7.5s, and I think it’s safe to say Pat has a ratings system as stern as Eowyn’s chastity belt. My epic quest to find an internet critic with the sheer courage, honour, and vision to give me full marks will continue, I swear it.

Posted in reviews by Joe Abercrombie on February 22nd, 2008.

7 comments so far

  • Isis says:

    Congratulations. Smug git.


  • Little Nicky says:

    Don’t take this as a dig but the second book is better and worse than the first.

    The second one is better down to the way its written, doesn’t drag like the first one did for me (dude meets wizard and goes to city, kid in city wins fight, old cripple finds corruption and so on). The Dogman side part of the story is great and you really feel like a part of the band. But and there always is one, the ending is one of the most annoying I’ve come across (don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the book yet but those who have will know what I mean).

    Second annoying part is the main group of characters/travelers just end up turning into one person and its all a little predictable (young posh toff starts becoming a man and no doubt the king in the next), the Ninefingers love bits were pretty awful (sorry) but they could have been so much better as in the Dogman story with the convict girl. The actual Dogman part which I would say is more of a side plot in the second book is the much better/tighter story.

    I haven’t forgotten about him, the Glokta story is pretty cool and much better than the first book (sorry but I get annoyed with the repetition of him not being able to walk properly and so on, I know this and just want to skip the bits that keep repeating it over and over and over.

    No matter what both books are entertaining and well worth a read and I’m sure the third will be the best of the bunch. If the writing continues to improve as it did in the and the story is tight, passionate and got some real emotion as well as the action then Last Argument of Kings will rock if it still has the annoying bits where you wish the characters would die then obviously it wont lol.

    Anyway thats my unwanted opinion lol. I know die hard fantasy fans will think I’m being nit picky about things but sometimes a point of view from someone whose a fan of books like Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, The Road (a serious must buy for anyone), The Dice Man, Hey Nostradamus! and so on can help keep the fantasy realm fresh.

  • Isis,
    Why thank you.

    Little Nicky,
    I’ve got to read dodgy reviews on my own website now?


  • Little Nicky says:

    Sorry was just an opinion, like you say its your site you can remove it.

  • Just kidding.

    If I couldn’t take way worse than that I’d be in the wrong game.

  • Elena says:

    Little Nicky, I have to disagree with you on the Ninefinger love bits. I found them singularly brilliant. Never read a better descript of initial sexual experience between two new partners. And by better I mean truer. How *do* we manage to convince ourselve anyone is worth a second try? Anyway, “imposter Abercrombie” (my Joe finally came to visit and saw your books laying around), some of us liked that bit quite a lot. Great job on the rest of it, too…don’t mean to imply that was the standout section of the book. Just wanted to put the opposing opinion out here. 🙂

  • Elena,
    Most people who mention it seem to like the sex, at least as distinct from the romanticised versions you tend to get in epic fantasy, where you get them at all. Guess it just goes to show that, in this as in everything else about writing, one man’s meat is another’s poison…

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