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.
“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.