What THEY are saying this year

January 13th, 2008

Ah, more reaction to Last Argument of Kings, this time from Ariel over at The Genre Files. Now in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that Ariel has been known to do some work for, among many other genre writers, me. In fact he designed the rather wonderful website that you are currently looking at. However, I wouldn’t want the fact that I occasionally give him money to distract you from this, his entirely honest and unbiased opinion on The First Law:

“all in all it has been one of the most incredible, twisted, inventive and above all utterly enjoyable fantasy reading experiences I’ve had in a very, very long time.”

Top stuff, my man. Next up, a really insightful look at The Blade Itself from the attractively titled Cesspit. I won’t quote from it because it’s quite long and involved – more a proper piece of criticism than a review, but suffice it to say that there are some interesting points about the pacing, the approach, the characters, the influence of theatre on the writing style, etc. etc. Alright, just one quote:

“Go buy and read it no matter of your personal tastes. This book won’t disappoint.”

Elena from Baton Rouge rated my phrase “his face was redder than a slapped arse” among her figurative language of the week, and Kay Kenyon, a much respected sci-fi/fantasy writer (of Bright of the Sky among others) and a stablemate at Pyr has also been reading The Blade Itself, and seems to like it:

“It’s always fun to discover a new, talented author, and Joe Abercrombie is certainly one of those. You should read this book for the dialogue alone, and for the nasty and appealing villain, Glokta.”

Thank you, Kay, glad you’re enjoying the books. One of these days I should get my head out of my ass and read yours, among many others. It’s just so warm and comfortable in here…

/dev/random has just finished Before They are Hanged, meanwhile. The series is definitely growing on him:

“The characters in this book jump from the page, with deeply carved characterisations, while still allowing for them to grow as the story progresses. Vanities and frailties are explored along with the meaning of strength. There is even some clever mixing in of the ugliness and stupidity of racism, neither heavy handed nor out of place.

To say that I love this book is an understatement.”

Me too, dev, I love that book. “But Joe,” I hear you cry, “we find it much more amusing when people think your books are shite! Surely someone’s been cussing you off over the last couple of weeks?” Well, as it happens, Beezer had some criticisms of The Blade Itself:

“As a reader, I should not be expected to expend copious amounts of energy trying to determine just what the book is about.”

Ah, well, you see, I thought, you know, that working it out might be part of the fun, and maybe–

“Secondly, inconsistent characters. Mr. Abercrombie is very good at writing the gritty, tough, characters. However, when the character shifts to a less sure, more naive character it becomes quite clear this is an area for improvement.”

Sorry. Sorry. I’ll get right on that, and–

“there are times when this book becomes severely bogged down and almost seems like a chore to read. I believe this is a combination of the lack of plot and inconsistent characters.”

Oh. Oh dear. Well of course I wouldn’t want–

“There are some positives with this novel.”

Woo Hoo! Crack out the champagne!

“Mr. Abercrombie does show a knack for writing a solid tale. I think once he hones his craft and is able to correct some of this deficiencies he will truly be a name to watch in the fantasy genre.”

Ah. Maybe put the champagne away. At least until I’ve honed my craft a touch.

“I would have liked a map to be included to give reference points,”

Don’t get me started.

“The few bumps that were present can easily be corrected with more practice…In the end I will give it a 3 out of 5, because I truly believe Mr. Abercrombie can do better and has a bright future.”

Get the champagne out again! Let’s saddle up those three stars and ride them bad boys off into my bright future! Yeee-Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Posted in reviews by Joe Abercrombie on January 13th, 2008.

9 comments so far

  • disrepdog says:

    Rough with the smooth I guess

    Maps…, Don’t get me started.

    I read your blog last year on maps. I’m in the undecided camp. What I like better is a cast list.

  • Elena says:

    Wowee wow wow! I’m a they! This is almost as fun as when I met my hero, Sharon Shinn (who writes in a VERY different corner of the fantasy genre), and she asked if I was the Elena with the blog. Yeah. I didn’t even have to initiate contact to tell her how awesome I thought she was. Rawk.

  • isis says:

    Ha ha ha ha. Could do better. It would be even funnier if you’d never had that written on your report card at school and you’d had to wait all this time to finally hear it. Well, let me be the first to shake you by the hand.

  • Susanne says:

    *waves* New here, love the books, *insert fangirl squeeee*, etc etc…

    I was just about to ask what your beef with maps is, but I note that disrepdog mentions a previous entry on them in this your fine blog. So I shan’t get you started, but ask:

    disrepdog, have you got the link to that entry? Or maybe point a n00b to the search feature she can’t find? Thankies 🙂

  • Disrepdog,
    Ah, the old Dramatis Personae, huh? I’m not totally convinced by those either, if I’m honest, but I may post one up on the website at some point, as someone at my publisher was asking the other day…

    You are indeed a they. I’m like Rumplestiltskin, you only have to say my name somewhere on the internet and I will find you. It works in my favour that there aren’t that many Joe Abercrombies around.

    Yes, I like it best when they have advice for how I might raise my work above the mediocre. Unfortunately, everyone has different and often conflicting advice. What’s a guy to do? Ignore them and do whatever I like, you say? There’s an idea…

    Always happy to welcome a new arrival, and I never can resist a fangirl squeeeeee, the shriller the better. Try this:


  • Not wanting to nit-pick with the not-so-flattering reviewer, but how can your book “lack [a] plot”, when he says that you have a “knack for writing a solid tale”, on the strength of this, your first book? Doesn’t that lack sense?

  • Stefan,
    It’s interesting how different things annoy different readers. Some readers think the pace is fast, others find it very slow, or that the book has a slow start but picks up, which always surprised me as I’d always thought the pace was quick right from the off.

    This ‘lacking of a plot’ seems to be quite a common complaint, especially with American readers, for some reason. I understand where they’re coming from – this first book doesn’t have an obvious plot, simply spelled out in the way that’s common with fantasies. It’s like the first third of a mystery book in a way – a set of scattered points and the relationships between them don’t really begin to appear until well into the first book. A lot of it doesn’t become obvious until the third volume. Of course, with a mystery you’ll get the answers at the end of one book. It’s a risky strategy with a fantasy series, and asks for a lot of patience (and faith) on the part of the reader. I knew I was playing the long game with this, and that a lot of the payoff won’t come until people have read the whole series. In a way I’m quite surprised that the first book has gone down as well as it has on its own.

    I guess some people, not unreasonably, don’t really have the patience for that approach or, again not unreasonably, don’t believe that things ever will come together, and don’t see why they should hang around on the off chance. As with everything else, it’s really just a question of taste – whether you feel that the characters themselves pull you through, or whether not knowing where you’re going spoils the experience. Myself, I like not knowing, because when I’m reading I like being surprised more than anything. But as with any other aspect of an author’s approach, not everyone will agree on what works.

  • Susanne says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply! I’m practicing a specially high-pitched squee as I type. Plaster is still falling from the ceiling.

    I went and read the map essay and I’m not going to disagree with you and I’m not going to be an ass and complain, but I’d like to say that I like maps, and I’d absolutely love to see one for The First Law. The reason being, I’m a somewhat inattentive reader and thus forget where the various characters are in relation to each other.

    This happens to me all the time, and that’s why I find maps helpful. I don’t use them to finnicky-pinnicky calculate whether a character could or could not have accomplished a journey in the postulated time, or some such anal nonsense, but I do like to refer to a map when I find that I’ve forgotten whether someone is travelling south or north or east or widdershins…

    Anyway, as you say you want the reader focused on the character, may I be so bold and say that you’re doing a bloody great job doing just that? I, for one, am totally in love with Glotka.

    On that bombshell — have a great Thursday. 😉

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