What They Said in May 08

June 3rd, 2008

It’s been a while since I trawled the dank corners of the interweb for opinions about my books. Well, it’s been about ten minutes. But it’s been a while since I talked to you lot about it. Time to set that straight…

Salvek – no, not a vulcan, but a Frenchman – has been reading the French translation of The Blade Itself to accompany a piece of burned toast, at Fantasy au Petit-Dejeuner. My French (or possibly vulcan) is nowhere near good enough to understand what he might actually have said. Bonus points to anyone who can tell me…

To quote The Usual Suspects, “in … English … please.” Fellow Fantasy Author Tim Stretton, who has his first commercially published novel, The Dog of the North out later this year (he didn’t pay me to say that, I just thought it was good manners), has also been reading The Blade Itself:

“Abercrombie is a real talent. I can’t remember enjoying a debut novel so much for years. He understands the tropes of the fantasy genre and is able to subvert them in a way which is both invigorating and respectful of the genre. There isn’t–yet–a great deal of plot, but the characters are so compelling that it doesn’t matter. He also has a highly entertaining blog which mixes pleasingly ironic self-aggrandisement (at least I assume it’s ironic…) with some perceptive observations on writing in the fantasy genre.”

Why, that’s this blog, you lucky f*ckers! Moving onto Before They are Hanged, SQT has been giving it the once over at her Fantasy and Sci-Fi lovin’ Book Review:

“Despite a few critiques, I still think “Before They are Hanged” is a superior book in an outstanding series. Abercrombie has style that I have never really seen before. It’s a kind of no-holds-barred, in-your-face fantasy epic that takes all the typical fantasy tropes and says – I’m not going to do what you think I’m going to do, and you’re gonna like it.”

Yes you will, or your money back, guaranteed! (note that actual money will not in reality be returned under any circumstances). Joe Sherry has also read the second book at Adventures in Reading. He has some interesting points about the old middle-book syndrome, but not in relation to my work, oh no!

“Before They Are Hanged improves upon the vision of the first novel, feels more tightly written (for whatever that means or is worth) and overall *feels* like a stronger novel. It lacks the freshness that can only exist in the opening novel of a series, but it measures up to the promise of the first book. Another fine effort from Abercrombie.”

Jessica Strider, from The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto has meanwhile completed the trilogy with a read of Last Argument of Kings. It’s only a quicky so I’ll quote the whole thing:

“The third in the First Law trilogy is not a book you can read alone, you must read the first two to understand the action (and they’re great books so what are you waiting for?). Having said that, and in the interest of not posting spoilers I’ll simply say: expect surprises. Lots of them. Everyone gets betrayed and no one gets what they deserved… A brilliant book with a completely unexpected and non-traditional ending.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. And I’m a writer.

No one cussing off my work this month? Well, not really, so far as I could tell. I guess my stuff just truly must be that good. Feel free to restore the cosmic balance by cussing me in the comments section. I probably won’t respond for a while as I’ll be away down in Cornwall for a week, off the internet. But I can be outraged on my return, don’t worry about that.

Posted in reviews by Joe Abercrombie on June 3rd, 2008. Tags:

18 comments so far

  • Ernz says:

    Your books are truly one of a kind. It is so good. Much respect to you. Please keep writing more!

  • Tim Stretton says:

    Thanks for the name-check, Joe!

    I’m now halfway through “Before They Are Hanged” and have no reason to revise my favourable opinion. More about this on my blog once I’ve finished the book and given jetlag a Ninefingered coup-de-grace…

  • Alex says:

    French is a bit rusty, but here goes. The first 3 and a half minutes of Salvek’s review are basically explaining the characters’ backgrounds…

    He says Jezal is “cliché par excellence”

    Overall, he “really liked it very much indeed”.

    Goes on about anti-heroes being great, and your anti-heroes being particularly great.

    Then says that the best/central thing about the novel is your sense of humour, which he says is typically English… then describes it, ending by saying that it’s got a “spirit” that is “un peu bad-ass”. (Have to say, didn’t realise that “bad-ass” had made it to the French language…)

    He says his only complaint is that the writing is a bit “laborious”, particularly in the first hundred pages. (Blame the translator?)

    But he ends by saying it’s great, and recommends it to anyone who wants to read something new. Calls it fantasy of the 21st century, as opposed to any of those dull and boring centuries that have already ended.

    (And he ends by wishing everyone a very good Friday and a very good weekend. How nice of him!)

  • etrangere says:

    … I was going to translate that, then I realised it was a video format. What kind of text-phobic idiot blog in video?
    Argh, what must I do for bonus point.

    so it starts with blahblah about new phenomenon and three volumes finished then he starts talking about the book.
    “The story deals with three characters, the first one is Logen Ninefinger, who is a barbarian who lives in the Northern kingdom and is hunted down by everyone. He’s a former bloodthirsty champion/hero/warrior but his best years are behind him, now he’s hunted down by everyone, he’s been banished by Betok who’s the king of the Northmen and he’s been hunted by the local authochtons, some kinds of savages called the flat heads, and they exterminated his group of companion so now Logen is by his own with nothing else to do but trying to survive. And he’s going to fall, by lucky chance, under the command of a wizard, Bayaz, who is the First of the Magi, and who decided to oppose the powerlust of Betok. Now we’re going to follow another character called Jezal. He’s the clichéed noble character. He’s the arrogant, con descendant, bursting with pride noble’s son. Who has only one ambition in life, that’s drinking alcohol, flirting with the ladies, and play cards and spend all his money. Not something very fascinating, but Jezal has been chosen to fight in a fencing tournament, but there’s a war in preparation, and that war is against the Northern kingdom and the king Betok who is very powerthirsty. So Jezal must train harder than ever and maybe gets swallowed in this infernal spiral of the war. The third character is the one you can see on the cover, he’s called Glokta. You can see he’s a torturer. He works for the Inquisition. And he’s charged to lead the rather muscled interrogations with his two acolytes against members accused of heresy. Glokta’s problem is that he’s a former champion, hero of the Union, who unfortunately has been captured during the former war, who went through the enemy’s various gaols and torture rooms, and who managed to survive against all expectations, but who went back totally crippled, with a deformed leg, with missing teeth etc. etc. so he’s a kind of freak no one wants to look at. But this constant pain and his rage against what happened to him makes me excel in his work as a torturer. The story tells how Glokta will have to help the head of the Inquisition to assert his domination on the rest of the Council.
    There will be war, battles, twists, there are assassinations to be expected.
    Personally, I really liked it. It was a good surprise, I was expecting something much less interesting, much more hyped without a reason. I was really swept into the story. The characters are very sympathetic, there’s this pronounced anti-hero aspect, maybe apart from Jezal who is really a young noble rather moronic on the side and very arrogant. The two other are really typical anti hero figures, characters whose best times are really behind them, people who’ve suffered a lot, who have blood all over their hands, who have a limited sense of morality but still with a sense of justice that makes them sympathetic, but who are not necessarily on the side of good, even rather on the side of evil, at least they were often in the past. And it’s difficult going back to the good side once you’ve drenched your hands into barrels of blood. That’s what I really liked.
    And, also, the big strength of the novel is the humour. You really laugh when you read Abercrombie’s book, there are killing oneliners, witty retorts, a typically Brittish humour which really hilarious by moments. It’s really a side of mean humour, not well educated. As the English says there’s spirit in this book that is kind of “badass”, kind of vulgar and not well educated, and that’s what makes the charm of this book, that brings this new wind.
    For the flaws you can however noted the writing is somewhat laborious. The first hundred pages, you can feel it’s a first novel.
    You can see the editions J’ai Lu haven’t done their best. You can see the two differ

  • isis says:

    Well, allow me to be the first to say: you’re rubbish.

    Someone had to say it – it’s like an episode of The Good Life round here. 🙂

    You should join us for a drink in early July. Peadar’s coming over. Some of his humility might rub off on you.

  • El_K says:

    After reading your blog for the last couple of month’s I could cuss you for many things but never your writing, loving your work Joe.

    Read an interesting article about titles that relates to the modern swearing agument. Aparently its with good reason the Norman title of Count never surplanted the Saxon Duke 🙂

    For heaven’s sake man write SPOILERS in big letters before a post like that there are too many unfortunates out there who haven’t started let alone finished the trilogy yet!

  • ernz,
    Why thank you.

    Look forward to hearing more.

    Thanks for the translation efforts.

    I think holding readers in contempt would be giving them a simple, happy ending, or a neat and tragic one of the type they’ve seen a hundred times before. But tastes vary. I’ve cut your post just because of the spoilers, cause there may be a few folks reading this who haven’t read the books. But higher up there’s a post called ‘Ending like an avalanche’ where you can express yourself freely…

    Thank you. You are rubbish too. I’ll see about the July date but I think I’ve got the baby the evening.

    Why, thank you again.

  • SQT says:

    I wish the spoilers had been deleted before I got to them.


  • Anonymous says:

    Say one thing for this Abercrombie guy, say that he knows how to make me laugh.

    Just finished the trilogy and can’t say I’ve ever read something like that. Gritty, cynical and humorous. Just honest.

    Add characters that act so realistically (read: flawed). They really did it for me.

    Glokta and his monologues. Hahaha! Need I say more?

    Ah, yes, I do: my wife complained about my maniac laughter.
    “What the f*** are you reading that is so damn funny?”

    All I can say to that is that I never expected to read a fantasy book with an old, wet and naked wizard rumbling “What the f*** is this?”

    Concerning the first and second parts, I can’t come to grips with some of the criticism they received. Especially by that ‘slasher’ that sounds like “Bee”. Alas, you have to be realistic: tastes (and abilities) differ.

    Thanks, Abercrombie dude. I’m looking forward to your next book.

    White Dow Jason.

    PS: thanks for that GTA 4 review. Being a PC guy, I have yet to give it a shot. Be assured, though, that you’re going to get your cussing should it prove to be better than SA.

    PPS: Shivers really impressed me.

  • fsmn36 says:

    Congrats on all the good reviews! It’s nice to be validated once in awhile. 😉 I can’t wait to get home and be able to pick up Before They Are Hanged. It’s first on my list of summer reading.

  • SQT says:

    Tastes do differ and there were moments that, had I been writing it, I might have toned it down. But maybe that would just be compromising something.

    Joe wrote a brilliant series and stayed true to his original vision. What more could you ask?

  • isis says:

    I’m just trying to inject some gritty realism into your Comments. You don’t want all your fans to be drooling sycophants, do you? Silly question.

    We’re starting when the pubs open I think (rather than going out in the evening). If you fancy it on the day give Wertykins a bell…

  • Theology Jen says:

    Looking foward to reading Last Argument on holiday next week – in fact looking foward to the book almost more than to the holiday itself!

    Please continue to write one fabulous book a year or our annual holiday will be untenable, and I’m sure you don’t want that on your conscience.

  • daft sod says:

    Although I got my share of spoilers before I finished the trilogy, I still wanted to read it to the end. Spoilers just made it more interesting and fueled my anticipation. A good fantasy book is more than just the ending anyway (the First Law Trilogy certainly is).

  • Red Joker says:

    Hey! Just wanted to give you a shout and thank you for your work.

    I picked up The Blade Itself a few weeks ago – I was in Waterstones searching for a decent new fantasy book and spotted its cover first. The Guardian’s “delightfully twisted and evil” comment ensured that my bus fare for the week went towards the book instead. I do not regret the blisters.

    Then I spent one sunny day engrossed in Before They Are Hanged, and now I’m stretching out Last Argument as long as I can.

    Good sir, I will shower you with money and fragrant blossoms in return for more stories. Here’s hoping you have a long and fruitful writing career ahead of you. 🙂

    PS. I love Glokta SO MUCH.

  • Anguish says:

    I picked up TBI and BTAH last year and was please with how enjoyable a read they were. Typically I skim most things I read on the basis that authors are meaninglessly wordy. Endless descriptions of the precise shade of blue that a spring day’s sky is endowed with is nothing but a waste of paper. These two books presented a different experience entirely. Choice of phrase was carefully crafted not for the ego-boosting of the author, but for the enjoyment of the reader. Much like a fine Monty Python or Douglas Adams work, I found myself eagerly reading every word, (justly) expecting each was worth my time. Kudos.

    I bought LAOK earlier this week, but sadly must put off reading it until I finish re-reading the first two. One (positive) thing that I will say about this third book is that the paper used for the trade binding is once again, quite excellent. Good publisher, Joe.

  • Bibsy says:

    I’m going to sound like a big girl for saying this (but then I am), but your books battered the life and almost the light out of me. It drove me to search for light fiction (and nicer folk) just so that I could remove myself from the hellish world you created (and I wallowed in). Talk about recovering from PTS!
    However, thank you for rescuing Fantasy pour moi, it was hard work, but it was sooooooooo worth it.

  • Ha ha.

    Thanks, all, for the encouragement. Gratefully received.

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