A Little Hatred
By Joe Abercrombie
A fantasy writer needs to be aware that they could fall into a rut. Another trilogy of books set in the same world, with similar characters doing similar things. This may appease those fans that fear change, but to drive themselves as a writer it is important to evolve; even if evolving within the fantasy genre can be complex. This has never been an issue for Joe Abercrombie whose books started off as low fantasy but have since touched on as diverse subjects as the futility of war, the Wild West and his own take on The Count of Monte Cristo. Within the pages of A Little Hatred, Abercrombie quotes the great Terry Pratchett and there is a connection between the two authors. One may be a master of comedic fantasy, the other a master of low fantasy, but both created worlds that refused to stand still. Welcome to the age of the Industrial Revolution.
The world of the First Law is evolving, the old magic continues to wain and in its stead comes science. The ability to produce industrial scale materials has changed the face of the cities. Rural citizens turfed from their homes now reside in the smog choked streets and they are not happy. Meanwhile, in the harsher lands, war is once more upon us. With no sign of support the young Leo dan Brock must defend against the murderous North Men. Which will win out in this Industrial Revolution; the industry or the revolution?
At first glance it is hard to visualise the world of Hatred with that from the First Law trilogy, but this is the same land, just decades later. To give returning fans of the books something to grasp there are many returning characters – many of them older, but not much wiser. Abercrombie has always done a fantastic job of taking a side character from a previous novel and giving them a bigger billing. By the time this novel comes about there is a whole roster of character for you to embrace once more and a whole bunch of brilliant new ones too.
Like many fantasy books, Hatred consists of a series of interweaving storylines. The main divide here is the city and the north. It is almost like there are two timelines; one of industry and one of medieval warfare. It can feel a little jarring to witness the developments that man has made in industry, but not in the art of war. This is perhaps the only misstep in the entire novel, but you are willing to forgive the juxtaposition as both elements are highly entertaining.
The most tense and exciting parts of the book are set in the cities. We follow revolutionaries and their opposites, the secret police. Abercrombie has always painted a dark outlook onto his world, but the squalor that the common folk find themselves makes you angry. The only thing worse is the sense of dread. Abercrombie uses a fantasy setting to explore class divide in a way that is as eye opening as it is heart breaking. The best fantasy is not stuck in the past but is an evolving genre that reflects the world of today – Hatred does just this.
If you are a fan of good books then this novel should be on your to be read pile, whether you are a fan of the fantasy genre or not. There is not a whole number of fantastical elements to the book and it is more like an alternative medieval land. The use of graphic language is regular, so it is a book best suited to an adult audience only. That is for the best as there are some challenging ideas in the book. You can just read it as a rip-roaring action story, but to get the most out of it you should be someone who questions this pretext – there is far more to in the book than mere blood and guts.
Written on 13th November 2019 by Sam Tyler .