by Joe Abercrombie
Review by Steve Sawicki
Orbit Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316044981
Date: 07 February 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Black Dow's rule of the north is brutal and contrived. He is thought to have killed the Bloody Nine after the Bloody Nine killed Bethod, the former King of the North. Now the Dow has a war with the Union on his hands, one in which he is outnumbered and will surely lose, assuming the Union can ever manage to find a leader of the troops who knows what he is doing. So far, not so much and Black Dow has taken victory after victory or at the very least slipped away from sure defeat. Now it all comes together in an area surrounding a hilltop set with stones known as the Heroes. Black Dow and his named men and the Union with their incompetent leadership. Over three days the battle will ebb and flow and fully as much strategy and tactics will occur behind the lines as on them, for war is a place of opportunity and few know that better then the men who constantly fight in them.
This is a continuation of Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy. To be more precise it takes place after the events in the first three books and involves some of the same characters although it is not a direct continuation of events from that trilogy. Unlike that trilogy, which was broad and sweeping, this setting is small and with a very tight time frame. This keeps the number of characters involved down to just a few pages. Which is still a lot but if you have read Abercrombie before you know he is just as likely to kill half of them off before the end of the book.
As with his previous books, there is a dark humor that runs rife through out the pages. Perhaps it is a humor that must come with death for there is plenty of that as well. Likewise there is political intrigue, more plots than a large cemetery (I mean the kinds of plots that people get involved in and not the kind that authors get involved in), feuds and much planning of revenge. It's a large, very complex tapestry that Abercrombie builds for us. And he's got more than enough talent to pull it all off.
I've read all of Abercrombie's books to date and I have to admit that I like them very much. He has a very definitive way of building and moving characters that I find enjoyable. And he is able to create characters of different motivations and spirit and backgrounds that serve to individualize them and keep things interesting. His characters are quirky to say the least. And the cast of characters is very large.
I found the plot of this novel, which is pretty straightforward, both interesting and simple. There are some subplots but they are all dependent upon the main plot so everything revolves around this one setting in which a very big battle is going to take place that will involve pretty much everyone. This can be very hard to pull off since everyone is on the stage at the same time. But Abercrombie manages it with skill and talent. Highly recommended.