Yarvi, second son of the feared King Uthrik and the ruthless Queen Laithlin of Gettland, was born with a useless hand, and cannot hold a shield, or make fast a knot, or pull an oar, or do any of the things expected from a man. Left an outcast, he's surrendered his birthright and been given a woman's place as apprentice to Mother Gundring, Gettland's Minister, training to be an adviser, diplomat, healer and translator.
But when his father and brother are murdered by Grom-gil-Gorm, King of neighboring Vansterland, Yarvi is forced to take the Black Chair and become king himself - or half a king, at least - swear an oath of vengeance against the killers of his father, and lead a raid against the Vanstermen. Betrayed, left for dead, and enslaved on a rotting trading galley, Yarvi will need all his Minister's wit and cunning to escape, and all his diplomacy and knowledge to keep a rag-tag band of other slaves together on a month long trek across the frozen wastes of the utmost north. Among them are Sumael, the ship's single-minded navigator, Rulf, an ex-raide, Jaud, an ex-baker, and Nothing, a mad old man with a mysterious past and an almost magical skill with a sword. And their owner, the brutal Captain Shadikshirram, will be dogging their heels at every step. Father Peace may be the patron god of Ministers, but to reclaim the Black Chair, Yarvi will have to strike a deal with Mother War, and once you've invited the mother of crows to be your guest, there can be no telling whose blood will be spilled.
©2014 Joe Abercrombie (P)2014 Recorded Books
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
Perhaps Joe Abercrombie is a little weary of seeing the word "gritty" attached to his name in every other review, however accurate it may be. But formulaic is not an alternative to gritty; it's just...formulaic. Most of this book you have read before. Admittedly Abercrombie does it at least as well and mostly better than others, but it is impossible not to sigh and wonder why he decided to attend the party without his best clothes on. Still, reweaving old threads into a costume which is perhaps somewhat more stylish than the original demonstrates skill, albeit little inspiration. Less wise was his impulse to rework a peerless piece of stitching (a scene from Hamlet) and leave it hanging tattered on the rack. The advice comics give to their peers, "If you are going to steal, steal from the best," is not necessarily good counsel for writers.
All that being said, this is still Abercrombie, and his second or third best work is well worth reading. The ending, in particular, is very well crafted (will we have to wait until a sequel or two have come and gone before we can get you fully back, Joe?), and I was never really bored or confused. I certainly do not regret the credit, though I was also never astonished, never shocked, never terrified, never convulsed with laughter, never deeply moved, never transfixed by an image. Much more tender, much less muddy. But oh how the mighty have fallen. An extra star off for the descent from the heights, I'm afraid.
John Keating does a perfectly creditable job with the narration. Stephen Pacey or Michael Page, as much as I admire them both, would have been poor choices for this wide-eyed, coming of age story. Keating uses a variety of Scots, Irish and English dialects to set and identify the characters, and he only occasionally misses a meaningful inflection. It is strange hearing him read Abercrombie only because this is not the JA we are all used to.
I love Joe Abercrombie books and have read them repeatedly, but to my great disappointment the narrator made this one very hard to get through. His voice is one note and does not provide a good character depth. The story itself was a very good one and I would like to eventually read again, but not through the same means.
Maybe it's unfortunate that Joe Abercrombie set the bar so high with his previous books, but this was a woeful anticlimax. Having come to expect masterly character development I found these characters rather weak, not believable in the same way as Glokta and the Bloody Nine.
Perhaps my review could have gained another star had the narrator been Steven Pacey, but this reader was not into the story in the same way.
After all the negative reviews from disappointed First Law readers, I ordered this with some trepidation. But I actually quite enjoyed it. I didn't find it watered down at all, compared to the First Law... just different. Maybe a little breezier and quicker paced. It kept me entertained and had some cool twists I didn't see coming.
I also thought the narration was really good. Comparing him to Steven Pacey in the First Law (possibly the best narration EVER) is kind of an unfair comparison. Putting the comparison aside, I thought he did a great job.
I would not change anything about the writing. I would change the narrator.
I made it to chapter 7 and just couldn't take the narrator anymore.
My irritation went beyond my limits of endurance for several reasons: 1) narrator used the same voice for the main character and the non-character narration; 2) he also had a habit of reading some statements as if they were questions (he did this most often with the female voices); 3) and most irritating of all he gave one of the elder female characters a sing-song lilting voice that after a while became very distracting as the way her words were read did not match how I think the author intended her to be saying them. It was evident from the writing that she is a wise character yet the voice given by the narrator made her sound flighty.
Pretty much anyone else. I can tell John Keating has talent with voices. However, I have never listened to anything he has read other than this book. Therefore I do not know if this is just a matter of his (or the producers) not choosing the correct candence.
I enjoyed the story enough that I am willing to purchase the kindle edition and read it. That is saying a lot since I prefer listening to audiobooks now that I have some issues with my eyes.
I have read from others that this is young adult and I am not a fan of young adult fantasy, but I am looking forward to see how Joe Abercrombie presents a less gritty tale. My question.... Is it really young adult or is it just very light in the grit. Already I could see depth to the characters and the story that I do not usually find in the young adult fantasy that I purchas by mistake (because they are not labeled as young adult by Audible)
If readers are making that determination based on the audiobook I could definitely see how the narrator, with his over the top fairytale voices, could lend to a young adult feel.
I'm a teacher and a 30 year reader of genre fiction. Urban and Epic fantasy are my main jams.
To Everyone Who Hates or is Disappointed in This Book Because It's Not A Depressing Slog That Includes The Loss of a Major Appendage,
You aren't impressing anyone. This isn't the next book set in The First Law's world, but it's fine. Engaging and sweet, cliche at times but still solid. It's short and to the point and I'm curious about what's next. For a YA book. that's enough.
A fan of epic fantasy...the darker the better!
There's no doubt that Joe Abercrombie is one of the best authors in modern fantasy. What I love most about his previous books is the dark, raw, and utterly fascinating world he creates. While this book is good...it doesn't feel like Joe Abercrombie. It lacked the humor, the grit, and it felt so rushed. We barely know the main character and I really didn't care much about him. I feel like he was pressured to write a more tone downed family friendly book. It's good, just not what we've come to know and love from Joe Abercrombie.
The narration works for this novel...much more innocent. I think John Keating did an excellent job.
Narrator took me awhile to get used to, but once I got used to it he was fine. Not as 'gritty' as much of Abercrombie, but still very much in his style. Characters may not be as memorable, but the story flowed well to a satisfying conclusion.
No one. The performance is terrible. Mumbled words, falsetto's and so on. I love the author and story, but for the first time, I could not listen fully to one of his books. It required too much work to follow what the reader was saying.
Almost everything. Annoying performance.
I am a lover of fantasy novels with exciting action, complex plots, and unforgettable characters.
Let me start by saying that I love Joe Abercrombie as an author. I have read all six of his previous novels and I was excited to read this novel as soon as it came out. I was however, a bit hesitant when I heard it was going to be a young adult novel, because one of Abercrombie's best writing skills is his harsh gritty books. He did not strike me as an author of young adult fantasy. I was partially right. This book was like no young adult novel I have ever read. It was much more violent and a good deal more serious. However, you could tell that Abercrombie's style was fighting threw during the entire novel. It was what I would call Abercrombie toned down, that is without the gory battle seens, sex, and harsh language. After finishing this book I must say that I prefer all of his previous novels. I am not saying this was a bad book at all, I gave it 4 stars, but it wasn't the same break neck rush of combat, intrigue, and gritty characters as his first six novels. The first third of the book kind of disappointed me a bit, it just didn't have the same flare his first books had, I just couldn't get hooked. However, I am a firm believer in giving books a chance, so I kept reading. The second third was much better and because this is not a long book, I easily flew threw the rest to the end. And oh boy the end was a treat, the way Abercrombie raps everything up is incredible. The last third of the book sold me on reading the next one for sure. Everything is put in place to create an excellent and more action packed and intrigue filled sequel. This review was a little different from most of my other ones I have written because I assume the people who are reading this novel have already read some of Abercrombie's other books and understand the quality of his writing, the complexity of his plot, and the skill of his characterization. The two small issues in this book in my opinion are that the plot took some time to get interesting and there was much less of Abercrombie's usual cruel humor as in his previous books. As a final note the narrator Mr. Keating did a fairly good job. His character voices were differentiated enough to tell them apart and his voice inflection was also very good. I would recommend getting this book if you like Abercrombie even though it isn't quite as good as his previous works, it is still better than a lot of the books out there.
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