Formula is not the opposite of gritty; it's just..
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 for..Show More »mulaic 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.
Let me start by saying I am a huge Abercrombie fan and have read all of his books. He is a superb author, his action scenes are nearly unmatched, and ..Show More »his plots always have many hidden parts. The one thing he is not meant to do is right young adult fantasy. I have read a lot of YA fantasy in my time and a lot of adult fantasy for that matter, and I would say that this book is very graphic to be considered YA. The first book in this trilogy seemed a bit toned down from his usual amount of graphic violence and explicit language, whitch made complete sense because it was supposed to be a YA novel. However, I would say this novel is much more similar to his original work in the First Law universe than it is to its prequel. I am not saying this is a bad thing, far from it, I really loved his first novels and was not too pleased with the first novel in this series. It was still a good book, but it just kind of felt forced. However, this book does not suffer from this issue and it seemed like he was in his full writing glory again. His action scenes were as always perfect, his plot was absolutely genius with many shocking turns, and his characters were well developed. the only thing that hurt this novel a bit were the romance scenes, whitch felt rather stretched and forced to me. Overall, it was a great book and the narrator also did a fine job. I would definitely recommend it as your next read.