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.
One of the best things about Joe's books before this one is the reading done by Steven Pacey. He's one of the reasons I found this series to begin wit..Show More »h. I don't know the politics of changing from him but please bring him back.
This voice actor chose to give the main character, a female, a sort of poor Liverpool accent. EVERY OTHER CHARACTER had a more normal accent, except for a couple with an excessive Scottish accent. She is supposed to be educated but sounds like an idiot. I don't get this decision at all. It was very annoying to listen to. The other main character? Well, he grew up poor and uneducated, he gets a normal English accent. Ugh.
He also spoke in a sort of high-low sing song way that was very distracting. Thankfully he lessened it after a few hours. I don't know what the deal was but I almost returned this book because of the reader. I kept it because I do love Abercrombie books and want to support the author.
So, the story is pretty good, it's different than his previous stuff but interesting. I would recommend giving it a listen first to see if you can handle the voice actor.
And John Keating, maybe this was just a bad outing for you, maybe not. I don't want to judge on one book but please, think through your characters and don't try to put so much bloody play into the words that aren't dialogue.
I read all three books in the shattered sea trilogy and then recommended them to my mother who is reading them now. I will now start The Blade Itself...Show More » Hope Mr. Abercrombie is hard at work on his next book.