Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (8 Mar 2007)
I've not read any Abercrombie before.
So what's this one? Well, in many ways, it's very generic fantasy. Norse-like barbarians in, surprise, the north, with a European land further south into which they raid. Elsewhere, distinctly Arabian and Oriental cultures. So, at first sight, not very promising at all. But then you encounter the major characters, among them: Logen Ninefingers, a killer thug (or 'hero', depending on one's viewpoint); Glokta the Inquisitor (or torturer in most people's vocabulary); the genial Gandalf figure Bayaz, who's apparently supposed to be this famous wizard who disappeared long ago, and whom nobody now believes to be more than a fraud.
There's a grittiness to this story. With a professional torturer (and one-time torturee) among the cast, that's to be expected.
That's the difference between this and standard Extruded Fantasy Product. Someone here hasn't been oiling the die, they've been sanding the channels instead, and the result is hard and torn, not smooth mind candy. When the reader realises that although they don't want to be on the same continent as Glokta, for example, and yet they're beginning to sympathise with him, then they know there's something different here. If I have criticisms, it's that the plot is quite generic, and the setting is probably from the second drawer down in the standard scenery file cabinet. Oh, and this is the 'gathering the characters' volume. But, despite those flaws, it has its qualities too, and I want to see where these people are going.