Today, Joe Abercrombie, best known for his fantasy trilogy, The First Law, announced his next novel today. It’s called Half a King, it’s unrelated to The First Law and it is aimed ‘partly at younger readers (maybe the 12-16 range).’ Abercrombie explains his decision to leave the world of The First Law and adult fiction behind (albeit temporarily):
[Half a King is] much shorter – 80,000 words compared to 175,000 for my shortest, Red Country, and 230,000 for my longest, Last Argument of Kings (though still over twice the length of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, believe it or not). It’s set in a very different world with what you might call a viking or anglo-saxon feel. It’s much more focused, with a single point of view. It’s not so overtly ‘gritty’ although it’s a long way from smooth.
I’ve published six hefty adult fantasy books in seven years. Although I’ve tried to make them all different in some ways – different structures, different settings, different points of view – they’re all pretty beefy, they’re all set in the same world, they have a similar tone, they cover some of the same ground. Though I’m very happy with and proud of the result, Red Country was a difficult book to write. I felt at times somewhat uninspired. Somewhat burned out. I really didn’t want, as I had every time in the past, to go straight on to working on the next book in the First Law world right after finishing one. I felt the need to step back, recharge the batteries, try something at least a little bit different. But at the same time I didn’t want the acorn to fall too far from the tree – I wanted it to be something that my established readers would enjoy, or perhaps even love with a flaming passion. I wanted to set up two separate lines of work that would complement each other creatively and commercially.
More than any other contemporary author, Abercrombie is known for injecting life (and, perhaps it could be argued, popularizing entirely) the fantasy’s popular movement towards ‘grimdark’ storytelling (don’t know what that it? Let Elizabeth Bear tell you), so it’s unusual (but, if you ask this guy, refreshing) to see him step away from that completely for his next series.
As much as I enjoy Abercrombie, I can only take so much of his trademark droll dialogue, self-destructive characters (despite my love for them!) and frenetic violence before I feel like the world’s about to fall out from under my feet. Abercrombie describes Half a King as ‘punchy’ rather than ‘gritty,’ and he hopes ‘to deliver a slap in the face with every page.’ The biggest issue with some of his recent books is their tendency to feel like the author was trying to ‘out-Abercrombie’ himself, to up the ante beyond what he’d done previously. So, I’m looking forward to this change of pace. It sounds like just the thing to re-energize the (self-described) burned out author.
Abercrombie’s future plans? To finish this trilogy, and then begin working on a new adult trilogy set in The First Law universe:
My plan now is that the two sequels, cautiously titled Half the World and Half a War, will be my main focus for the next year or so. I’m already a few chapters into the first draft of the second book. I hope to have those two books finished not long after the publication of Half a King in July 2014. Then I’ll start work on the adult trilogy in the First Law world. So that’s me kept pretty busy ’til … at least winter 2017, I’d say. Which is both rather nice and rather horrifying.
Half a King will be published by HarperCollins in July, 2014. The sequels, Half the World and Half a War, will follow at six-month intervals. It’s interesting to note that Abercrombie has sold more than three million books to date. That’s a hell of a lot.