Posts Tagged: Joe Abercrombie

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Oh, I get it. It’s like a snowflake, and also a sword. I can’t imagine that would be a very efficient or easy-to-wield weapon. Perhaps an accident on the training yard leads to the king losing his other half? In any case, the cover’s fine (non-offensive, if bland) and fits the mould for YA fantasy, though holds nothing on Abercrombie’s previous covers (the dude’s damned with comparisons to The First Law‘s covers for the rest of his career, they were so good.)

io9‘s Charlie Jane Anders calls Half a King “a classic ‘coming of age’ story about Yarvi, the youngest son of a warrior king.” Fans of Abercrombie should feel familiar with the concept, and io9′s full description sounds like it is sure to please. “Because Yarvi is born with one disabled hand,” Anders explains. “He’s regarded as ‘half a man,’ and he can’t ever live up to his father’s expectations of what a real man ought to be. He’s expected to go into the ministry instead of becoming a soldier or an heir to the throne — but after his father and brother are killed, he’s thrust onto the throne (the Black Chair) where he has to find a way to rule. But of course his journey doesn’t turn out to be that easy.”

Along with the cover and synopsis, Abercrombie released the first chapter of Half a King. An excerpt of the full excerpt:

There was a harsh gale blowing on the night Yarvi learned he was a king. Or half a king, at least.

A seeking wind, the Gettlanders called it, for it found out every chink and keyhole, moaning Mother Sea’s dead chill into every dwelling, no matter how high the fires were banked or how close the folk were huddled.

It tore at the shutters in the narrow windows of Mother Gundring’s chambers and rattled even the iron-bound door in its frame. It taunted the flames in the firepit and they spat and crackled in their anger, casting clawing shadows from the dried herbs hanging, throwing flickering light upon the root that Mother Gundring held up in her knobbled fingers.

‘And this?’

It looked like nothing so much as a clod of dirt, but Yarvi had learned better. ‘Black-tongue root.’

‘And why might a minister reach for it, my prince?’

‘A minister hopes they won’t have to. Boiled in water it can’t be seen or tasted, but is a most deadly poison.’

Mother Gundring tossed the root aside. ‘Ministers must sometimes reach for dark things.’

I can just picture mothers and fathers reading this to their children as they lay curled within the warm cocoon of their blankets and jammies, Abercrombian nightmares biding their time until the light is flicked off.

Good stuff.

first-law-comic

Joe Abercrombie confirmed Monday that the first draft of his next novel, Half a King is, for all intents and purposes, done. The “kind of YA kind of crossover whatever the hell it is” has completed its copyedits and is ready for its publication on “July 8th 2014 from Del Rey in the US, and a not totally specific though probably very similar July date from Harper Collins in the UK,” says Abercrombie. He also indicates that ARCs (and thus the first reviews) should start appearing over the next handful of months.

He further indicates that, though behind on his ‘ludicrously over-optimistic schedule,’ he’s still hopeful that the sequel, Half the World will be “comfortably finished by the time Half a King is unleashed, hopefully with the 3rd and final book, Half a War, well underway.”

After he’s done with the Half a King trilogy, Abercrombie is planning to begin earnest work on a new trilogy set in the world of The First Law, “set some years after the end of Red Country.” The first book in this trilogy won’t see store shelves until at least 2017, however. “This is at an embryonic stage right now,” Abercrombie says. “And I’m keen to get a solid plan, and hopefully a rough draft, of the entire trilogy before we publish the first book. That’ll mean putting off publication of book one, but hopefully a faster, more regular and better managed publication of the best books possible thereafter.”

Cover Art for Red Country by Joe Abercrombie (UK)

Map by Dave Senior and Daggers by Didier Graffetaption

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.

Cover Art for THE HEROES by Joe Abercrombie

The conversation in the genre blogosphere lately has been leaning heavily to grittiness, grimdark, and whether they serve a purpose—and whether there’s any difference between the two. A lot of bloggers and commenters seem to be settling on the idea that “grimdark” is the pejorative, so perhaps that is how I will use it here.

Now, I love a good tragedy as much as the next guy. If the next guy is William Shakespeare.

I believe in fiction where actions have consequences, and sometimes terrible prices are paid, and sometimes good people meet fates you wouldn’t wish on Count Rugen. I would argue that darkness and uncertainty are a needful thing; that without them, there are no stakes, no emotional engagement. Read More »