A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness) by Joe Abercrombie

Write on: Sun, 30 Aug 2020 by  in Gary's Reviews Read 2448

Joe Abercrombie earned his literary crown with the First Law Trilogy and had a monument raised in his honour with the subsequent standalones: Best Served Cold, The Heroes and Red Country. With A Little Hatred, the first in his brand new trilogy, The Age of Madness, the author has reached legendary status. 

In the decades since defeating the Ghurkish Empire, the Union has given birth to the age of industry. A new era promises new beginnings and opportunities, but not for all. As the factory chimneys and furnaces belch riches, dissent permeates the slag. Revolution is coming. Meanwhile, up in the North, old wars continue to be waged by young warriors. A new age may be dawning, but the scars of the past are as prominent as ever. 

Abercrombie is considered a wizard with characters and he conjures up some true magic here. There are seven main character POVs in total, each one uniquely different to the others but just as brilliantly brought to life and fascinating in their own ways. Among these are the spoiled but kind Crown Prince Orso, who has good intentions but terrible luck, and Savine dan Glokta, the daughter of everyone's favourite Arch Lector, who has earned her own ruthless reputation as a successful entrepreneur. There is also the Young Lion, Leo dan Brock, who has all the aspirations of a hero, and the young witch with the Long Eye, Rikke, whose ability to see the future is both a blessing and a curse. Others include the secretive revolutionary, Vick, and the regretful ex-soldier, Gunnar Broad. While the younger protagonists share the limelight of the stage, these two characters stand a little to the sides, but are just as significant to the plot, and, dare I say, at times even more interesting. My favourite character however, has to be Clover, a laid back Northman that fought in the circle and survived. He is wise and selfish, and provides some of the funniest character dialogue and commentary throughout the book. 

For returning fans, there is plenty to delight in as there are quite a few familiar faces from previous books and nods to previous adventures. Although these characters are not the centre of attention, their presence is still very much felt. It has been years since I read the First Law Trilogy and standalones so I did find myself heading over to the wiki for the more nuanced of throwbacks. Bearing this in mind, this new series will still be extremely enjoyable for newcomers. There is so much to love here, but even more so for returning fans.  

With each new novel, Abercrombie likes to experiment. Where Best Served Cold is a renaissance revenge story and Red Country  a spaghetti western, A Little Hatred is very much a story of revolutions, drawing inspiration from the social and economic upheavals of the French and Industrial Revolutions. This is most felt in the events and descriptions of the city of Valbeck which serves as one the novel's prime settings. It is here that Abercrombie captures the age of industry in all its glorious filth, with vivid descriptions reminiscent of Charles Dicken's Hard Times and George Orwell's The Road to Wagon Pier. You can almost feel the oppressive heat of the mills on your skin, taste the foul waters of the dye-stained river at the back of your throat and wince in sympathy at the shocking conditions of the workers. It is grim. It is ugly. And it is wonderful. 

We also get to revisit the familiar battlefields of the North which have served as the setting for some of the past series' greatest moments. Here, Abercrombie once again exposes us to the raw reality of battle, showing us that there is no glory to gain without loss and that it is always the little people that suffer the most. Nonetheless, it is still bloody exhilarating and we are treated to a particularly gruesome fight over a bridge. One of my favourite things about The Heroes was a chapter called Casualties, in which we viewed the big battle from the perspective of various minor characters, each in some way linked to the next. It was very effective in capturing the experience of the 'little people'. Abercrombie uses the same writing technique in A Little Hatred  but swaps the muddy battlefield for muddy streets where it is just as brutally executed. 

Most of you reading this review have probably already read A Little Hatred and would agree that saying a Joe Abercrombie book is brilliant is like saying water is wet. It is just a simple fact of life. I have read it twice now, the second time having listened to it on audible and the fantastic voice work of Steven Pacey. It was an absolute pleasure to listen to and made car journeys and evening walks all the more enjoyable. Overall, I loved A Little Hatred and cannot wait for the sequel The Trouble With Peace



Gary is a small town Irishman with a love for all things historical and fantastical. He works as an English and History teacher at post-primary where he endeavours to instil and nurture a love for reading and writing in students. Tea is his weakness. Reading is his passion. His one goal in life is to buy a castle when he retires.