Much like the beginning of the First Law trilogy, A Little Hatred has a bit of a meandering start. The novel features a large cast and the opening hundred pages of so are mostly a means of acquainting us with the personalities that will populate the rest of the story. Even though the inciting incident immediately sets the stage for a rekindled war between the North and the Union, I still didn’t feel like I knew what this novel was really about for at least a hundred pages. And that’s fine. Abercrombie is setting the stage for something bigger…I hope. There is a lot of talk about Ghurkish immigration throughout the story which I hope is setting the stage for conflict an order of magnitude grander than another squabble between the north and the Union. But at this point I can only speculate. I do feel like the north/union struggle is ground that has been trampled back to the mud, and I’d like to see Abercrombie push past that safety net into uncharted waters.
The central players are Rikke, a northern girl cursed with foresight, Leo dan Brock, a handsome union nobleman, Crowned Prince Orso, and Savine dan Glokta. Yes, that Glokta’s daughter. As always, Abercrombie’s greatest strength is in his characters. They are well defined and interesting, bubbling over with unique personality and goals that match their intricate histories. The narrative is delivered through their lens and peppered generously with each personality’s own flavor of humor. It’s worth pointing out that this new batch is not as captivating as Logen Nine-fingers or Archlector Glokta. Recapturing that unique chemistry is a formula that has so far eluded Abercrombie, but A Little Hatred’s characters are still quite strong.
It is only in light of the meandering plot that the characters can feel a little weak. They really aren’t, they are just hefting the load for a plot that is basically non-existent in the first and the last 100 pages of the book. Before you go thinking that that makes this a dull book, remember that the Blade Itself had similar issues. The differences being twofold…1) Our expectations were probably lower and 2) The Bloody Nine and friggin Glokta. Those characters were utterly mesmerizing in a way that this cast just isn’t. That is not to say that they can’t grow into all-time beloved characters, or that the book isn’t still pretty darn good despite that, it’s just that the heart wants what the heart wants. And I wanted more. I want this story to be more than another rehash of Union/North wars. I want my wife to cock her head and ask what the fuck I’m reading when she sees the facial expressions I make at the end. I want to want to head bang when I put down an Abercrombie novel.
Altogether, A Little Hatred is a good book that I moved through briskly and would absolutely recommend. If you’ve enjoyed Abercrombie’s work to this point, you’ll also enjoy this one. I remain a little skeptical that this will come together into something really great, but I know that Abercrombie has the talent and the chops to pull it off. I’d like to see new ground broken in this world, and I’d love to get to know new characters who I can become as enthralled by as I have some of his others. Frankly, I’ll read it and enjoy it even if it doesn’t turn into a masterpiece. I just, for once, want to be unrealistic about these things.