Aug 19, 09
Read in August, 2009
As Monty Python once said: "Welcome to da middle of da film."
Abercrombie's second book in "The First Law" series has one of my favorite structures; multiple groups that leapfrog each other from chapter to chapter, allowing the author to layer on cliffhangers, keeping you constantly reading as you try to find out what happened next to the one group, and then reading more to figure out what's going on with the other. If it works, and it does here, it can keep you reading far longer than you thought you were going to when you picked the book up.
Abercrombie is also more confident as a writer here, and it's a smoother and more cohesive narrative, not that there were any real issues in the first book.
For all it's good points, and there are plenty, the book comes dangerously close to tripping my "all the female characters are/were whores and slaves" alarm. And to be honest, while it manages to technically skirt that issue, I do wish there were some stronger and more capable women in this book. I understand that can be difficult when you have a pseudo-medieval world, but if you crack open the Shakespeare there are plenty of good examples of how you can make it work.
Those issues aside, it's an engaging read, and you begin to see the emotional journey of the characters as they're transformed by their adventures, and the circumstances of the story.
While I've given the book four stars, I'd really have to say that this is a true 3.5 book. I'm glad I read it, I can heartily recommend it, but there are some flaws that, in retrospect, keep me from doing so unreservedly.