I got stuck into this at the recommendation of a friend who plays Warhammer. I was mourning the temporary loss of Game of Thrones having finished A Dance with Dragons, and couldn’t think of a better person to turn to. I must confess, despite the recommendation from a fellow Marvel Comic/Star Wars head, I went into this with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised.
The book opens as luck runs out for Logen Ninefingers, a notorious barbarian warrior. Separated from his brothers in arms, he literally goes over a cliff as he battles and escapes from Shanka assailants in the far north. As he flees, he encounters the wizard Bayaz. Bayaz has an agenda he doesn’t share with Logen, or the other members of the motley crew he brings together. These are the shockingly disfigured torturer Inquisitor Glokta, the spoilt nobleman Jezal dan Luthar and furiously angry ex-slave Ferro Maljinn. This is the first in a trilogy, and introduces the characters as they tread the violent, dangerous paths that brings them to Bayaz. They each have a role to play in his mysterious mission.
This might all sound far-fetched and complicated, and it is. But therein lies its charm. Abercrombie has created brutal world seething with violent death, unexpected allegiances and ill-considered passions. The characters are believable, cruel and compassionate by turns; the sense of place, from the arid Badlands in the south to the barren North via the bustling city of Adua, is immaculate. This is a fast-paced, funny and shocking romp. Who cares about Westeros?