In this standalone we visit the area which was only mentioned in the original trilogy: Styria. The favorite pastime of the local people is to make war; local nobility that is: the peasants suffer or get killed when an army marches through their land. Monza Murcatto was the leader of a very successful mercenary band under Duke Orso employ. In fact she was so popular among Duke's subjects that he decided it was time to do something about it.
During one of the meetings with the Duke her brother was killed and Monza herself left for dead. She became crippled, but survived and now her only goal is revenge on the seven men who betrayed the siblings. She also happens to have enough means to make her goal a reality.
After I read the first trilogy of the series I was ready to proclaim Joe Abercrombie to be one of the best modern fantasy writers. This book suddenly came up as a disappointment. So what is wrong with it?
Abercrombie has shown himself to be able to write very good and complex characters. In this book he recycles them. Shivers is exactly like Logen: he is a barbarian in the unfamiliar surroundings where he ended up for exactly the same reasons as the latter and he has exactly the same moral dilemmas - copy and paste type of exact. There was an excellent character named Glokta in the original trilogy; we now have him named Monza. To be politically correct he is a female in this book, so the requirement for a strong female is fulfilled. She is crippled - just like Glokta, she has exactly the same physical pains, her mood is the same, and so on.
The book tells the tale of revenge. The Count of Monte Cristo was published around 150 years ago and it is still unsurpassed as such tales go. Abercrombie tackles the same issues as Dumas' classic, but this story does not quite reach the level of the latter.
I failed to connect to any of the characters. Everybody is miserable and everybody has exactly zero redeeming qualities to the point where I felt relieved whenever somebody got killed: at least the poor guy/girl ended their misery. I really mean it: a mass suicide would be the best way out for all of these people of the land as I really do not see any sense of them to continue their pitiful existence full of pain and loss.
There were quite a few sex scenes in here. They all deserve a dubious award of being the most awkward in the literature - this includes sexual fantasies of 14-year-old boys. Dear Joe, please stop writing them and stay away from writing erotic literature as far as possible. I really do not understand how these got past an editor as no self-respected one would allow them to remain.
Abercrombie is a good writer so the quality of writing alone warrants 3.5 stars
for the book. I will continue reading the series, but not before a big break.
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/892725/a-mild-disappointment-after-the-strong-first-trilogy