Plot: War has come to Angland. Colonel West has his endurance tested when he finds himself with a group of Northmen guarding the useless prince. The Northmen are trying to come to terms with whose side they are on and what threat they are facing.
Far away, Bayaz and his group seek the end of the world. Tensions run high between the group and they must learn to accept the differences between them if they have are to survive.
Glokta is fighting his own battles, political and actual as he struggles to repel attackers from a city doomed to fall.
Quote: `Course. Doing better next time. That’s what life is.`
Opinion: Having thoroughly enjoyed the first book, I was looking forward to the adventures that Abercrombie had in store for his reader this time.
The plot is certainly bigger. With the characters spreading out rather than being drawn together, there is a lot more scope for different dangers, landscapes and scenarios to play out. And they certainly do; from sex to fighting to cursing to personal breakthroughs, the plot has it all.
The description is transporting and the scenes vary significantly from each other: a besieged city or a wide, open wilderness where nothing can be seen. Abercrombie doesn’t fall into the trap of spending too long describing the scenes though. He keeps his attention purely on the plot and the characters and it pays off – you stay gripped to their story rather than lost in description.
As with any book, the characters are determined by their development. There are definitely a few leaps in this one. Luthar has a breakthrough about what a twat he has been, Logen and Ferro realise they are capable of feeling while West discovers he has a spine after all and can do the right thing when it calls for it. Even Glokta is revealed to have more depth to him than was otherwise suggested and he became a character I actually liked in this second novel. Bayaz, however, annoyed me. His fun and mystery disappears to leave behind a crotchety old man, who – apart from a few spells – seems to do very little the entire novel.
The pacing and the split narration works effectively. All the characters are facing some element of danger and Abercrombie knows just when to switch from one story to another to keep the tension high. But the reader is given a chance to immerse themselves in the individual stories rather than changing so fast whiplash is the only result, not enjoyable reading.
All the technical elements were sound, apart from turning one of the best characters into an annoying waste of space. The book holds my attention and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the third part. However, the tension does not play out quite as well as it should and although I look forward to it, I’m not flicking through the pages as fast as I can. A sound and enjoyable book, but one that lacks a spark.