Oh YEAH, baby. We waited for this, and waited, and waited... and then Abercrombie delivered what I have no hesitation in calling a masterpiece in plot twisting, characters, dialogue, and all-out violence. I've tried to review this without gushing, and failed. This hit me as hard as Gardens of the Moon
did - I am utterly blown away.
A plot summary
is simple: Revenge. Monza Murcatto, the hardest, most feared mercenary in Duke Orso's army, is betrayed most violently by her employer - and swears bloody vengeance.
A plot discussion
, on the other hand, is nigh impossible without spoilers. As in the First Law trilogy, the plot twists so enormously you'll find your jaw hanging off more than once while you're racing through the story at break-neck pace. Abercrombie just doesn't let up. Everytime there is a breather, either violence, humour, or an unexpected meeting happens. I was left guessing at the end of pretty much every chapter.
Speaking of which: Oooh boy, the violence. Man, but he loves his sword fights, does Abercrombie, and his torture, and his infliction of pain
. He has such a knack for describing the latter that I found myself shuddering a few times - but it never seems gratuitous. If there is violence, it's either deserved or delightfully unexpected, and it never killed my suspension of disbelief.
However, I think his greatest achievement is, once again, his characters. I don't know if the following mentions are spoilery, but I'll warn here anyway: Here [Might:] Be Spoilers.
Joe had said that some of the minor characters from the First Law trilogy would show up, so we had been guessing for a while. However, I didn't expect quite such a strong showing. I punched the air twice - first when Carlot dan Eider appeared, and then Nicomo Cosca, because I liked them tremendously in the trilogy and was hoping we'd see more of who they were at some point. In fact, Cosca's part in this book was as big as could be hoped for, and I can't wait to see whom he happens to next.
In Shivers, we had a new central Northern character, which was great because I think we all miss Logen. This way, we got a different perspective on the Northmen in general - although Shivers is, at least to begin with, a very different man to the Bloody-Nine.
To see Vitari again and get a glimpse of her life when she's not killing people was wonderful and at one point jaw-droppingly awesome.
Morveer is pure and utter genius. A mixture of Bayaz and Iskaral Pust, he's not, I think, supposed to be likeable, but I couldn't help but love his pompousness and self-aggrandising.
As for Monza, she's just what you'd expect from an Abercrombie avenger (see Ferro). Hard, unforgiving, calculating, with more edges than a ... very edgy thing - and ultimately not a very sympathetic character. Abercrombie makes it hard in places to stay on Monza's side, just because everyone around her seems so much more likeable - which I think is the point, and executed to perfection.
I can't wait for more Shenkt.
And that's it. Apologies for the gushing. But I LOVED this. Go and read it.