As slow as I was in making my way through this sequel to Luke Scull's impressive debut, The Grim Company, one might think I was disappointed, bored, or some nasty combination of the two.
In fact, I was naught but entertained ... and exceedingly time-poor.
I've developed something of a pattern to my purchasing of books of late. The ones I truly want to read, to savour, to honour the author's work by paying the full fee - they are the books I buy from a good ol' fashioned bookstore in hard copy. Those that fleetingly catch my fancy, I pick up for my e-reader. Sword of the North was one of those I purchased from a bookstore. But as I read it, I realised physical books are rarely as close to me as my phone, and by extension, my e-reader. As such, when in a line, or with 5 minutes to spare at work, or even when seated on the royal commode, the e-books typically get read...
Thankfully, at least in the case of Sword of the North, the wait was more than worth it.
Scull here traverses the tricky landscape of the middle book in the series by splitting most of his main characters that previously formed the Grim Company, and each having them go off on an adventure that continues to build his world. Except these are the kinds of adventures that involve death, dismemberment, dark magic, torture, enslavement, and a little anal rape.
So yes, this book does stays rooted firmly in the Grimdark sub-genre which is becoming ever more popular, and I, for one, am exceptionally glad for it.
Scull's characters are still compelling - if a little overly familiar - and he puts them through their paces in such a way as the reader is always left wanting more. There are a few character interactions which were a little too convenient (or manufactured) for my tastes but otherwise you will find yourself willing Eremul to get someone to listen to him, hoping Brodar finds his wife, and wincing for Cole as he hits rock bottom.
But the best part of Sword of the North is the way it ends - with such a perfect cliffhanger (and then satisfying coda afterwards) that if you are anything like me, you will be cursing yourself for finishing this before the third book in the series has been released.
A great middle book in an already exceptional series from an author who is already turning heads, Sword of the North comes highly recommended to all fans of Joe Abercrombie.
4 Vats of Birthing Blood for Sword of the North.