If you’ve delved into the world of Joe Abercrombie, you’ve experienced his unique blend of gritty realism, engaging character development, and dark humor that defines his distinct brand of fantasy writing. His First Law Trilogy and subsequent stand-alone novels and series have left a lasting impression on many readers.
But once you’ve turned the last page of an Abercrombie book, you might find yourself wondering: What next? Well, dear reader, this blog post is designed just for you. We’ve gathered a collection of books and authors that echo Abercrombie’s unforgettable style and themes.
So if you’re yearning for more high-stakes adventure, morally gray characters, and darkly comedic undertones, read on.
Exploration of Abercrombie’s Themes and Styles
Joe Abercrombie’s works aren’t just another addition to the fantasy genre. They’ve set a new benchmark with their unique style and themes.
Abercrombie’s Unique Style
Abercrombie’s writing style has often been termed as ‘grimdark’ – a subgenre of speculative fiction marked by a particularly dark tone, a dystopian setting, and morally ambiguous characters. His works stand out with their realistic portrayal of characters and situations, refusing to shy away from the inherent brutality of his world. Yet, this grim reality is balanced by Abercrombie’s sharp, dark humor, often used to highlight the absurdities of life and the human condition.
The Unforgettable Themes
Perhaps what’s most captivating about Abercrombie’s works are the themes that underlie his thrilling narratives. There’s a keen exploration of moral ambiguity. His characters aren’t confined to the binaries of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ but are complex individuals with their own virtues and vices. There’s also a constant engagement with the theme of power – its use, abuse, and the lengths people will go to acquire it.
The theme of war also figures prominently in Abercrombie’s works, not just as a backdrop for his characters’ exploits but as a critique of its impact on societies and individuals alike. His works ask challenging questions about duty, honor, and the cost of ambition. If you appreciate these aspects in Abercrombie’s works, the following suggestions might just be what you’re looking for.
Authors with Similar Writing Styles
Certain authors capture the grimdark feel of Abercrombie’s works, employing a similarly unique blend of realistic storytelling, dark humor, and richly-drawn characters.
George R. R. Martin
Renowned author of A Song of Ice and Fire series, which was adapted into the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, Martin’s work shares Abercrombie’s flair for gritty realism and moral complexity. His characters, like Abercrombie’s, are multifaceted and their struggles often raise probing questions about power, morality, and the human condition.
Creator of the expansive Malazan Book of the Fallen series, Erikson’s writing is filled with complex characters, intricate world-building, and a healthy dose of philosophical musings. Like Abercrombie, Erikson doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life, making his stories all the more impactful.
Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire series, is another author who channels a sense of grimdark realism similar to Abercrombie’s work. Lawrence’s protagonist, Jorg Ancrath, is a morally ambiguous character who might remind readers of some of Abercrombie’s most compelling characters.
These authors, with their distinctive yet somewhat similar styles to Abercrombie, could be the perfect next stop on your reading journey.
Books with Similar Themes
If you’re drawn to the themes explored in Abercrombie’s work, you might enjoy the following books. They grapple with similar ideas, asking profound questions about morality, power, and the human condition.
The Black Company by Glen Cook
Much like Abercrombie, Cook’s work doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of war. The Black Company series focuses on a mercenary group in a gritty, morally ambiguous world. Cook, like Abercrombie, imbues his narrative with a dark sense of humor, providing a counterbalance to the harsh realities his characters face.
The Prince of Nothing series by R. Scott Bakker
Bakker’s series delves deep into the exploration of power and its corruption, much like Abercrombie’s work. With a complex plot and a richly realized world, Bakker’s series offers a grim and unflinching look at the complexities of power dynamics.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This book introduces readers to Locke Lamora, a character whose moral compass may remind readers of some of Abercrombie’s most compelling characters. Lynch’s work, filled with intricate plots and a good dose of humor, explores themes of friendship and loyalty amidst a backdrop of crime and deceit.
These books, while not penned by Abercrombie, capture similar themes that could offer you a resonant and engrossing reading experience.
Books Within the Same Genre
If you’re a fan of Abercrombie’s genre of grimdark and high fantasy, there are numerous other books within these genres that could pique your interest. Here are a few recommendations.
A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
This book offers a fresh take on the high fantasy genre with its compelling characters, complex plot, and a world teeming with magic and intrigue. Like Abercrombie, Marshall combines the grandeur of high fantasy with the stark realities of grimdark.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is a blend of historical fiction and high fantasy. The narrative is unflinching in its portrayal of war and its consequences, much like Abercrombie’s works. Kuang’s work is steeped in moral complexities, making it a must-read for any Abercrombie fan.
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
As mentioned earlier, Lawrence’s work echoes Abercrombie’s style. His Prince of Thorns, part of The Broken Empire series, is another grimdark fantasy novel with a morally complex protagonist navigating a harsh and unforgiving world.
These books, while not directly similar to Abercrombie’s, share the same genre and incorporate elements that Abercrombie fans may find intriguing.
Emerging Authors in the Genre
The world of grimdark and high fantasy is ever-growing. Here are some emerging authors in the genre who are making their mark with their unique storytelling.
Anna Smith Spark
Referred to as the “Queen of Grimdark,” Smith Spark’s Empires of Dust trilogy is a brilliant addition to the genre. Her writing is dense and poetic, her world-building expansive, and her characters as morally ambiguous as those you might find in Abercrombie’s works.
McDonald’s Ravencry is the second book in the Raven’s Mark series, a blend of dark fantasy and post-apocalyptic elements. The world is gritty, the plot gripping, and the characters engaging, making McDonald’s work a worthy read for any Abercrombie fan.
In her Reborn Empire series, Madson presents a world on the brink of disaster, a fallen empire, and a quest for power that grips the characters. Her portrayal of morally complex individuals navigating a turbulent world is reminiscent of Abercrombie’s storytelling.
Exploring the works of these emerging authors not only broadens your reading horizons but also supports new voices in the genre.
These books, while varied in their style and themes, carry elements that Abercrombie fans might appreciate. Here’s a brief overview of each, along with reasons for their inclusion.
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
While it’s an Abercrombie work, it’s worthy of separate mention due to its unique narrative centered around revenge. Monza Murcatto’s quest for vengeance against those who wronged her is thrilling and replete with Abercrombie’s signature grimdark style.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Another Abercrombie work that stands out. With its fascinating characters like the infamous torturer Glokta and the brutish warrior Logen Ninefingers, it’s a classic example of Abercrombie’s grimdark storytelling.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A mind-bending fantasy that’s as dark as it’s intriguing. It features a diverse cast of characters and a plot full of twists and turns. Its dark undertone and complex characters make it a fitting choice.
The Grim Company by Luke Scull
A grimdark novel that presents a world where gods have fallen and magic is waning. It offers a unique blend of epic fantasy and grim reality that Abercrombie fans might enjoy.
The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker
This high fantasy novel features morally grey characters and a plot filled with political and philosophical dilemmas. It’s chosen for its complex narrative that matches Abercrombie’s works.
Low Town by Daniel Polansky
A gritty fantasy noir set in a city’s criminal underworld. Its grim setting and dark narrative echo Abercrombie’s style, making it a good pick for his fans.
The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington
An epic fantasy novel with a complex, intricately plotted storyline. It’s chosen for its high-stakes plot and rich world-building.
The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
Smith Spark’s debut novel is a grimdark fantasy with a raw, lyrical writing style. It was chosen for its morally complex characters and bleak, yet poetic narrative.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The first book in Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It’s selected for its vast world-building, intricate plot, and complex characters.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
A Hugo Award-winning novel that features a world constantly on the brink of destruction. It’s chosen for its innovative narrative and themes of survival and resilience.
We hope this guide serves as a useful starting point in your quest to discover more reading material reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie’s distinct style and themes. While no two authors are exactly alike, the ones mentioned in this blog post capture, in their unique ways, elements that Abercrombie fans might find appealing.
Whether it’s the grim realities of war, the intricate political dynamics, the morally gray characters, or the dry wit and dark humor, these authors offer diverse takes on the fantasy genre. They delve into similar themes and create worlds as compelling and complex as the ones Abercrombie has woven.
So, go ahead and pick one (or more) from the list, and let the new adventures begin.