Joe Abercrombe writes how I wish I could write. He’s actually one of the first fantasy authors I got into after Howard, Cook, and Martin. Even after countless author books, he remains one of my top 5 favorite authors.

  • His characters are unbelievably well-developed, believable and totally memorable. San dan Glokta and Logen Ninefingers are impossible to forget.
  • His dialogue is natural and witty.
  • His humor is dry, dark, and cynical.
  • His worldbuilding is how I like my fantasy…just enough to give the reader a mental picture of going on, but not so much you become bored in the unnecessary information.
  • The world he depicts is grim with few people ever landing out top..and those that do are often the ones you wanted least to succeed.
  • His action/fight/battle scenes are well thought out and realistic, keeping you on the edge of your seat whether you’re reading a one on one scuffle or some epic clash between massive armies.
  • If I had one complaint of Abercrombie’s writing it’s that he is pretty free with the coarse language and the few sex scenes he includes in his books are pretty over the top on the ridiculous scale, IMO.

I’m awful at praising authors, even though I’ve tried numerous times already. That’s why I add excerpts to these “Influences” posts because I feel their writing should do the talking, not mine.

Here are a couple of examples of Abercrombie’s awesomeness.

“Has it ever occured to you, Master Ninefingers, that a sword is different from other weapons? Axes and maces and so forth are lethal enough, but they hang on the belt like dumb brutes. But a sword...a sword has a voice. Sheathed it has little to say, to be sure, but you need only put your hand on the hilt and it begins to whisper in your enemy's ear. A gentle word. A word of caution. Do you hear it? Now, compare it to the sword half drawn. It speaks louder, does it not? It hisses a dire threat. It makes a deadly promise. Do you hear it? Now compare it to the sword full drawn. It shouts now, does it not? It screams defiance! It bellows a challenge! Do you hear it?”
― Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself

“Truly, life is the misery we endure between disappointments.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

“I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

“If you want to be a new man you have to stay in new places, and do new things, with people who never knew you before. If you go back to the same old ways, what else can you be but the same old person?”
― Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

“You were a hero round these parts. That's what they call you when you kill so many people the word murderer falls short.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Best Served Cold

“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Before They Are Hanged

“Chose? If you believe that I chose any part of the pitiful shadow of a life you see before you, you are very much mistaken. I chose glory and success. The box did not contain what was written on the lid.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

“I’ve fought in three campaigns,” he began. “In seven pitched battles. In countless raids and skirmishes and desperate defences, and bloody actions of every kind. I’ve fought in the driving snow, the blasting wind, the middle of the night. I’ve been fighting all my life, one enemy or another, one friend or another. I’ve known little else. I’ve seen men killed for a word, for a look, for nothing at all. A woman tried to stab me once for killing her husband, and I threw her down a well. And that’s far from the worst of it. Life used to be cheap as dirt to me. Cheaper.

“I’ve fought ten single combats and I won them all, but I fought on the wrong side and for all the wrong reasons. I’ve been ruthless, and brutal, and a coward. I’ve stabbed men in the back, burned them, drowned them, crushed them with rocks, killed them asleep, unarmed, or running away. I’ve run away myself more than once. I’ve pissed myself with fear. I’ve begged for my life. I’ve been wounded, often, and badly, and screamed and cried like a baby whose mother took her tit away. I’ve no doubt the world would be a better place if I’d been killed years ago, but I haven’t been, and I don’t know why.”

He looked down at his hands, pink and clean on the stone. “There are few men with more blood on their hands than me. None, that I know of. The Bloody-Nine they call me, my enemies, and there’s a lot of ’em. Always more enemies, and fewer friends. Blood gets you nothing but more blood. It follows me now, always, like my shadow, and like my shadow I can never be free of it. I should never be free of it. I’ve earned it. I’ve deserved it. I’ve sought it out. Such is my punishment.”
― Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself

“Good steel bends, but never breaks. Good steel stays always sharp and ready. Good steel feels no pain, no pity, and above all, no remorse”
― Joe Abercrombie, Best Served Cold

“The smell of it. The feel of it." He rubbed one hand up and down the stained sheath of his sword, making a faint swishing sound. "War is honest. There's no lying to it. You don't have to say sorry here. Don't have to hide. You cannot. If you die? So what? You die among friends. Among worthy foes. You die looking the Great Leveller in the eye. If you live? Well, lad that's living, isn't it? A man isn't truly alive until he's facing death." Whirrun stamped his foot into the sod. "I love war!”
― Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes

“You ever have the feeling you were in the wrong place? That if you could just get over the next hill, cross the next river, look down into the next valley, it'd Be right."

"All my life, more of less."

“All your life spent getting ready for the next thing. I climbed a lot of hills now. I crossed a lot of rivers. Crossed the sea even, left everything I knew and came to Styria. But there I was, waiting for me at the docks when I got off the boat, same man, same life. Next valley ain’t no different from this one. No better anyway. Reckon I’ve learned … just to stick in the place I’m at. Just to be the man I am.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Best Served Cold

“They've strengthened the walls since last year. I wouldn't fancy trying to storm the place."

"Don't pretend you'd have the guts to storm the place"

"I wouldn't fancy telling someone else to storm the place"

"Don't pretend you'd have the guts to give the orders"

"I wouldn't fancy watching you tell someone else to storm the place."

― Joe Abercrombie, Best Served Cold

“People love to see death. It reminds them that however mean, however low, however horrible their lives become… at least they have one.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Before They Are Hanged

“Strange, isn't it,' mused Glokta as he watched him struggle for air. 'Big men, small men, thin men, fat men, clever men, stupid men, they all respond the same to a fist in the guts. One minute you think you're the most powerful man in the world. The next you can't even breathe by yourself.”
― Joe Abercrombie, Before They Are Hanged

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