I recently read Half the World by Joe Abercrombie, which is the second book of his Young Adult series, Shattered Sea – out now! I felt this book deserved a few words from me for a number of reasons. For one, it doesn’t happen to me every day that I’m unexpectedly presented with an advanced copy at a book signing, and by none other than the editor. We have to be realistic about these things. I still remember queueing up with it to the author and taking him by surprise. Once he signed it, however, there was something else he said to me. He said he was pleased with this one. That he thought it was good. But, you know, it wasn’t even what he said that caught me off-guard, it was the way he said it. It wasn’t his loud, charismatic, self-confident Lord Grimdark-self. This was a quiet, honest and almost shy assessment of someone, who is continuously giving himself a mighty hard time while striving for perfection and who finally managed to win a little victory over his cruellest critic, himself. And I knew this book was going to be seriously good. And it makes me wonder if this is what it means to be a writer. That there and then I just take one look at him and somehow I understand. And somehow I just know.
Alas the book did not disappoint. Among many things I was of course impressed by how well the main characters and their relationships were captured, the twists and turns of the dark plot he span, but what’s more, I was impressed by what the book delivered. Because how do you set out writing something that your own children might read one day? How do you tell them, how can you make them listen and understand that the world is not like they might think it is, that it’s not like they have it in the tales? Why, of course: with a tale of your own. A tale that makes you re-consider what’s right and what’s wrong, reminds you that every act comes with its own consequences and teaches you about acceptance and the power of not just the steel, the physical strength, but also of the words.
So last Sunday I once again turned up at his signing to tell him that the book was indeed good. Just like every single time I’m about to meet him I nervously tried to think of a few words to say about myself, convinced he’ll have no idea who I was. What to say though, I puzzle, which part of me was worth mentioning that could possibly tell him who I might be. But to my surprise somehow he always already seems to know. And it makes me wonder if this is what it means to be a writer. That he just takes one look at me and somehow he understands. And somehow he just knows.
Photo by Lou Abercrombie