Archive for the ‘Blood Feud’ Category

Joe Abercrombie is a writer of fantasy novels for adults, including the First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of King). He has now turned his attention to ‘young adults’, with his first YA fantasy book Half a King.

On bookseller Waterstones blog he comments that after writing several fantasy novels for adults he “felt the need to try my hand at something at least slightly different”. He turned to a novel for young adults. He was influenced by Rosemary Sutcliff  whose  books were “full of authenticity, honesty, moral ambiguity, shocks and tough choices. These were not books that ever preached, or talked down to their audience”.

I was at a ‘zany zone’ with my children one day…soft play, ball bath, slides, you know the type of thing. There happened to be a boy with a malformed hand there, who was having some trouble joining in fully with the rest. I was thinking how tough that must be.  Then I started thinking how much tougher it would be in the medieval sort of world I tend to work in. Especially in a Viking or a Saxon inspired world, where fighting in the shield wall was at the heart of their culture.  Where standing strong with your brothers, and holding a shield for the man at your shoulder, was the mark of being a man. And that was the seed for Half a King.

Rosemary Sutcliff historical and children’s book and novel Blood Feud cover… My main touchstones in the young adult arena were things I read and loved when I was younger – notably Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical books (Blood Feud especially) and John Christopher’s post-apocalyptic The Sword of the Spirits. These were books full of authenticity, honesty, moral ambiguity, shocks and tough choices. These were not books that ever preached, or talked down to their audience. I started from the standpoint that young adults are, above all, adults. Just young ones. What they want to read isn’t radically different from what old adults (like me) want to read. People in that 12-18 age range are dealing with serious issues of sex, money, identity, responsibility. The last thing they want to be is talked down to. What adult does?

So my aim was not to pull the teeth of my existing style, but to modify it for a new audience, a younger adult audience, but also a wider adult audience who might have found themselves turned off by the big size of some of the fantasy out there. To write something shorter, tighter, more focused, perhaps a smidge less cynical and pessimistic. A slap in the face on every page. No wasted space. Simpler in its narrative, perhaps, but certainly not simpler in the way it was written or in the themes that it tackles. Something a little less explicit in the sex, violence and swearing but absolutely with the edges left on, with the same shades of grey, moral complexity, shocks and challenges, visceral action, and rich vein of dark humour that I fondly imagine my other books have offered. Whatever I came up with, I wanted it to retain the strength of my other work, to bring new readers to that work, and absolutely to appeal to the readers I already had.

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  Rosemary Sutcliff historical and children’s book and novel Blood Feud coverOutcast by Rosemary Sutcliff hardback coverKnight's Fee IllustrationBrother Dusty Feet historical fiction by Rosemary Sutcliff original UK cover

Sadly (and perhaps remissly) Katherine Rundell – winner of the Blue Peter book award 2014 for best story – did not include any of Rosemary Sutcliff’s characters in her recent ’10 of the best orphans’ at The Guardian’s children’s books site. She might have chosen Beric in Outcast, Jestyn in Blood Feud, Randall the dog-boy in Knight’s Fee, Hugh Copplestone in Brother Dusty-Feet. (And what are the  others I have forgotten?).

She chose:

  1. Mowgli, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  2. Cinderella
  3. Cat Chant, Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
  4. Anne, Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
  5.  Alex Rider, Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  6. Harry, Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  7.  Lyra, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  8. Sophie, The BFG by Roald Dahl
  9. Peter, Peter Pan by J M Barrie
  10. The Fossil Sisters, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield

Source: Katherine Rundell’s Top 10 Orphans

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US Rosemary Sutcliff The Sword and the Circle 1994

The author of the blog  A Book Worm, has posted at the You Write tab on this blog:

My first Sutcliff book was The Sword in the Circle, which I was given while on holiday in Tintagel back in 1985. I was four and it was my first ‘grown-up’ book. I loved it then and love it still. For a decade or so I reread it and the other books that make up the Arthur trilogy, every couple of months.

I loved all of the Sutcliff books I came across but it was this one that pretty much formed much of my character. I still re-read the book from time to time, and it still has the same impact on me now as it did back when I was younger. I will be forever grateful to Rosemary Sutcliff for writing such amazing books. In fact there is a special thank you to here on my blog.

Now might have to just dig out my copy of Blood Feud, haven’t read that one in a while……

Rosemary Sutcliff historical and children’s book and novel Blood Feud cover

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Rosemary Sutcliff Blood Feud coverSutcliff’s gift is to recreate an era, in this case the 10th-century voyages of the Northmen and the rise of Byzantium, so convincingly that her readers accept without question the different mores of another time. The violence of the blood feud between two families set off by an accidental killing seems inevitable. No writing down here, no anachronisms, just a glorious sense of history, a sense of knowing how it was. Exciting Reading.
Source, Washington Post 

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Every morning, at the same time, Rosemary Sutcliff would walk though to her study where, leaning on the walking stick she always used,  first she would open her post and then read the Daily Telegraph. I do not think that I ever saw her reading The Economist, nor indeed did I ever see a copy of it in her study in Sussex. But I am sure that she would have read and welcomed its review of Blood Feud in 1976:

The chasm between children’s and adults’ literature narrows to a crack in historical fiction. In Blood Feud it is scarcely visible at all, (more…)

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