Infamous bounty hunter Bitter Sweet has led his crew of like-minded miscreants for nearly three decades. They can track and capture any man or woman in the known world…for a price. But Sweet is tired. Decades of pursuing the lowest reaches that humanity has to offer have taken their toll. The grime, the lies, the danger, the death. He’s sick of it all.
But it’s the only business he knows, and business is good in the aftermath of a long and bloody war. The unstoppable armies of the Vol Empire have conquered Pratia, obliterating all opposition and occupying the kingdom’s cities as they establish a brutal new order. The Pratian king is slain in the carnage, but his son—the Crown Prince and sole heir to the throne—has vanished.
Eager to tie up the loose ends, the new Vol rulers turn to those who know the land and its people the best. Bounty hunters.
Against his better instincts, Sweet accepts the contract and sets out in search of the fugitive Crown Prince. But his crew are not alone in the hunt. Danger rides with them every step of the way. Rival gangs, Vol soldiers, deadly trackers and dark magickers are all pursuing the heir to Pratia, too.
Soon Sweet and his crew have a choice to make, hunt or be hunted?
The Hunter’s Lament is a highly character-driven grimdark book with an ending you won’t see coming. In this story we follow the old and worn down bounty hunter Bitter Sweet go for one last payout along with his crew. This is a well worn trope, but one I will probably never get tired of, and it was executed superbly by the author. The whole book was really a character study of Bitter Sweet and the members of his crew, which I found very enjoyable. The side characters didn’t get a lot of development at first, and I would have liked to see them developed even more, but as the novel progressed we do see more of each of them and what makes them tick, and this character work is the true strength of the book.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t any action in The Hunter’s Lament, because there is plenty of that. The combat scenes were engaging and exciting, but as any good book does, the fighting really served as another way to develop the characters and help us to see different sides of them. As one would expect from a crew of bounty hunters, they are all hardened and coarse, but as we travel along with them, we see the deeper parts of their personalities buried underneath. Which makes many moments of the book hit even harder emotionally because truly nobody is safe. This is a grimdark novel in that it portrays the brutal reality of the lives the crew lead without any shine or embellishment. They hunt and kill for a living, and I can guarantee that not all of your favorite characters will make it out alive at the end.
The pacing can be pretty slow at many points of the book, with deep introspection from Bitter Sweet, punctuated by moments of fast, violent action. And I do also have to note that Bitter Sweet’s ponderings did get somewhat repetitive for me by the end, since much of them follow the same line of thought. His overall character development more than made up for this issue however. And the ending, I don’t even know what to say about it. I certainly did not see it all coming, and I don’t think you will either. It was bittersweet (get it?) in the best ways and though certainly not the ending I imagined, I can’t think of a better way it could have gone.
The worldbuilding is interesting because it is well developed, but at the same we learn very little about it. Due to the personal nature of the narrative and the short length of the book, we don’t go very deep into explanations about the world at all. There are various kingdoms, and a group of indigenous people that are fascinating. There is also very little magic for the vast majority of this book. It isn’t until the very end that magic plays any major role. None of this negatively impacted my experience at all, and it was a good choice for the story the author was writing. It did however, leave me wishing for more books in this world because there is certainly much more to it than what we saw here.
I’ve never read Abercrombie but this book reminded me of much of the praise I’ve heard about Abercrombie’s writing. As I understand it, this is a standalone novel, but I would definitely not say no to more books in this world. If you enjoy gritty, but not over the top, grimdark and character-driven low fantasy, I highly recommend this book. It is a quick read that won’t leave any reader untouched.