Monday, August 15, 2011

A Series in Review: The First Law Trilogy

I mentioned these books a few posts ago, and while I was driving to work yesterday, I suddenly decided to do a series review because I-just-love-them-so-much.

So here's the layout: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings. All three are penned by the talented Joe Abercrombie of Great Britain. On to the good stuff!

The Blade Itself

Upon reading this book, I knew I was hooked. The fact that, once I finished, I immediately had to run to the bookstore and purchase the other two was enough evidence of that. All of the other reviews mention the amazing fight scenes and the witty dialogue of the characters, and they're all spot on. So, I'm not going to beat those topics anymore than already has been done.

In this first novel in the trilogy, readers are introduced to the menagerie of main characters and as a group, they're all pretty much likable. They all have their quirks, but we can understand them and it makes us believe in them even more for having those idiosyncrasies. I was fascinated by the way Abercrombie managed to make the different narratives cohere into a flowing book.

Each character, or main character to be more precise, has a different way of viewing the world. The story isn't told in first person, but through each little piece of the story, we get a rounder whole of what is going on in the book. It's mesmerizing.

I'm trying not to give any spoilers, because I highly recommend that if you love fantasy with wizards, warriors, kings, battles, good and evil and in-between, and sword-play, then this is definitely a series for you.

In this first book, Abercrombie sets the stage, introduces the plot, MC's, stirs the trouble pot, and sinks his author hooks in us.

Logen Ninefingers
Jezal dan Luthar
Sand dan Glokta
Bayaz the Magus
Collem West
Ferro Maljin

There are many other supporting characters as well, and some of them I love almost as much as I adore those up there. My favorite is forthcoming.

Before They Are Hanged

This second installment in the trilogy does exactly what a middle book should do. It fulfills some promises set forth in the first book, and sets the pieces up for the grand finale in the third. There is some great character development in this novel, and I fell even further in love with the characters as the chapters progressed. As a matter of fact, I even grew to hate a few of them, and my hatred was justified and perhaps exactly what Abercrombie intended. However that hate was not fully solidified until the last book.

I'm consistently amazed these days by the perception of sex in literature, especially in YA. I'm just in awe at how often sex is shown as some magical experience (often between magical beings, no less) and I just can't help but be a tad disbelieving when a book makes sex a priority and fantasizes it for the readers. This trilogy does quite the opposite. In The Blade Itself, there was little to no mention of sex. It was slightly surprising considering it was an adult book and the world inside it was violent and medieval at times. However, in Before They Are Hanged, sex is introduced between some of the characters, but it's not made a spectacle. It just happens and then it's done. It's not emphasized in any way and doesn't tie into the story line at all (until the last book, but I said no spoilers.) So, that little tidbit made the books go up another notch in my mind.

Last Argument of Kings

The last book, at last. I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant at first to actually start reading it. The truth was, I didn't want this series to end, and lately, all of the books I'd read had left me with a sour taste in my mouth because their endings...for lack of a better word...sucked. I didn't want this series--one I'd put so much time into and enjoyed so thoroughly--to be like those that let me down in the end.

Eventually, I had to get on with the reading and I'm glad I did. Let's just say, without spoiling it for those of you who may read this trilogy, that the ending was very satisfying. It even left open a door to MORE books about these characters*.

It is in Last of Argument of Kings that Abercrombie does some major character development that he'd been setting up in the other books. It was like magic, since as it was happening, I was remembering certain things that the characters did or said in the previous books and I could see how those past events led them to their present selves. Fantastic. That's writing artistry right there folks.

Finally, (without giving anything away) Abercrombie manages to introduce some spectacular twists in the plot that aren't at all unexpected after we're given time to digest them. Everyone gets what they deserve, somewhat, and those that get more than they deserve are manipulated so that we don't feel pity for them. You'll just have to read the books to understand what I mean.

As a last parting gift to this series in review, I would like to give a shout out to my favorite character and my most hated character.

Sand dan Glokta
He may be a crippled torturer with a penchant for cruelty, but I just can't help but love him anyway. For some reason, he's the most sympathetic character in the series. And I mean that in the way that I find  it easy to understand and sympathize with him. Perhaps I should reword that second sentence. Nah. It's fine. Either way you read it works.

Least Favorite, Most Hated:
Bayaz the Magus
He started out in my favor, but then I grew to despise him because of his choices and his overall manipulative personality. As bad magical beings go though, he's not nearly as evil as Voldemort, so he has that going for him. Although he is bald...huh.

Well, that's all folks! Hopefully I haven't rambled about nothing too much.

*There are two other books in the First Law series. Best Served Cold and The Heroes. They are meant as stand-alone novels and are not part of the trilogy despite being numbered First Law #4 and #5. 


  1. This trilogy is on my to read radar. Thanks for the review.

  2. No problem! :) Glad these books are on your radar!


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