Throughout my reviews, particularly with my fantasy book reviews, I have referenced an obscure fantasy series, known as the First Law Trilogy and its stand alone sequel, Best Served Cold by freelance film editor Joe Abercrombie. His new book, The Heroes, is due for release later this month, and I thought that this would be an appropriate time to do a review on these books. The first of these will be The Illusive One's review of The Blade Itself.
I was first introduced to this series in September of 2009, when an acquaintance referred them to me, describing the protagonists as villains but ones you quickly grow attached to. Over a year later, I now consider Abercrombie to be the greatest fantasy writer since Tolkien.
The first of these books revolves around three central characters whose lives are about to be made extremely difficult by the Magi Bayaz. The first of these characters is the barbarian, Logan Ninefingers. With all of his friends and family apparently dead and banished from the recently formed North Kingdom, Logan is just trying to survive with enemies all around him and can only hope his luck holds out until he can join Bayaz for whatever task he wants him for. He comes off as being the world weary veteran of the characters, who is no longer interested in glory but just wants to survive, even though fighting is all he knows.
The second of these characters, (and my personal favorite of the three), is Sand dan Glokta, an Inquisitor of the island based nation, known the Union. During the first half of the book, Glokta attempts to convict a tax evading trading company of treason and will do all he can to achieve this goal. During the second half, Glokta is assigned to prove that Bayaz is not the Magi he claims to be and finds his life greatly changed as a result.
He is a difficult character to describe. Originally a war hero, Glokta was severely crippled after a battle with a middle-eastern type empire, known as the Gurkish Empire and was captured and tortured for two years. He emerged from that war severely crippled, unable to walk straight and states that uncomfortable is as good as it gets for him. He uses what he learned from his time being tortured for the Inquisition for no reason other than he has nothing else better to do with his life. He is a character you try to be sympathetic with, but find it difficult because of the line of work he is in and he shows no empathy for it.
The last of the major characters is nobleman Jezal dan Luthar. Up until this point, his life had consisted of a cushy desk job in the army, seducing women of the common class, ripping his friends off in games of poker, and training for a dueling completion. This guy is the most unlikable of the three and is a complete ass. Like many other nobles of fiction, he believes he is superior to everyone in a lower class then he, is a dick to all those around him, including those who consider him a friend, and throughout the entire book you want to see Logan beat the shit out of him or Gloka torture him.
Their were also a number of noteworthy supporting characters including Major Collem West who is the closest thing to a good man in this series. Born a commoner, West rose through the ranks of the Union army after winning a dueling completion and becoming a war hero in the same war that crippled Glokta and was a formally his best friend.
Their was also Ferro Maljinn, a psychotic woman and former slave who seeks vengeance on the Gurkish Empire who is introduced during the second half of the book. Other than that, nothing much is revealed about the character other then she is a skilled fighter.
The only real criticism I have with this book is that it doesn’t reveal much in plot and it ends with the country going to war and gives no clue as to where the series is heading. Other than that, it was all great. I found the characters realistic, extremely complicated and were in no way the usual cookie cutter, two dimensional characters you see in most fantasy books. The dialogue was realistic, believable, and continued cursing, which you never see in fantasy. Last to address are the fight scenes in the book. Like the characters and dialogue, they are realistic, believable, and above all, bloody with the characters getting exhausted and wounded. You'd be surprised how rare that is in a fantasy book as well.
All around, however, this book was easily the worst of Joe Abercrombie’s books and obviously the work of an amateur author but that's not saying much. It's absolutely worth reading and from this point, the books just kept on getting better.