The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (Review)

The First Law Trilogy is an epic fantasy series by British author and film editor Joe Abercrombie. This series was recommended by many of my friends who share my literary interests. They told me that this series resembles George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire in many ways. Being a huge fan of Martin and ASoIaF, I was quite excited, and bought the first book immediately. Like in most epic fantasy stories it involves multiple plot-threads intertwined together to create one, big story.

I was instantly hooked. First book was easily the best fantasy book I’d read in years. World building wasn’t extensive, and there are no maps provided by the author, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You won’t have to expend your brainpower on remembering the names of umpteen places, characters, etc. You can rather focus solely on the story. And what a story it is. Dark-hued humour, decent prose and excellent dialogues makes it stupendously enjoyable.

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Characters are fantastic. Not a single character is perfectly good or perfectly bad like in real life giving the story a gritty, realistic feel. There are three main characters in the story and hundreds of other, minor characters

The first character is Sand Dan Glotka, who instantly reminded me of Tyrion Lannister from George R.R. Martin’s brilliant A Song of Ice and Fire series. Glotka is a crippled Inquisitor (euphemism for legal torturer). Ironically, he himself was captured and tortured by the Gurkish when he was a soldier in a war which occurred before the events of the trilogy. He is a pretty complex character. And probably, my personal favourite in the trilogy. Superficially, he seems like a heartless monster who tortures people, even the innocent ones, for the fun of it while continually being haunted by the question: Why do I do this? 

And yet… And yet…

Sometimes you get elusive glimpses of the remnant conscience inside him. Particularly, with his old friend Collem West and his sister Ardee West. These are easy to miss because, Glotka, even in his monologues, tries to convince himself he is not a good man and he did that particular good thing because of money, power or simply because he found it amusing. He tells himself he surely didn’t do it because he was being good.

The second main character is a young nobleman Jezal Dan Luthar. He is a vain, swollen-headed man who behaves disdainfully towards every one who is inferior to him. There’s some pretty good character development done in this character by the author. Jezal relishes glory and he is going to take part in upcoming fencing competition. For this, he goes under arduous training under a veteran Marshal. What he doesn’t know is that his real test is coming soon and it is something much graver than a simple competition.

The third main character is Logen Ninefingers, also called The Bloody-nine. Considered the greatest warrior north has ever seen, he believes he had had enough of war and bloodshed, being estranged from friends and enemies alike. He’s told by the Spirits (he being one of the only few people who can communicate with them) that a powerful wizard, Bayaz, requests his presence. Logen, contemplating that if there’s nowhere for him to go, he might as well meet this Bayaz and get a motivation to continue with his life.

What these three don’t know is that Bayaz, First of the Magi, is more than that he appears. And their life is thrown into chaos. An engrossing and bloody chaos.

My only complaint was that the storyline involving the northern provinces like Angland and beyond was ended quite abruptly. Also, some people might find the story a bit on the gorier  side. That aside, the trilogy is almost flawless. The characters, the battle-scenes, the duels, the dialogues, everything is sublime. Prose is quite good, too, if a little too fluffy for my taste.

Ratings:

The Blade Itself  5/5 

Before They Are hanged 4/5

Last Argument of Kings 4/5

Prices:

The Blade Itself: Rs. 779 

Before They Are Hanged: Rs. 779

Last Argument of Kings: Rs. 779

(These are paperback prices)

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