The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself: “The Remarkable Talents of Brother Longfoot” and “Her Kind Fight Everything”

I was a convention this past weekend and had the pleasure of moderating a panel on the subject of horror. Being a big fan of topic creep I steered the conversation toward how horror has changed in the past few decades. Traditional monsters have been appropriate by various agents as non-threatening entities. Be it vampires in Twilight or werewolves in Teen Wolf or yetis in Monster’s Inc. we’ve become inured to the horror of “things that go bump in the night.” That’s not say that these devices can’t still be used, but they’ve become more flavor than horror.

What has become more horrifying is our fellow man. The news cycle has brought to our attention an ever increasing reality that casts our neighbor as Patrick Bateman. This phenomenon is absolutely reflected in horror with an increasing number of productions like Disturbia and Monster. Grimdark and other more modern fantasies are absolutely invested in this paradigm. No longer are we dealing with Dark Ones and ancient evils, but with the much more familiar evil of the most depraved humanity has to offer. Something to consider as we move forward in a series populated with more destructive personalities than a John Carpenter film.


“The Remarkable Talents of Brother Longfoot”

Short Brief is Enough: Logen wakes up to find Brother Longfoot, a renowned Navigator, in their apartments. A bit of a talker, Longfoot regales the Northman with his worldly experience. Bayaz tells them to prepare for a journey to the Old Empire, but not before their last party member arrives. He sends the pair to the docks laden with gold, to find a ship that will carry them.

Along the way Longfoot tells of many other great cities around the world. Stariksa, Westport, Dagoska, Shaffa, Ospria all have something to offer, but none hold a candle to Talins. Discussing Adua, Longfoot reflects on the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. The pair take a short cut to the docks, but run into some trouble when the Navigator displays their wealth without thought. Logen reacts and comes away unharmed. His confidence in Longfoot somewhat diminished.

Important Characters Introduced: Brother Longfoot

Minor Characters Introduced: None.

Quotes to Remember:

‘Now commoners can be rich, you see? And a rich commoner has power. Is he a commoner now, or a nobleman? Or is he something else? Very complicated all of the sudden, no?’

This is much plainer than some of the conflicts Arch Lector Sult has been dancing around. Who holds the power in Adua?

But then he’d always been lucky with fights. Lucky at getting out of them alive. Not so lucky with the getting into them.

You make your own luck, Logen. Clichés! I can haz u.

A Brief on the Short Brief: So, what’s “The Remarkable Talents of Brother Longfoot” all about? Good question. I’m not sure it serves any great purpose other than providing some texture to the world that Logen, Bayaz, and the rest will soon explore. We learn that Bayaz wishes to go to the Old Empire, a place we know nothing about to discover something as yet unrevealed.

We also see Logen looking for some companionship, albeit of the paying for it variety. Much like Ferro, and Jezal, and Glokta, and well… everyone… Logen has a void in himself he’s trying to fill. He’s a monster who wants to be something else, and he seems to seek out the kinds of comforts others do, but only seems to be trying to convince himself of their efficacy.

Does anyone else get a sneaking suspicion from this chapter that Brother Longfoot is a little more than meets the eye? There’s nothing stated overtly, but just a general overall tone.


“Her Kind Fight Everything”

Quick summary: Ferro and Yulwei watch Dagoska at night. Unsure whether his art can keep them hidden in such a populace place, Yulwei goes in alone. Ferro takes the chance to flee. She’s found by two Eaters who nearly capture her. Yulwei rescues her and easily dispatches the pair.

Long Summary: Ferro watches Dagoska from a distance, a near island connected by a thin strip of land to the southern continent. Yulwei, sitting beside her, expresses his concern that sneaking them both through the populace city, and several Eaters, is a challenge he may not be up to. Extracting a promise from Ferro to wait, Yulwei scouts ahead.

Ferro, ignoring her commitment to the magus, flees into the night. Using a river to obscure her trail, she stops for the night and falls asleep with vengeance on her mind. She awakes to the sound of voices, a brother and sister searching for Maljinn.

Bolting like a frightened rabbit, Ferro runs to an open space and turns to face the search party. She puts an arrow in three riders, and cuts down a third. The brother and sister look on with interest, but without concern for the welfare of the soldiers in their service. At a word from his sister, the brother moves toward Ferro. His steps chew up the space between them, undaunted by repeated arrows to his torso.

Reaching his target, the man, an Eater to be sure, disables Ferro. His sister mocks her efforts, but stops when a voice commands them to do so. Yulwei.

After offering the Eaters a chance to leave, admonishing them for breaking Euz’s law, Yulwei attacks with his art. The sister’s bones are turned to water and the brother burns from within, leaving Ferro and the magus alone and surrounded by death. Ferro admits she cannot survive without Yulwei and is reminded of the empty space inside her.

Important Characters Introduced: Euz.

Minor Characters Introduced: None.

Quotes to Remember:

‘A little splinter of the Union, stuck into Gurkhul like a thorn. A thorn in the Emperor’s pride.’

I love this image. Also, it really gives us a nice idea of what the geography looks like.

‘The word of Euz governs all. There can be no exceptions.’

See below.

Analysis: My first response was, who in God’s name is Euz? This is the first mention of the name, and only one of three mentions in the entire first novel. Yulwei invokes him in reference to the Second Law, which prohibits eating human flesh. I thought these were Juvens’ laws? Moments like these demonstrate the tricky parts of history, attributions are fuzzy at best and change over time. History and the interpretation of it is an absolute key theme in the series.

Also of interest is Yulwei familiarity with Khalul. He seems to hint that Khalul was once a colleague, and remains something more than a mere adversary. Who is Khalul? One of the original Magi perhaps that trained under Juvens? Yulwei dispatches his disciples, the Eaters, with such ease that I would venture a guess that Yulwei be one of the originals as well and not some mere apprentice to Bayaz.

Although the chapter continues to emphasize Ferro as something of an unwilling participant in Yulwei’s schemes, the chapter provides little insight. Abercrombie continues to beat the drum of her emotional disconnects, her lack of direction, and her inability to separate herself from the Magi. Given the direction of their travel, and Bayaz’s comments with regards to the rest of the travel party, I suspect Ferro will be linking up with Logen and crew in Adua very soon.

Next Week: Jezal has some trouble in the Contest. I’m going to guess Ardee makes things difficult.

Justin Landon runs Staffer’s Book Review where his posts are less on-color. Find him on Twitter for meanderings on science fiction and fantasy, and to argue with him about whatever you just read.


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