Wed
Aug 7 2013 1:00pm
Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy: Introduction & Prologue

The Joe Abercrombie reread on Tor.com

Welcome to the officially unofficial reread of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, and, unless I do something horrifically offensive, eventually the entire First Law Trilogy.

If you’re not familiar with Joe Abercrombie I ought to cast you into Tartarus. However, due to the constraints unfairly placed on me by Tor.com’s legal team, I’ve elected to educate rather than banish to hell. Consider yourself warned.

Abercrombie first came onto the scene in 2006 as a young (but not as young as Brent Weeks) and nice looking (but not as nice looking as China Miéville) film editor turned writer. His first manuscript, The Blade Itself, sold to Gollancz in the United Kingdom. It was brought to the United States by Pyr in 2008, by which time Abercrombie had already finished the trilogy in the UK with Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. I offer these biographical details for two reasons: (a) it helps meet an artificial word count and (b) it demonstrates that Abercrombie came on the scene at an auspicious time.

In 2003 R. Scott Bakker published The Darkness that Comes Before. It was epic fantasy with an extreme over emphasis on the grimier aspects of storytelling. Some have called it grit. By the time Abercrombie’s novels began to profligate it seemed a new subgenre was born—grimdark. The trick with grimdark is trying to define it. Some call it realism. I think terms like that are a classic case of understatement. Grimdark is hyper-realistic, in a way that Kill Bill is hyper-violent. It’s a reality of absurdism, if you will.

Abercrombie in that paradigm is the quintessential absurdist, making him to grimdark as William Gibson is to cyberpunk—not the progenitor, but definitely the iconic practitioner. It’s often forgotten that novels like John Ford’s Web of Angels (1980) or even Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? laid the groundwork for Gibson’s ascension. I believe the same can be said for Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, Michael Moorcock’s Elric, and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, with regards to grimdark. But, just as cyberpunk wasn’t truly born until Gibson revved the engine in Neuromancer, it isn’t until Abercrombie’s A Blade Itself that grimdark truly finds its stride.

Interestingly, a mere seven years later, Abercrombie’s own Best Served Cold, Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy, and Kameron Hurley’s Bel Dame Apocrypha have taken grimdark to a place where I could argue the medium is exhausted. Authors like Richard Ford, KJ Parker (wonder what “this guy” thinks?), Luke Scull, and others are now working within a form, no longer taking it somewhere new. If such a statement is true, and grimdark has run its course, it seems an appropriate time to examine the master of the form—Joe Abercrombie.

Joe Abercrombie Looking Pensive

Before I give us a taste of the actual reread with Abercrombie’s twisted version of a prologue, I want to emphasize what The Blade Itself and the First Law Trilogy are all about—beyond the fact that they’re the grimdarkiest of them all. At the basic level, Abercrombie is taking the epic fantasy thing and eating its lunch.

His primary points of view are a mercenary psychopath, a crippled torturer, and a self-impressed noble asswipe—and I’m being nice. There isn’t a likeable character in the entire series excepting the Dogman (we’ll talk about him later!). The kindly old magi in the tower is more like Gimli than Gandalf, and may actually be the villain, while the hero is... well, there is no hero.

In truth, the First Law Trilogy is a commentary on epic fantasy. It’s a response to Robert Jordan and a perfecting amendment to George R. R. Martin. And, ironically, it all begins with a quote from perhaps the first epic fantasy, Homer’s Odyssey:

“The blade itself incites to deeds of violence”

Onward....

 

The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie

Chapter Title: THE END

What happens:

The beauty of Joe Abercrombie is that so often chapters can be summed up like this: Logen Ninefingers avoids being murderalized and falls off a cliff.

The greater beauty of Joe Abercrombie is that chapters can also be summed up like this: Logen Ninefingers battles with some mysterious creatures called Shanka, who are something like orcs. He kills one by splitting its skull with his axe, but it gets stuck (as axes do) and, finding himself without a weapon, he ends up being tackled by the dead Shanka’s buddy.

Tackled over a cliff!

Hanging on to a root, with a Shanka dangling from his boot, Logen decides to take a leap into the river below rather than die on someone else’s terms.

I should be doing dramatic reenactments.

Key quotes:

“His fingers clutched, clutched at nothing. He was beginning to fall. He let go a little whimper.”

This is the first indication that we’re reading something different. Logen is tough. He just split a bad guy's head open, and he’s... whimpering? Oh yes. There will be whimpering.

“Once you’ve got a task to do, it’s better to do it than to live with the fear of it.”

Not quite the iconic quotes that will come later in the book, but this is the beginning of one of Abercrombie’s thematic thrust—sometimes people do things because they have to, sometimes because they want to, but most often because it’s easiest.

Incoherence disguised as analysis:

The key component in this introduction to Logen Ninefingers and the First Law Trilogy begins with the title of the chapter. THE END. Is it the end of the story, like Basso’s prologue in KJ Parker’s The Folding Knife? The end of Logen’s life? The end of epic fantasy for the genre reader? Or some foreshadowing of things to come? Not surprisingly, I think it’s all of those things.

Abercrombie also throws us a big bone in the Shanka. A bestial and wild enemy that calls to mind the enemies of our erstwhile fantasy heroes of yore—orcs, and trolls, and trollocs, oh my! Are they going to play a prominent role throughout the series? Are the Shanka hordes going to invade the northland only to be fought off by brave knights protecting the innocent? Er... no.

The Shanka are a red herring of the highest order, one that remain a mystery to this day. Six books into Abercrombie’s world the Shanka remain completely unexplored. It’s the first trope The Blade Itself thumbs its nose at, and it won’t be the last.

Oh, right... SPOILER WARNING!! Guess what else? Logen isn’t dead.

Next week I’ll look at the first true point of view chapter for Logen, torturer extraordinaire Sand Dan Glotka, and grade-A jerk swordsman Jezal dan Luthar.


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.

43 comments
TBGH
1. TBGH
And another reread I have to find time for.

Evil, evil, I say!
TBGH
2. mcl
thanks - I loved these books an your sense of humor is wonderful - thanks again - I look forward to the rest of the articles ---m
Justin Landon
3. jdiddyesquire
@mcl -- you complimented my sense of humor, you've just earned 'Most Favored Commenter' status. This carries with it certain trade tariff exceptions as long as you don't have any major human rights violations.
TBGH
4. DrPedanticStrikes!
"Magi" is a plural noun; the singular is "mage" or "magus."
Justin Landon
5. jdiddyesquire
@DocPedant -- I beg to differ. It is traditionally plural, but in the mid-14th century came into use as singular borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.

So says Wikipedia anyway. I admit I'm justifying after the fact, but who doesn't like a grammatical slap fight every once in a while?
TBGH
6. Kibs
"There isn’t a likeable character in the entire series excepting the Dogman"

Logen Ninefingers isn't likeable? I've no doubt he was an unbearable psychopath in his past and that some craziness remains, but, during the time period of these books, he seems pretty likeable. To the point where we are meant to like and care about him. Been awhile since I read this trilogy, so I may be mistaken.
Justin Landon
7. jdiddyesquire
@Kibs -- Well... Abercrombie makes you root for him. I certainly like reading about him, but LIKE HIM? Like. . . . like like? No. No. Sorry. He's pretty horrible despite having good intentions from time to time.
TBGH
8. JoR
You could argue that the grimdark medium is exhausted? I'm wondering if you can clarify this a bit. Do you think that stories written in this vein from now on are worthless, pointless, etc.? Is a subgenre only as valuable as its newness? Just curious. Personally, I prefer grimdark to anything else going on in fantasy. Joe is by far my favorite writer of the stuff, but I think new writers (and old, should they choose) can still add to the delightfully wicked subgenre.

I'm still waiting for a true grimdark flintlock. I enjoyed Django Wexler's debut very much, but it wasn't anywhere near as dark as I thought it would be going in.
Justin Landon
9. jdiddyesquire
@JoR -- Unpacking that statement would take another 1,000 words probably. But I'll try. To me exhaustion doesn't mean you can't continue to write in it, or that what is written in it is less valuable, but that as a medium it's no longer inventive or boundary pushing.

Grimdark is inherently reliant on 'shock value'. I call it 'absurdist realism' in the post. It's like using a shotgun to kill an ant. The overkill nature of grimdark helps it makes its point. Many novels have pushed the envelope so far that I'm not sure there's any value gained in pushing it further. I do not mean that new stories told within a grimdark tradition are less good than their predecessors.

If that makes sense?
Chris Long
10. radynski
@Kibs

Well Abercrombie is obviously trying to get you to like Logen for most of the series. Honestly, that's one of the big gut punches of the series, and another major way he turns tropes on their head.

For a while you sympathize with him and believe that he's trying to do good and change and whatnot. But at some point, you realize that Logen really isn't a good guy, and he's just deceiving himself (and the reader because we're in his head). He's really a nasty guy and we probably shouldn't have been rooting for him this whole time.
Valentin M
11. ValMar
I've read the first two of the series, haven't yet the third. This may give me the kick up the arse to finish them off.

What do you guys think of the two standalone novels that followed? Them I find intriguing but have to finish the third one first. Or do I? Are there any characters returning in The Heroes or the other one?
TBGH
12. Hodor
Very interested in reading this reread. I'm a big Abercrombie fan.

Don't think I agree with the comment about K. J. Parker though (not familiar with the other writers mentioned with her). I believe Parker started writing before Abercrombie and if anything probably influenced him.

And while I'm not sure if it counts as a new direction, Parker has a uniquely detached style that lacks the absurd qualities of grimdark (Abercrombie also writes with a similarly wry tone, but definitely likes the odd badass bloodbath).
Justin Landon
13. jdiddyesquire
@Hodor -- I think you're probably right, but I had to throw a dig at my very good friend Jared Shurin who did the recent KJ Parker reread. I was intentionally trying to get him to write basically the comment you just wrote.

I do believe Parker writes grimdark. She clearly subscribes to using hyper-realism to make her points, although she does so with phsycological stress rather than pure violence. I don't (personally) believe violence is what makes grimdark. Regardless of whether she comes before or after Abercrombie, she is still VERY active in the this "zone", so I feel comfortable including her with that group.

So you're right... and WRONG! ;)
TBGH
14. Hodor
@Justin- Ah, I see. Thanks for the response. I think you are right there. Parker is definitely writing in the Grimdark genre.

Incidentally (I've seen this commented elsewhere, including I think by Abercrombie himself), while it lacks the sex and profanity of Grimdark, I find it striking how the Mistborn Trilogy is very similar to the First Law Trilogy in terms of being a middle finger toward Lord of the Rings.
Justin Landon
15. jdiddyesquire
@Hodor -- Mistborn. Humm. I'll have to think that one over. I think Mistborn definitely subverts epic fantasy, but I don't believe it challenges our notions of what's "acceptable" or even what's "right".
TBGH
16. JoR
@jdiddyesquire--Makes sense. As one who feels that "shock value" is cheap, I look forward to grimdark settling down into the comfortable, evil bastard role of the fantasy family. Screw pushing boundaries. I admit new is fun, but only quality will last. Happily--and I think you'd agree--Joe has the "new" and quality going for him.
Justin Landon
17. jdiddyesquire
@JoR I'd strip down to my skivvies and roll around in jell-o with Abercrombie. So, yeah.
Dustin Freshly
18. Fresh0130
Ahhh, the First Law Trilogy. This is easily one of my absolute favorite series in Modern Fantasy. It’s dark, it’s twisted, it’ll try and kick you in the groin several times along the way, but damn if it isn’t one of the most enjoyable rides you’ll ever take.

Although he's fairly well known in most fantasy circles, I always feel that Abercrombie is criminally underrated as a writer. I honestly think he's right up there in the argument for best modern fantasy writer. Granted, his books aren’t for everyone and they go places that readers with squeamish stomachs won’t be able to follow, but everyone I've talked into reading his books have almost always come back to me and praised them highly and gone onto read the rest of his books with an evil gleam in their eye and a mischievous smirk on their face.

I’m going to have to disagree a little with your assessment of Abercrombie’s protagonists though, I wouldn't necessarily say that his characters aren't likeable; you just might not like the places they go, the things they do, or where they wind up in the end.

Logen, for the majority of the trilogy, is very likeable character. He's the voice of reason in allot of situations where it's absolutely absurd that he's the guy talking sense. He goes out of his way to try and befriend almost everyone he encounters or has dealings with (for the first two books anyway), Shanka being excluded from this as they aren’t people per say, his sense of humor carries allot of the more difficult scenes in the books, he's usually one of the POV characters for most of the best violence in the series, and if you don't have a whole wagon load of favorite Logen quotes you probably didn't enjoy the series at all. All that being said, he also has probably the darkest side we experience in the series as well. But let’s leave that for when it rears its hideous head much further down the line.

I’ll give you Glotka, he may not necessarily be likeable, but he's damned sure enjoyable! I never thought I'd read chapters where limbs are being hacked to bits, teeth yanked out, or any other of the myriad of ways he and his crew mutilate a human body, and find myself chuckling quietly as I read Glotka’s constant running commentary. His little mental F’yous to the social inequities and his superiors/noblemen he encounters makes for some funniest and thought provoking moments in the series. Despite him being a cripple and the horrendous things he does, Glotka might very well be as close to a hero as the First Law offers up to the reader.

Jezeal… Well, I won’t defend him just yet, he’s exactly what you describe him as when the books start out, he’s a selfish prima donna of a nobleman playing at swords for nothing else but to get a head, but his moments in the sun await us.

Obviously we’ll get to the rest of the cast (Ferro, Dogman, Major West, etc…) later in the reread and have a deeper discussion on just where things go, how the characters grow or don’t as events unfold, but suffice it to say I’m really looking forward to the discussions on
this one.

@11: Finish the First Law Trilogy before starting the Stand Alone First Law novels, there are allllloooootttt of characters that reappear in the Stand Alones from the original Trilogy. Even the Stand Alones should probably be read in order just to figure out how characters wind up where they are and how see what lead to some of the major changes in them that you'll miss if you skip them. They're all absolutely worth reading to see how Abercrombie takes on different genres with in the First Law world.
Valentin M
19. ValMar
Fresh @ 18

Thanks for the info. These books are on my "to read" list for sure. Glotka was the most fun to read for me too, despite the torture in them.
TBGH
20. Malbon
Yeah, Logen is a terrific character and one I like very much. Every time I read the series (and I've gone back to it for times in five years), I find my perspective changing on him. In one, he's a monster in deep denial. In the other a good person caught one too many times in the wrong place at the wrong time.I'm sure three pendulum will swing again next time.
As for Glokta, I think he's one of the most original and brilliant characters in fantasy. With his own self-effacing sense of humor and utter lack of a conscience, I think he actually becomes the conscience of the series. In a way it's easy to become inured to all of the awful things that people do to each other in this series, and it seems Glokta is there to remind us what is REALLY distasteful about human nature and the across of the so-called heroes.
TBGH
21. blufli
I adore the First Law Trilogy and world. I recommend them to anyone and everyone that is a fan of fantasy and is looking for something different. As I describe them- Abercrombie takes your standard fantasy tropes throws them in a bag beats them to a pulp and give them back to you bloody. As the reader you as prepared for the story to follow the path of Tolkin only to find out that the nice guy really does come in last and in this case dead.

Also thank you for enlightening me on grimdark so I can continue confusing my non lit friends with arbitrary terms to describe sub sub genres.
TBGH
22. BDG91
As much as I love Joe and the First Law books and beyond (it's his damn wit!) I honestly don't think he or basically any 'grimdark' book has responded to...let's call it old epic fantasy...in any meaningful way. It basically has the same problems a lot of epic fantasy books has, lackluster women characters, a lack of POC and LGBTQ characters that don't rely on stereotypes for shorthand characterzation but now it just has added violence. Violence that is often not even examined in proper way. It reminds me of 90s comics to be honest.

That's not say that there aren't some 'grimdark' books that don't have meaningful responses (the Malazan Book of the Fallen for one but I'm not sure I'd classify it as 'grimdark'...it's another beast all together I think) I just think as a whole there is much better (a) sub-genre(s) that actually do something about faults of a lot of epic fantasy. New Weird, while now kind of dying down, is pretty great. Then there is responses like the Acacia trilogy, while most def epic fantasy, is again on whole more humanist in nature.

Sorry for the somewhat conversational opinion, it's just a subject that gets me talking.
TBGH
23. BoSoze
I absolutely love Joe Abercrombie's works. His writing style is sublime and refreshing, say to GrrM's latest novels. I'll never forget the POV-change scene in The Heroes, Action Packed PeeWee!
I visit these boards too get new inspiration on fantasy and SF (Neal Stephenson's definition of speculative fiction) works and on authors I havn't yet read. I therefore rarely make posts.

I do too some extent agree with your analysis of the historical development of the "GrimDark" genre, as you call it. But I recently read a series called "Acts of Caine" by Matthew Stover. The first book "Heroes Die" was published in 1998, a merely two years after "A Game of Thrones", which you state as one of the forerunners for the "GrimDark". Back to Stover and "Heroes Die". Although it might be qualified as a SF-novel, by most readers, I would make the argument that it has so many traits incommon with the fantasy genre that it could be viewed as such also. The reason I bring up this specific novel is that, if you are looking for novels which are the poster children of what I like too call the "Gritty" genre (that would be your pre-"GrimDark"), One can not overlook "Heroes Die" by Matthew Stover.
Looking forward to you revisiting First Law
With regards
Bo from Denmark
Pirmin Schanne
24. Torvald Nom
I'm not too sure about classifying Abercrombie as GrimDark, but that's mostly because I associate it with the books that originated the term (i.e. Warhammer 40.000) - and realism (even hyper-realism) doesn't fit there at all. In fact, I'd say a better description is to take every evil, sadistic and abhorrent thing you can think of, blow it out of proportion, and have the "good" guys do it. Then introduce opponents that are worse, and the earlier mentioned things are the only way to stop them.
Justin Landon
25. jdiddyesquire
I think we should be careful not to get too wrapped up in the grimdark debate. What I'm trying to setup is that there's a lot of talk about GRIMDARK and what it is and what it isn't. I'm putting out a very GENERAL definition of grimdark, simplifying it. But, my goal is point out that while GRIMDARK is perhaps Abercrombie's subgenre, it has almost NOTHING to do with what he's trying to say in his fiction.

I'll unpack that in next weeks post. Maybe.
TBGH
27. Michael Paul Goldenberg
I blew through all six of the Abercrombie novels this year and couldn't get enough of his peculiar (in a good sense) approach and sensibility. Following the graphic novelization of THE BLADE ITSELF on-line and enjoying its slow unfolding enormously. A different sort of second reading.

Not sure I can or want to commit to a second read now. Just started Richard K. Morgan's sojourn into this genre again: too much water under the bridge to dive into book 2 without rereading THE STEEL REMAINS, but it's coming back to me. If you don't know that book and THE COLD COMMANDS which follows it, this would be a good time to start, as the final book will be out in a year (late August of '14). And so much else to read. ;^) But following along here will be an enjoyable activity and I may even have something useful to contribute.
TBGH
28. Joe Informatico
I'm in ValMar's boat--read the first two books and loved them, but haven't got around to the third yet. But what I really find appealing about this series is the way Abercrombie takes the stock characters who are usually the villains in epic fantasy: the torturer and his inquisitors, the wily desert bandit, the arrogant noble bravo, and the brutal barbarian chief, and makes them the protagonists, in a dark mirror of Tolkien's Fellowship. And they're empathetic characters to boot.
TBGH
29. huetenan
Very much look forward to reading these.

In terms of hero-less heroic fantasy, shouldn't Glen Cook be mentioned as a or the trailblazer? The Shadows novels are quite amazing in their lack of a sympathetic hero -- not even the narrator really. That's war for you.
Justin Landon
30. jdiddyesquire
@huetenan--You could certainly make the case. I think of BLACK COMPANY as more of the fantasy version of FOREVER WAR or STARSHIP TROOPERS than as a commentary or response to fantasy. But, such things a fungible and open to hours of inconclusive debate.

In conclusion. I'm not wrong, and you couldn't possible be right. ;)
Philipp Frank
31. KillTheMule
Awesome, first blade rules. Not sure how to find time for this, but I've just bought the kindle edition of all 3 books for this reread :)

As for evolution of the genre, I don't really know my way around a lot, but while not particularly loving "red country", I thought that "the heroes" was a very nice in that it moved to a peculiar frame of reference - very narrow both in space and time, just very little actually happening, but getting to see this through different eyes. I'd say it has put a nice little twist into the genre.

Likeable characters, hmm, I remember rooting for Bremer dan Gorst. But he's just a side figure...

(e) What's the stepwidth for this reread, one chapter every thursday?
TBGH
32. Meaton124
I could never get into these because there isn't a story behind them. Oh sure, there's some nice scenes in them (hence the genre SWORDPORN created for him alone), but there isn't anything there. It's wanting and lacking as far as fiction. I could barely get past the first chapter because it was just too perfect as far as no flaws, no connection, and no desire to press on because it was almost like they were straight out of central casting.

I am in a minority, but please tell me why everyone is so fascinated by these books? Is there something I'm missing, or am I expecting too much by asking for a story when I read a novel?
Justin Landon
33. jdiddyesquire
@KillTheMule-- Something like 2-3 chapters a week posted midweek.

@Meaton124-- Wow, I don't think we read the same books. I dunno, I found plenty of plot for me. I also find the characters much more nuanced than typical genre similar novels.
Robert H. Bedford
34. RobB
@Meaton124 How much of these books did you actually read? Also, first time I've seen these books referred to as "SWORDPORN"
TBGH
35. everythingisnice
I think you are spot on in identifying the whimper and the red herring of the Shanka as the two key bits of the prologue. I'm less convinced about your thoughts on grimdark and a term like hyper-realism brings to mind someone like Nicholson Barker rather than Joe Abercrombie for me. I can't really link shock value or overkill to any form of modified realism, whether that is hyper or absurdist. Classic epic fantasy was deliberately heroic (romantic even) and Good always triumphed over Evil. So yeah, it wasn't realistic. Other writers started including greater realism but for me grimdark goes back out in the other direction, to concentrate on the opposite of the heroic and the romantic. In The Blade Itself Abercrombie pretty much denies the very concept of Good. I don't think this is particularly realistic but it is very enjoyable both in its own right and as a deconstruction of classic fantasy. When that deconstruction is absent is when grimdark simply becomes oppressive and unpleasant.
TBGH
36. drc413
I'm with @1 - another reread I have to find time for? Srsly? You're evil, and I hate you - and thank you very much!

Quick thoughts:
- I can't say I liked First Law because I felt vaguely uncomfortable the entire time I listened to them, but I couldn't stop. Darn you Abercrombie!
- Yes, I said "listened". If you haven't heard the audio book version, you should. Borrow it from a library or something. The production of these books was spot on, and added a real sense of depth to the characters. The slurred, lisping speech of Glokta is absolutely creepy.
- I hated Glokta within 2 paragraphs. He was my favorite character by the end of the books.
Dustin Freshly
37. Fresh0130
Meaton@32 What series did you try to start reading? What you're describing doesn't resemble the First Law to me at all. There's a deep story about the past coming to haunt the present, deconstruction of fantasy tropes, memorable original characters, some of the best written dialogue in the genre, etc... There is some pretty spectacular violence in the First Law, but I don't recall anything that would nearly equate to classifying it as "Swordporn".

everythingisnice@35 I agree, I don't think Abercrombie's goal with the First Law was to be realistic, grim, and evil just for the sake of it like allot of Grimdark comes across as, The Broken Empire (Which I think is an entertaining series within the genre) comes to mind as a recent example. Abercrombie seemed, to me atleast, to want to take a blowtorch to traditional fantasy tropes and deconstruct as much of the genre as he could while still telling an absorbing story that fell within the realm of fantasy.

drc@36: Glotka will do that to you, lol, took me a few chapters for him to catch on with me, but once he did I couldn't wait for his next POV, no matter what level of horendousness he and his Practicals were up to when I got there.
Jared Shurin
38. Jared_Shurin
Justin: Annoyingly, I may not completely disagree with your comments about Parker being "exhausted" within grimdark. Which is doubly annoying, as you know that I like disagreeing with you more than anything else in the world...

Parker's short stories seem to hint that she's wandering off in a new direction, I'm hopeful that this is an indication that she'll be doing to epic/high fantasy what her previous books have done for low fantasy.

I do think Hodor has a point on timing though, it is pretty hard to pin down any sort of correlation between Parker and Abercrombie given that they've been working more or less simultaneously. (With Parker having a head start, but certainly not the...er... cut-through... that Abercrombie has deservedly received.)

My role as Parker-Pusher satisfied, can I say, I am REALLY looking forward to this. Love The First Law so very much, and I'm glad that it is in such good hands!
Michael Ramm
39. michaelramm
Awesome!! First Law Trilogy has been on my TBR for such a long time, now I finally get to start reading it. I have heard a lot about Abercrombie and his writing. Just got through the Prologue and I am intrigued as to where this scene fits into the book. Magnanimous start, for sure! Looking forward to going through The Blade Itself with such knowledgable readers!!
Andrew Knighton
40. gibbondemon
I love these books, and this is a re-read I'm eager to join in on.

I agree with an awful lot of what everyone's said so far (aside from the grimdark debate - I'm not well read enough to comment, and up until now just associated it with Games Workshop worlds). It's interesting to see, reading back, how this first chapter both establishes the tone and themes and completely misleads you about the plot.

One of the things I most enjoy in these books is the values the characters have. It's easy for any fiction to create an apparently fantastic world but fill it with a morality that is distinctly modern and western - Tolkien being a prime example. In this, the characters are judging what is of value on very different criteria, and this affects their actions and relationships. Logen's values, like those of the other northmen, are around courage and a certain sort of integrity, with an emphasis on action rather than intention, and I think the quote about doing a thing rather than living with the fear of it reflects this as much as pragmatism.

Looking forward to reading everyone's views as we go through the story.
z drake cupsford
41. zdrakec
@18 Fresh0130: say one thing for Logen Ninefingers, say he's a magnificent bastard.
David Goodhart
42. Davyd
WHAT?! How did I miss this?! I've been wanting to do a re-read for a while now! Glad I can always count on Tor! Looking forward to catching up!
George Bracken
43. jorgybear
@ radynski: I don't believe Logan is "really a nasty guy" at all. yes, he's capable of doing some really horrible things, both as Logan and as "the Bloody Nine", but i honestly believe that as of the start of The Blade itself, he truely seeks redemption. He's done some hateful things in the name of Bethod in the past, but he's making an attempt to atone for those now. By the end of The Last Arguement of Kings, he realises that his method of atonement is flawed, and will only lead to more and more blood, but I think that he does what he does for what he believes are the right reasons. I think the same can be said for Glokta. I think he finds torture as distasteful as his victims, having been on the other side of the instruments himself, but he does it out of love for his country.
TBGH
44. Kait
I disagree the characters are not likeable. I liked almost every one we got a POV for. Sure, they're not always likeable and some (Jezal) are infuriating at the start. I thought the whole point of this wasn't to show us that good does not exist, as one commenter said, but to show that no one is either good nor bad, but a mix of both. Even some of the 'villians' in this book (like Calder) we hear from later in The Heroes and realise aren't so bad after all. As for Logen, he was by miles my favourite despite what he does later on. I just cannot understand how you cannot like him. I thought these characters were very realistic; no one is perfect, everyone is a victim of their upbringing and circumstance, and in reality people don't change as dramatically as we expect them to in novels/film.

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