Wed
Mar 5 2014 1:00pm

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself: “Each Man Worships Himself”

Joe Abercrombie reread First Law trilogy The Blade Itself I believe it was Hannibal who said, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Not the Hannibal who eats people, or the one who took elephants across the Pyrenees, but the important one—the one who led the A-Team. Also, the actor’s name was George Peppard, which isn’t remotely relevant to anything, but say it with me… PEPPARD. Isn’t it fun?

Anyway, I bring up the estimable Hannibal because like the famous line quoted above, Bayaz is ready to start executing the master plan. He’s assembled his Face, and Murdock, and BA Baracus, and maybe even his Amy Amanda Allen and Frankie Santana.

Seriously, give the analogy a minute to marinate. Hannibal is clearly Bayaz—master of disguises and lover plans. Jezal is Face—good with a machine gun, but really there more for his social cache. Ferro is definitely Murdock—nuttier than a fruitcake and damned useful in a pinch. Logen is none other than B.A. Baracus—tough as nails and grouchy about his vehicle’s paint job (bit of a stretch there, maybe?). Brother Longfoot is Amy—the reporter leading them from job to job—and Quai is Frankie—the special effects operator in the credits who I dare you to figure out what he actually does.

I admit, this shtick makes a lot more sense if you’re as obsessed with The A-Team as I was in my early teenage years. My mom wouldn’t let me watch it because GUNS, which of course put it in the regular rotation along with Madonna’s Vogue video. Without further analogizing the First Law Trilogy with the greatest action television series of all time, let’s talk...

“Each Man Worships Himself”

In brief: Ferro is ushered in to see Bayaz and Logen. She is entirely unimpressed. After eavesdropping on a conversation between Bayaz and Yulwei she tries to escape their clutches, but only becomes more convinced that they’re her best chance at revenge.

In verbose: Ferro watches Logen, finding him hideous and pink and all together dangerous. Seeing an attack around every corner, Ferro pines for a knife. With nothing better to do, she listens to Yulwei and Bayaz catch up. Bored by their prattle about the conditions in the Gurkish Empire, she peers out a window to feign nonchalance. Their attention snaps her back to the present.

Bayaz is wondering whether Ferro is what he’s looking for. Yulwei seems sure based on her rapid healing and superhuman pain tolerance. To test her, Bayaz presents two stones and asks her to choose the blue. She chooses the one on the left, but Bayaz reveals them both to bed red, proving that Ferro cannot see color. Her response is to attack, shattering Bayaz’s nose. He finds it rather funny. Bayaz and Yulwei excuse themselves to discuss matters in private, which of course Ferro manages to overhear.

Yulwei admonishes Bayaz for his plans, calling them too ambitious, but also necessary. With two hundred or more Eaters in the Gurkish Horde, Bayaz sees little choice in his direction. He’ll do whatever it takes to succeed and that means using the Seed. Ferro and Logen are part of his plans, and the former because of her ability to carry the Seed by some accident of birth. Bayaz promises to do right by Ferro at Yulwei’s prompting.

Their conversation complete, Bayaz asks Ferro to accompany him on his quest. With some convincing that its her best path to revenge herself on the Gurkish, Ferro agrees. Yulwei leaves them to continue his spying, but not before he hugs Ferro good-bye. There is much awkwardness.

Important Characters Introduced: None

Minor Characters Introduced: Manum, Glustrod, East Wind

Quotes to Remember:

‘Remember, Bayaz, there are worse things than Khalul. Far worse.’ His voice dropped to a whisper and Ferro strained to hear. ‘The Tellers of Secrets are always listening…’

The what?! Tellers of Secrets? Who are these jerks? I can’t help but think of Logen’s spirits. Even having read the entire Abercrombie catalog I’m fairly sure these so-called Tellers are still a mystery.

‘…The sons of Euz, so great in wisdom and power, this Seed was the end of them, of all of them, in different ways. Are you wiser than Juvens, Bayaz? Are you more cunning than Kanedias? Are you stronger than Glustrod?’

Glustrod? Euz’s third child mentioned thus far. We know nothing of him to this point, but given the importance of Juvens and Kanedias, I suspect we’ll get more. This clearly speaks to Bayaz’s arrogance though. He would succeed where greater individuals have failed. And Yulwei follows him... curious.

In review: The chapter reveals a large part of Bayaz’s plan. Something about the Seed, finding it, carrying it, and doing something with it. The question that underscores all of it though is, why? And, more obviously, what’s the Seed?

Ostensibly Bayaz and Yulwei are hinting at the idea that they have to beat Khalul to the punch. He’s ‘arming’ hundreds of Eaters and controls a fleet to rival the Union’s. But, what does Khalul want? Does he want the House of the Maker or merely to dominate the world? Is Bayaz’s interest to stave off Khalul’s ‘evil’ or does he merely seek to preserve his own authority? Or is there something larger at play? Questions. Questions. And Glokta isn’t handy to torture them out of anyone for us.

That aside, we learn so many interesting things in “Each Man Worships Himself.” Yulwei offers that the Seed was the end of all the sons of Euz, in one form or another. But, in breaking the second law, Khalul threatens Bayaz. And Bayaz will break the first law to win. Interestingly, Yulwei seems to imply that ‘the Art’, which we’ve taken to mean magic, breaks the first law. If Yulwei is willing to criticize Bayaz for his use of ‘the Art’, what then did Yulwei use hide Ferro from pursuit and then defeat the Eaters?

Yulwei is unconvinced the path Bayaz travels is the right one, and he suspects the other Magi will share his concern. His trust in Bayaz is strong though, based, at least primarily, on his successful coup against Kanedias eons ago. What is clear is that Logen and Ferro will bear the brunt of Bayaz’s machinations. Logen for his ability to commune with spirits and Ferro for her blood, which will allow her to carry the Seed.

Now begins the speculation, what about Ferro allows her to carry the Seed? We know three things that indicate her qualifications: pain resistance, rapid healing, and an inability to see color. This implies she is not entirely human, or rather she is not merely human. Is she somehow part of the line of Euz? A product of the other side that Bayaz and Yulwei speak of? How does that connect to Logen’s ability to speak to spirits? Are they connected at all?

I can’t wait for the group to get one the road. Unlike The A-Team I’m pretty confident, that once the bullets start flying, people will die.

Next Week: A quick hit from Glokta and West, followed by the culmination of Forley the Weakest’s plans... it doesn’t go well.


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.

10 comments
Brian Malbon
1. Brian Malbon
I love the A-Team analogy. Picturing Logen festooned with a Mohawk and gold chains, pitying the fools left right and centre... Wonderful. Speaking of people who played people in shows, who is your dream cast for the First Law movie/TV series we'd all torture a Hollywood mercer to see? I'm thinking Gene Hackman as Bayaz, Morgan Freeman as Yulwei, and Lupita Nyong'o as Ferro.
Brian Malbon
2. imbubbasmom
Ooh, Gene Hackman! Yes! I like your other choices, too, but who would play Logen? I think that guy who played Khal Drogo in GoT would be big enough, but he's too pretty.

Good analogy, as well.

In this chapter, I think we're beginning to see the Bayaz's strategy of win-at-all costs. I'm not sure why Yulwei is following him, either.
Brian Malbon
3. Brian Malbon
Logen: Tom Hardy with some really good scar make up, out if I'm feeling hilarious, Kevin Sorbo.

I think Yulwei sees him as the lesser of two evils. Also, since he looks and sounds Kantic, it's possible that Khalul and the Empire conquered his ancestral home land, robbing him ofhis own nation to play with.
Brian Malbon
4. JReynolds
who is your dream cast for the First Law movie/TV series we'd all torture a Hollywood mercer to see?
So long as Brother Longfoot is played by Chris Tucker, all will be good.
Brian Malbon
5. Brian Malbon
JReynolds: why, I oughta....
Brian Malbon
6. Brian Malbon
Something not yet mentioned, that I think bears looking at, is that in this scene it is openly admitted that the Union has no religion at all. They are entirely secular. It's interesting for a couple of reasons. Obviously it shows the differences between Bayaz and Khalul that each has chosen a different method of keeping their Kingdoms in thrall to them (money for Bayaz, religion for Khalul). But it serves another purpose, in the social commentary department. It's pretty obvious already that the Union isn't very nice. It's also a fairly close representationof the values that could be found in much of medieval Europe, minus the devout religious fervor. I think, by removing religion and the easy excuses it makes for things like the inquisition our the crusades, that Abercrombie has a created a more cynical, but slightly more honest, society, and allowed us a look at the real motivations that always lie behind such actions.
Justin Landon
7. jdiddyesquire
Honestly, wouldn't Mickey Rourke make a pretty awesome Logen? He's a little too old maybe now, but the Rourke from The Wrestler? Totes.

Justin Landon
8. jdiddyesquire
@Brian -- I'm going to have think about that religion thing for a bit. Interesting.
Robert H. Bedford
9. RobB
Totes magotes on Rourke. I think Ron Perlman and/or Clancy Brown would have to be part of any kind of adaption of these books.
Brian Malbon
10. Brian Malbon
Jdiddysquire - holy hell, you're right, Rourke would have been perfect.

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