The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself: A Holiday Interlude

Happy Holidays! My Tor Editorial Overlords have granted me a special request this December. Instead of the next batch of reread chapters from The Blade Itself, I’ve decided to get into the holiday spirit. Joe Abercrombie is brutally mean to his characters, who are actually a bunch of mean gits themselves. There’s little sunshine in their lives, living as they do in the Liz-Bourke-copyrighted “Crapsack World.”

So, I’m playing Santa. And no, not because the red suit hides the blood when someone guts me in Angland for my gold buttons. We’ll call that an extra bonus. I’m playing Santa in the Circle of the World to bring some much needed holiday cheer to the otherwise depressing landscape that is the personal lives of the men and women in the First Law Trilogy.

Pour yourself a hot toddy, frost a cookie or two, and join me.

Logen Ninefingers — $100 Gift Card for Matrim Cauthon’s Life Coaching. Seriously. At every turn Logen continues to make decisions that don’t really bring him happiness. He was given a raw deal. His wife and children were butchered by Shanka. Instead of being there to protect them he was out making war. He joined up with Bethod, killed at his whim, and then right before Bethod becomes King in the North, Logen tells him to take a hike. He ends up in a ditch and then gets recruited by a crazy wizard. He desperately needs some guidance and empowerment. And who better than the whimsical and frolicking Mat Cauthon? I hear his schedule is pretty wide open these days.

Jezal dan LutharMen Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Dude has some serious issues with the ladies. He considers most of them beneath notice, the rest of them as purely sexual objects, and Ardee is some kind of simultaneous object to possess and yardstick by which he measures himself. Bizarre. Most of the recommended book is about the psychological differences between men and women, but there’s also some anatomy in there. Something tells me Jezal and the term sensitive-lover haven’t been invoked in the same sentence too often. Actually Full Frontal Feminism would be a much better choice.

Sand dan Glokta — La-Z-Boy. Think about it. On those days when his broken body is betraying him he sits down on a plush recliner, elevates his feet, and keeps his spine sanguine with robust lumbar support. Some La-Z-Boys even come with cup holders, making it a nice break for Barnam who would otherwise be fetching refreshments every so often. To be honest, I really wanted to get Glokta a Segway, but it seemed a little anachronistic.

Bayaz — LifeLock. There’s never been a great wizard who had a harder time identifying himself. Clearly there have been some cases of individuals claiming to be Bayaz. They probably boosted his Social Security number and they might have his date of birth. Hell, there’s probably a Bayaz, First of the Octopi, clogging up the Westport trade routes. Maybe it wasn’t the Mercers at all!

Chamberlain Hoff — Thighmaster. He’s always sitting around and drinking. It would be overreaching to help him toward whole scale lifestyle change. Still, it seems reasonable he might give the old gams a squeeze from time to time with Suzanne Somers classic home workout device. I considered Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley’s Total Gym, but you have to be realistic.

Bethod — Barbie’s Dream House. He really wants to rule the North. The stars are aligned against him though. Bayaz told him to get lost, our protagonists are opposed to him, and his sons are dumb as a box of very small rocks. Bethod is much better off with Skipper, Barbie, Ken, and all the rest riding the pink elevator up and down in an imaginary world of horrifyingly tiny waists and pointed toes. Marginally.

Ardee West — Jack Daniels. Look. Sometimes you get someone the gift you’d like them to have. For Ardee that might be a big cup of coffee to wake her up or Gatorade to keep her hydrated. It might be a diary that should could use to give voice to her frustrations. Sometimes you just give them the gift you know they want. And there’s nothing Ardee West wants more than the sweet oblivion of a drunken stupor followed by blissful moments when she can say the kernel of truth that’s been stuck in her craw all week. Eek. That was depressing.

Major Collem West — Elf on a Shelf. Because just like Elf of a Shelf, Major West’s cuddly exterior is hiding an angry murderous rage fueled killing spree that will engulf a nation. I may be exaggerating West’s internal conflict, but I’m dead serious about the Elf. Don’t let him in… ever.

Ferro Maljinn — Tickets to the Opera. I’m a big believer in people being well rounded. Ferro’s got a bit of a one track mind—murder, death, kill (thanks Demolition Man!). She doesn’t appreciate anything that doesn’t have a pointy end. The opera would be a great opportunity for her to see the delights life can offer! It would also be a convenient excuse to invite Logen to join her, with the possible outcome of another incredibly awkward sex scene from Abercrombie. Gifts that keep on giving.

Malacus Quai — Appearance on Wife Swap. I’m kind of making a leap here intimating that Bayaz is Quai’s wife. I don’t mean it literally. If you’ve ever watched this atrocious reality show though, you’ll recognize that Bayaz’s superior attitude and constant nagging is basically the wife character in every show. Does anyone else find that disturbing? The show, not Bayaz. Moving into reality television would be a nice change for Quai who really doesn’t seem cut out for this whole wizarding business.

Rudd Threetrees — Rockstar Energy Drink. For being such a tough guy, Threetrees way too placid. Like Ricky Bobby and Cal Worthington imagine Baby Jesus in their own special way, I like to imagine my Rudd Threetrees hopped up on goofballs at a rave, waving glowsticks back and forth. It’s always the quiet ones…

Black Dow — Operation. You know, the board game! I nailed it, right? He loves to cut people up and watch them bleed. He’s a total psychopath. Operation serves two purposes. One, it totally indulges his sick fantasies about being able to remove body parts. Two, after a few hours of that annoying buzzer he’s pretty likely to put his axe through his own forehead. It’s really the perfect gift for such a delightful human being.

Forley the Weakest — Shake Weight. This requires no further explanation.

Frost — Bunnies. Tell me about the rabbits, George. Admittedly, the giant Practical has a little more menace than Lennie, yet somehow I can imagine him hanging his mask on the coatrack at home before getting into a bathtub filled with rabbits that he cuddles and squishes until they gush blood that he drinks for sustenance. I probably took that a little farther than Steinbeck ever imaged. Anywho…

Barnam — Bailey’s Irish Cream. This is a terrible play on words. The Ringling Brothers are probably a little peeved I didn’t include them too.

Salem Rews — Rabbit’s Foot. Thanks to Practical Frost we’ve got plenty of these laying around. I’m not some average gift giver you understand. I plan ahead. Poor Rews. He’s had an awful struck of bad luck. Some of it he brought on himself, but still… I hope he manages to hold on to what appendages he has left.

Fenris — Sean John Track Suit. The North is really trying to make its mark on the Union. First impressions aren’t everything. Sure, a few heads in boxes and a quick healing knife wound are nothing to shake a stick at, but nothing says a man about town quite like a velour track suit. Thankfully the sizes are generally very generous and fit a range of body types.

Everyone else — A big hug. Because they need it.


Next Week: We’ll resume regular programming with our last post before the New Year.

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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