The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “Bloody Company” and “Long Shadows”

Debate continues to rage over Logen’s composition. There is an interesting tidbit in this week’s chapters that I’ll address here rather than later since it’s an ongoing discussion across many posts. When examining a set of glyphs carved into the ruins Bayaz says, ‘The birth of the three pure disciplines of magic.’ The three disciplines excludes that which Glustrod discovers (i.e., summoning demons and making a nuisance of himself). The three disciplines are: the Art (Juvens and Bayaz, etc.), making (Kanedias), and talking to spirits (Bedesh).

Logen can talk to spirits. He is using magic. Thus, he touches the Other Side. I’ll admit that it’s possible Logen is not a descendent of Euz, and maybe not even a partial-devil himself. We don’t have enough evidence (yet?). But, we definitely can’t rule it out. I’ll leave it at that until more substantive facts are presented.

“Blood Company”

Summary: Black Dow argues the task of scouting is beneath a band of Named Man. Dogman was the Bloody-Nine’s confidant! Tul Duru wrestled bears! Dow was ruthless as a wolf! No better man than Harding Grim with bow or blade in all the North! And Threetrees, the Rock of Uffrith, was a spike up Bethod’s ass for months. All of them grumble at Dow, but don’t disagree with him.

All of them, but Rudd Threetrees. Their leader stares Dow down, reminding him the world isn’t like it used to be. Ninefingers is dead and Bethod is King. And, as for wasting their time scouting, Bethod isn’t one to show up where he’s expected. Dow acknowledges Threetrees retort, but seems unbowed.

Sometime later, the crew spies three scouts they don’t recognize. By mutual agreement and Threetrees strategy, they take out the scouts, which end up being five in number. A few strides down the road they see a larger problem—hundreds of campfires. Bethod has brought his whole damn army where he shouldn’t have. The ragtag Union led by Prince Ladisla is rear guard no longer.

Important Characters Introduced: None.

Minor Characters Introduced: Littlebone, Pale-as-Snow, Whitesides, Crendel Goring, Crummock-i-Phail.

Quotes to Remember:

‘The Shanka are fixing to come swarming over the mountains.’

So, wait a second, are the Shanka the big bad of the series? Are we going to get some orc or trolloc or troll invasion on par with the confrontations of the luminary epic fantasy novels? I keep waiting. Where are these Shanka? Why won’t they show up all ready and unite humanity in their shared fear?

Now he was on the other side, the one that had been on the left was on the right. So which one should he shoot?

Not exactly the kind of indecision we’re used to seeing our beloved fantasy warriors confront. I love it. Dogman isn’t exactly a rocket scientist and neither is the rest of his crew. Identifying enemies by left and right is pretty ill advised when you’re all attacking from a different direction.

Analysis: OF COURSE THEY FIND BETHOD’S ARMY! I mean, this was definitely going to happen, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but after reading about Ladisla’s delusions of grandeur the last few weeks I can’t help but pity the Union for the wringer they’re about to get put through. I think once Ladisla screws it all up we should have a competition to identify the worst Prince or King in the history of fantasy warfare. Yes. I like this idea. I shall approach the overlords with this idea.

Meanwhile, lots of fun little things about Logen’s old band show up in this chapter. The most fun, I think, is when Black Dow says to Dogman, ‘You came over the mountains with him in the first place!’ Combine that with the quote above about the Shanka and I have to wonder if we’re talking about the same mountains. Probably, right? We know Logen’s family was killed by the Shanka, so it would make sense.

Now, where does Dogman play into all this? Did he join Logen the same way the others did? By losing to him in battle? Or is their relationship something different all together? There’s no question the pair of them were close, and even with Threetrees leading the crew the men seem to see Dogman as some kind of weathervane of certitude. I want to know more. Is it possible Dogman and Logen had a relationship before Bethod?

“Long Shadows”

Summary: Ferro and Logen stare open mouthed at the majestic might of the Aos river. Even filling a waterskin would be dangerous without a rope. Where before Logen wondered why a bridge was a necessary, he admits now that Bayaz has not led them astray on that front. Logen tries to engage Ferro on the topic, but ends up getting into a discussion on where she comes from, which leads to a discussion about her enslavement, which leads to Logen looking like an ass.

En route to Aulcus, they stop at a massive collection of ruins. Not a former city as Logen suspects, the ruins are actually the winter palace of the former Empire. Inside, Bayaz discovers ancient carvings that illuminate more of the story of Glustrod’s war. Meanwhile, Ferro spies forty riders they’d rather not encounter. The crew hides within the ruins. The riders pass and they resume their journey.

Important Characters Introduced: None.

Minor Characters Introduced: None.

Quotes to Remember:

He lifted the apple to his mouth, but before he could bite into it, his hand was empty. Luthar had moved almost too fast to follow, and speared it on the glinting point of his sword.

Most of our chapters involving Luthar’s sword fighting have been from his own point of view, where all we get is whining about how unfair the world is, and during his battles in the Contest where ultimately Bayaz cheats for him. Maybe he’s more competent than I have previously surmised.

Luthar sputtered with laughter as he sharpened his short sword, and Logen laughed as well. Laughing with a man was a good step forward. First comes the laughter, then the respect, then the trust.

I love it when a plan comes together! Need to keep this A-Team comparison going.

Analysis: Some cute interactions between Logen and Ferro (ok, more like disturbing) and Jezal this week, but once again Bayaz takes the cake with all kinds of delicious world building! Let’s dive in…

The winter palace the group inhabits in the chapter was destroyed, but not in Glustrod’s war, rather in the war between Bayaz and his order against Kanedias after the Maker killed Juvens. Bayaz describes this war as even more terrible than the previous if for no other reason than it ended in the death of two sons of Euz. Bayaz also states that the death of Kanedias marked the death of the last living son of Euz. Where did Bedesh die? Do we know? I can’t recall.

Inside the palace Bayaz finds carvings that tell stories from the ancient world. Oddly, he’s very excited about it, almost childlike. It’s a terribly off character act for Bayaz who has seem largely ho-hum about the past if for no other reason than he was there for it. Once again he finds a mention of Glustrod digging, which Quai comments on with some sarcasm. Before you know it Bayaz is covering the carvings and telling everyone to move along. Clearly he’s either (a) really shy about watching people dig or (b) he wants what Glustrod found.

After some fun teasing of Longfoot (he deserves it!), we get some more fun stuff about Kanedias told through Logen’s sword which despite looking like a dull peasant weapon has an edge that could part silk. Bayaz remarks that making weapons is what Kanedias did and that the sword was the least of his creations made to war against his brothers.

Luther makes an offhand comment about brothers and how women can come between them. Bayaz remarks, ’As it happens, a woman did enter the case, but not in the way you’re thinking.’ He must be referring to Kanedias’ daughter who is clearly important, but about whom we know very little.

Next Week: Glokta and Jezal sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I… well, not quite. But they each get a chapter next week!

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


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