The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged: “And next… My Gold” and “Fear”

When I’m not writing this reread, I’m the host of the Tor.com podcast, Rocket Talk. I mention this because on Wednesday, June 25, I’ll be posting the 15th episode of Rocket Talk, which, believe it or not, is an hour long discussion with our favorite author, Joe Abercrombie. We ended up talking about a host of issues, including, but not limited to: the World Cup, my deep and abiding love for his work, this reread, his new book Half a King, and whether or not Logen is a half-devil or not. If you’re a regular listener, it’s something to look forward to. If you’re not a regular listener it’s an opportunity to start!

In the meantime, let’s get on to this weeks chapters, in which Glokta gets an unexpected windfall and Jezal just falls off his horse.

“And Next… My Gold”

Summary: Glokta receives a letter from Arch Lector Sult detailing why he cannot have the additional resources he’s requested. Surely Glokta is aware that there is a war in Angland and a certain rebellious mood throughout the countryside. Sult orders Glokta to be resourceful.

The situation in the city is improved, however, as many of the reforms instituted by the Superior have greatly enhanced the efficacy of the local population. General Vissbruck reports that the wall is fixed, the ditch is dug, and the moat is ready to be flooded. Vurms is less happy, watching the locals have some measure of freedom. But, the Ruling Council is now some half-a-million marks in debt for work completed, a sum that staggers to comprehend.

Unfortunately, it’s a sum not even the Guild of Spicers can help defray. Magister Eider has only been able to raise 12,000 marks from her contacts, but generously offers the jewels off her own person to the cause. The situation seems dire when a man named Mauthis walks into Glokta’s office carrying a million marks in silver, gold, and precious gems. Not a loan in the traditional sense, Mauthis offers terms. Glokta may accept the money on the condition that he be disposed favorably to requests made by Valint and Balk in the future. The Superior agrees.

Important Characters Introduced: None.

Minor Characters Introduced: Mauthis.

Quotes to Remember:

‘You misunderstand me, Superior Glokta. I have not come to collect a debt. For seven years, I have had the privilege of acting as the chief representative in Dagoska, of the banking house Valint and Balk.’

No, you’ve come to create a debt you sneaky punk.

‘It may be that in the future, a representative of the banking house of Valint and Balk will come to you requesting… favours. It is the most earnest hope of my employers that, if and when that times comes, you will not disappoint them.’

Oh, hello Marlon Brando, I didn’t know you were in this film. Make Glokta an offer he can’t refuse why don’t you?

Analysis: I’m really eager to do a ‘what we know about Valint and Balk’ post at some point, but unfortunately we know almost nothing. The bank owned the Guild of Mercers in Adua, but as far as we know there was no actual bank representative present. Here in Dagoska we know that Valint and Balk is present via Mauthis, and that their resources are absurdly available and liquid. Unlike the Guild of Spicers who have their money tied up in investments, at least ostensibly.

We also know that the Guild of Spicers share office space with Valint and Balk in Dagoska, via Inquisitor Harker. Does this imply that Valint and Balk owns the Spicers much as they did the Mercers? If that’s the case, doesn’t it seem that our mysterious bank may wield an absurd amount of economic and social power? Indeed it does. Glokta is in a pickle. I do find it a little odd that if Valint and Balk is as powerful as it seems to be, wouldn’t there be more whispers about its power? Shouldn’t Glokta, as a relatively informed member of the ruling elite, be aware of them? I find this a little hard to believe.

On the bright side, Dagoska is in much better shape than it was thanks for Glokta and his free spending. Will it be enough to win? Who knows? The willingness of the Magister Eider to cooperate is fascinating. Look forward to getting to know her a lot better.

As a side note: Mauthis is a more prominent character in Best Served Cold. Pay attention to him if you plan to read down the line.

“Fear”

Summary: The ride continues across the face of the Old Empire. Jezal dan Luthar is all together put out by the monotony. Battle he can handle, of course, but the waiting is far too nerve rattling as he can feel the eyes of the unknown enemy watching him. Deciding that talking to Logen is better than stabbing himself in the eye, Jezal asks the Northmen about his combat experience.

Logen’s easy manner and sense of humor surprise Jezal. He genuinely wants to know what it’s like in the heat of battle. Logen relates three pieces of advice. First, always look weak to your enemy. Second, never take anyone lightly. Third, once you commit to action, never relent. Follow that, Logen argues, and you’re halfway to surviving. Jezal wonders what the other fifty percent is. Logen shrugs and says, ‘Luck.’

Ferro spies a massive log in their path. Logen takes a step to begin removing it when a voice calls from above for them to halt. The voice is man named Finnius, a soldier for Emperor Cabrian assigned to find them and bring them to court. Bayaz is annoyed and the air ripples and men go flying, their insides irreparably damaged. Before Jezal can run, crippled as he is by fear, Bayaz seems to lose control. The world bends around Jezal and Bayaz, then suddenly rights itself. From his place on the ground, Jezal watches Logen fighting two of Cabrian’s brigands.

The battle ends with Ferro’s arrows making pincushions of Logen’s opponents. Bayaz lays on the ground in convalescence; Quai is bent over him. Logen orders Jezal to find the horses, which the arrogant nobleman resists at first, before bowing to the older man’s experience.

Important Characters Introduced: None

Minor Characters Introduced: Finnius

Quotes to Remember:

It was not fear, of course, for Jezal dan Luthar, he told himself, would laugh in the face of danger.

This is a fun bit of in-chapter foreshadowing. Jezal doesn’t merely fail to laugh at danger, he actively nearly shits himself.

Bayaz lay in the road on his back a few strides away, his apprentice kneeling beside him. One of the wizard’s eyes was closed, the other slightly open, the lid twitching, a slit of white eyeball showing underneath.

We’ve seen Bayaz sap himself of energy every time he uses the Art, but this is the first time we’ve seen him incapacitated entirely. It’s also the first time we’ve seen him lack control of the forces he commands.

Analysis: Although the battle is the denouement of the chapter, and Bayaz’s collapse is interesting, the interactions between Jezal and Logen in “Fear” are really important. So, bear with me. Next week’s chapters will have a lot more discussion on Bayaz’s situation when Quai gets chatty. In the meantime, let’s talk about the journey Jezal is undergoing.

Over the course of the book Jezal has gone from arrogant nobleman who can’t see outside his own head, to a love sick puppy who can’t see outside his own head, to a soldier incapable of seeing outside of his own head, and so on and so forth. As he’s journeyed with Logen, Ferro, Quai, Bayaz, and Longfoot he’s been forced to confront all these things he’s ignored his entire life. But, in reality, what he’s confronting is empathy, the ability to see someone else’s perspective.

“Fear” is the first time he shows an actual interest in what someone else is feeling, an emotion I’m not sure he ever felt even with Ardee. Now you can argue he’s asking only because he wants to know for himself, that it’s a selfish motivation. Maybe, but baby steps! Jezal is showing an interest in another human beings experiences. This is like George W. Bush considering creationism while Barack Obama looks into this Adam Smith character. I’m quite enjoying it and I hope that Jezal and Logen continue to develop this mentor like bond. Don’t ruin every trope, Abercrombie!

Next Week: Glokta meets a magus and Logen takes control. There will be exposition!!!


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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