Friday, 7 December 2012

The First Law Trilogy: Overview and Review

The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1)The Blade Itself
The First Law #1
by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Gollancz, 2006
515 pages. £8.99 UK

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) Before They Are Hanged
The First Law #2
by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Gollancz, 2007
570 pages. £7.99 UK

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)

Last Argument of Kings 
The First Law #3
by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Gollancz, 2008
670 pages. £8.99 UK

This trilogy has just earned Joe Abercrombie a place among my favourite authors. It is not really because he is a great literary genius. He is a good writer, no doubt about it, but it is not the language department that is going to keep you reading. At least it wasn't for me. I actually found the language rather annoying at points, though I have to say that I found it improving from book to book.

So, why is this series so great in my mind? It would have to be the universe. And the characters as well. Now, originality is a hard thing to find when it comes to fantasy fiction, but I think Abercrombie did a good job of it really. 

It is all the little things that makes it stand out in my mind. The fact that one of the main characters is a torturer and not once do you question the things he does. The fact that magic is this obscure little thing. The First of the Magi is quite a different sort of person than what you might normally expect from this kind of universe. There is not a single predictable character in these books, at least not one that is in any way important. This is what I love about it.

I like the plot too. I like the pointlessness that seems to be one of the main themes within the story. I even like the end, though I do suspect quite of few people will feel disappointed with it. It is not the kind of ending that you hope for all the way through the book. It has a somewhat sour taste of unfinished business about it.

When I had just swallowed up the last word on the last page I could not help but sit back with a rather unresolved feeling, asking myself "was that it?" When that is said, though, after giving it some thought, I think the ending was a perfect conclusion to the pointlessness earlier established.

Do not let these words scare you away. Whether you will like the ending or not, the series is still worth a read. I was greatly entertained from start to finish. The pages almost turn themselves, while you just sit back and let your eyes wander over all the little words in turn.

The first book is good, but it does perhaps start out a little slowly. For me the really interesting things do not begin until the second book. Therfore the difference in rating.

See also Dominick's review of the trilogy on Fantastical Imaginations.


  1. The first book has been sitting on my shelf for a long time. Just haven't had the chance to read it yet. I might have to pick it up now after reading your review.

    1. I really cannot stress how strongly I advice you to do so.

  2. You nailed it with this review. I see a lot of similarities with my review. Especially how you feel about the ending is exactly how I feel about it: it has some level of unfinished business about it, but in my opinion it fits wonderfully with the rest of the story. Robert Jordan once said: 'I don't like it when after finishing a book that all stories have a closure. In the real world there are always some loose ends, so I like that for my books too.' I can only agree with that.
    The only thing I don't completely agree on with you is that book 1 is not as good as the other two. I love how Abercrombie manages to fill a whole book with only introducing characters and still capture the attention of readers. Therefore, book 1 was in my opinion even slightly better than the other two.
    Great review, I like it how our reviews are so much alike.

    1. That is a nice quote. I could not agree more. I often get annoyed when the endings are too perfect. Like that scene in the Return of the King movie where Frodo wakes up after having been rescued by the eagle. All of his friends come into the room that is all bright and white and everyone is laughing.. I hate that scene so much.