The First Law trilogy – not for the faint of heart

Let’s just get the take-home point behind us. Joe Abercrombie writes some brutal stuff. This stuff is not for kids or those who are easily affected by any of the individual categories under “Parental Advisory”.

I am a sucker for the simplistic stereotype – the knight in shining armour whose moral integrity is without fault, contrasted by the villain who literally has no redeeming qualities. I like a simple binary entertainment where I can easily distinguish the good from the bad. A good old cowboy movie where the hero is the fastest gun in the west, treats women with respect and will lay down his life for the common folk in the town. I like Darth Vader… I don’t like Kylo Ren. With The First Law trilogy you get none of this blissful simplicity. Joe Abercrombie likes shaking his reader’s expectations of his characters.

Expect to be horrified by every character you encounter. And if you are not… just keep reading :)

Your heroes will become villains – or at least resort to villainous acts. You won’t be able to figure out who the villains are easily, since you will grow to realize over the course of the books that pretty much anyone is a villain. You will find yourself routing for a torturer. Yes. Even while he is literally cutting innocent people up limb for limb you find yourself “liking” him.

And that brings me to the simple realization that Abercrombie is absolutely brilliant in his character creation and evolution. I was intrigued, I was horrified, I was numbed… but I was NEVER bored. Not a dull moment as the characters progress through a world and story that is vast and larger than life.

Apart from the riveting character journeys, the world building was pretty well done. The world comes with a deep historical record, geopolitical drama, all the different geographical landscapes and an interesting magic system. Throw in some interesting non-human races in an otherwise monster-less world and you are bound to enjoy discovering more of it as the pages turn.

Then there is the plot. I really like a good plot twist – note good plot twist. Those “‘twists” that you see coming from the first chapter are horrible, but the ones that really catch you off guard are awesome. The First Law comes packed full of plot twists you don’t see coming. Yes so there are the normal hero-turns-villain twists, but there are also less visible bait-and-switch cases where you never give much thought to a part of the plot, and only once you realize that your assumption had been wrong all along do you see how you have been lead astray.

All in all, I will probably enjoy returning to Abercrombie at some point in the future. I understand there are a few more works within this same world which can be fun, but even moving to another world crafted by the author will likely be equally enjoyable.


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