by Joe Abercrombie
Shame on me. Shame on me for not joining Team Abercrombie immediately. Shame on me for rating those other books three stars. Shame on me for not liking these characters in The Blade Itself immediately. I bow to Lord Grimdark and beg his mercy. And I kiss his feet and swear to never doubt his magnificene again.
Ferro shook her head. ‚You expect too much out of life, pink.‘
He grinned. ‚And here was me thinking you expect too little.‘
‚Expect nothing and you won’t ever be disappointed.‘
‚Expect nothing and you’ll get nothing.‘
If you haven’t realised that by now: I’m now a steadfast follower of Joe Abercrombie and of his First Law trilogy. I love this grim world, this excellent writing, and these fascinating characters. I’m still not a big fan of Ferro because let’s face it, she’s a mad psycopath/sociopath, but everybody else has been redeemed. All the stuff I’ve critizised in the prequel, all that non-existent plot, all the repulsion most of these characters gave me: it’s gone, and I apologize for frowning at everyone who loves these books. Because all these things now make sense, because now I see where Abercrombie wants to go with this one and how he builds his story.
‚I don’t like this,‘ he muttered under his breath.
‚You think I do?‘ Bayaz frowned grimly over at him. ‚You think any of us do? Men must sometimes do what they do not like if they are to be remembered. It is through struggle, not ease, that fame and honour are won. It is through conflict, not peace, that wealth and power are gained.‘
So. The characters. This book tells three stories: the story of how Bayaz, The First of the Magi and his Fellowship of the
Ring Stone travel to the edge of the world, the story of how the Union fights against Bethod and his northmen (told by Dogman and West), and the story of the Union defending Dagoska against the Gurkish, told by Glokta.
These were a sorry crowd when it came to minding the pot. Bayaz could just about get his tea boiled, and that was as far as he went. Quai could get a biscuit out of the box on a good day. Logen doubted if Luthar would even have known which way up the pot went. As for Ferro, she seemed to despise the whole notion of cooking. Logen reckoned she was used to eating her food raw. Perhaps while it was still alive.
Story number one features the most characters from the prequel: we get POVs of it from Jezal, Logen, and Ferro. As I said, I’m still not a big fan of Ferro, because reasons (come on, she’s just mad and evil). I was okay with Logen in Blade Itself, while I merely thought of him as a brute – I was wrong, there’s definitely more to him than a missing finger, lots of scars and violence. So thumbs up for Logen Ninefingers, and definitely thumbs up for Jezal dan Luthar: oh my, how I hated Jezal and the first book, and how expertly Abercrombie gives him his redemption arc from selfish idiot to a fascinating character. Jezal gets his Jaime Lannister story here, and I love it.
Jezal blinked at Ninefingers‘ broad back as he walked over to his horse. You treat folk the way you’d want to be treated. Could Jezal honestly say that he had ever done that much?
Story number two follows the Dogman and West. Both of them have a lot of character development as well, really like what’s going on there. I’ve critizised that they don’t really add anything to the story in Blade Itself, but here their purpose and their meaning within the story get obvious. Abercrombie could’ve just decided to introduce them in this one, but this way they have more depth and the reader gets more attached to them, so I get why he did it the way he did it. West spends most of the book trying to save the Crown Prince’s life and trying to make his incompetent fellow officers see reason, Dogman shows us the Northmen’s take on the Union and their fight with Bethod.
People of all nations, all colours, all types, united against the Gurkish, and now dying together, side by side, all equal. My heart would be warmed. If I still had one.
Glokta narrates story three on his own, because his perspective is more than enough to show us that part of the book. He is the star character of Abercrombie’s trilogy, a character as unique and fascinating like few others, and he gets a lot of screen time in this one. Again, I see why Abercrombie did all of these endless torture scenes with Glokta in the prequel, I see the purpose, the preparation, and here comes a little bit of payoff in terms of that character arc as well: we witness Glokta putting that brilliant mind of his to more than the lesser tasks he had to fulfill in book one, and we see him slowly starting to act like a decent person again.
And I see the plot. I see where this story goes, and why it goes there, and how it’s all connected, and I like it. Oh boy, I like it a lot. The wild introduction is over, now we’re in the middle of it, and each of these characters contributes something to the bigger picture which slowly evolves on the horizon. It’s blessed with plot twists, hilarious scenes, and keen descriptions of this world and the people that live within it, and I can’t wait to read the rest of it – Last Argument of Kings is already on its way and I’ll read it as soon as I’m done with my reread of The Lord of the Rings. Five stars, obviously.