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Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law" Trilogy

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After a three day marathon reading session that included a lot of late nights (and dark circles under the eyes) I have finally finished Joe Abercrombie’s Trilogy “The First Law”.  Two separate blog readers, Paul and uber author Patrick Rothfuss sent me copies of the third book “Last Argument of Kings” because it is only available in pre-order from the states.  Thank you to both of you.  You may ask, why would I accept two copies, isn’t that piggish?  Because my brother “borrowed” one copy and, in fear of never getting it back again, I accepted the second out of self-protection.  I’m not shameful of it, because the stakes were high.  I needed to finish.

And boy did this series finish!   After reading the third book in the trilogy, I definitely have to say that this  is one of my top 10 favorite series of all time.   It’s that good.  The finale pays off all the genre-bending plot twists and crazy left turns that occurred in books one and two, and in a way that will leave you gasping.  I could not have looked up from the last 100 pages if you had paid me!

This series has a very “sword and sorcery” feel to it, but the author makes a conscious effort to reinvent the cliches of the genre, and the more cynical viewpoint makes the books feel modern and new.  I found myself rooting for the most unexpected characters, which I suppose was the whole point, to explore the “grey” areas in a very black and white genre.   Particularly I was struck by the immaculate plotting and character arcs for all three books.   Some of the “huh” moments of certain character choices in earlier books were totally explained as he wrapped up all the loose plot points (and there are a lot of them!)  I would definitely recommend this series to George RR Martin fans and other epic fantasy lovers.  And I can’t wait for the next one! (Yes, it SAYS it’s a trilogy…) 🙂

  • Dani

    One more for my ‘to-read’ list! =]

  • If you want another reinvention of fantasy and fairy tales, read The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (http://snipurl.com/3a961
    Amazon.com: The Last Wish: Andrzej Sapkowski).

    The guy’s completely twisted fairy tales and Tolkien fantasy on their head – elves are more akin to Palestinian terrorists than the JRR’s nature lovers. Seriously amazing writing that every fantasy fan should read.

    Sapkowski is a major literary star in Eastern Europe whose work is only just being translated into English because of the popularity of the PC RPG The Witcher, which is based on his novels.

    The Witcher is excellent, but unless you’re borrowing it from a friend, wait for the Enhanced Edition. It will have a completely reworked English language dialogue and many bug fixes. But even the standard version is fantastic.

  • Ed R

    Damn your teeth, woman.
    Have you any idea how difficult it will be now for me NOT to read this? I have a lot of time on my hands lately, and I’ll burn through the first two books in mere days. And then I’ll have to wait for the third one.
    And wait. And wait…
    And then, when the third book finally gets here, I’ll have to go back and re-read the first two before I read the third. And like a s not, I won’t have anywhere NEAR as much time on my hands at that point in time, so instead of taking days, it’ll take weeks.

    Ice cream headaches upon you!

  • korkster (Korki)

    Hey, you’ve got my psyched to read this! I love twisted plots and left turns *coughJosscough* and I lOve fantasy. Can’t wait for the third book so I can dive into this trilogy. If I start reading now, and I finish before the third book arrives… that would be a disaster. Not for me, but for others. 😉

    Thanks! Look forward to this! Reading is good for the soul.

    P.S.- Have you thought about doing professional book reviews?

  • A great review that has me considering jumping back into Fantasy reading. Almost 🙂

    And the Site background is sort of growing on me. It is vaguely reminiscent of the wallpaper in the front room of our house in the 70’s so maybe its just comforting. Or maybe the migraines that started soon after that wallpaper was applied have come back to haunt me now and affected my judgement. Still, if it makes you happy, that’s good enough.

    🙂

  • Reading the 1st now on your recommendations- I am enjoying it! Glad you approve of the whole series.

  • A great, concise and enthusiastic review. The best reviews include more than just plot points, but how the book physically or emotionally affected the reader. IMHO
    Love George R.R. Martin, I’ve gotten more people to read him who normally wouldn’t touch Fantasy, so maybe the same with Joe Abercrombie? I’ve had these books on my ‘to read’ list, but they may take a while to get to. Something to look forward to.
    Speaking of things to look forward to, Gen Con (www.gencon.com) is August 14-17th in Indianapolis. R.A. Salvatore, Patrick Rothfuss and Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew will be there! Can’t wait to meet them, people watch and play a little D&D. You should think about going next year, they’d probably bump Chewbacca to get you there. just sayin. 😉

  • I’m still in book 2 of the ASOIAF series of George R. R. Martin, but this looks interesting too…

    Funnily enough, my favorite teacher recommended this series last month.

  • Yes, Abercrombie is awesome. So is Rothfuss. And, although I’m not a big fan of urban fantasy, Anton Strout writes a very witty story. Jim C. Hines has written one of the only fantasy books I’ve literally laughed out loud while reading.

    But Abercrombie is a lot like Tarantino-meets-fantasy. Bloody, but entertaining. Glad you liked them. Now, did you read Pat’s Name of the Wind? If you haven’t, you should.

  • Sean

    I’ve been reading Abercrombie’s stuff as well recently. Loved the first book, but have been recently distracted by Charles De Lint, an entirely too prolific contemporary fantasy writer (spent a small fortune on his books, I strongly recommend picking him up, he is my top five now). Looks like I’m going to have to get back to Abercrombie to see how the second and third books are. More things to try to fit into my schedule while trying to get through the first year of my Masters program….**grumble, growl**

  • Allow me to recommend the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. I’ve recently come across it and the world and characters have swept me off my feet. A reviewer described it as a fantasy ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ which is really somewhat accurately. It has all the wit and action and rich characters of that movie. The first book is ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’. Do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s not quite as epic as ASOIAF, but the characters are just as rich. Good reading!

  • Olli

    (First time commenter chiming in, so: “Hi”)
    What I absolutely ADORE about the first two books in Scott Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastard” sequence (beside the great characters, interesting plot and good writing) is that one of the much overused tropes of the genre, namely “the strange and unkown race/civilisation that was here before and now has only left its strange monuments behind” is deliberately downplayed and is merely background to the very human and slightly non-fantastic plot. It isn’t a huge thing for the characters either, as they have lived in it all their life. It’s basically just part of the scenery. I LOVE that!
    One (totally unrelated but still in the genre) recommendation: “Midnight Never Come” by Marie Brennan. Elisabethan fae and courtly intrigue. We have a faerie queen, we have ELizabeth, we have Walsingham and all sorts of strangeness occurs. Has a slight chick-lit fantasy flavour to it, but still highly enjoyable (at least I thought so.)

  • I’ve added about 5 books to my Amazon cart thanks to comments, so cool! Olli I’m sad to say that I honestly tried the first Lynch book, enjoyed it somewhat, but it really didn’t grab me for some reason. I lost interest in the main character somewhere in the middle. Loved the “Ocean’s Eleven”-type writing in a fantasy setting, very cool, but still wasn’t capturedo. I have book #2 on my reading table so I’ll definitely give it a go.
    Sometimes I get into a reading phase where I want light and quick, and skimming-able, so maybe I picked it up at the wrong time, considering all the rave reviews (like yours) I’ve been reading.

  • Tammy

    I’m no fantasy expert so this may be old news, but Ursula Le Guin’s “Tales From Earthsea” totally blew me away (it’s a collection of short stories set in the same realm as the Earthsea series). The first story, “The Finder”, is not only the best fantasy story I’ve ever read, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read, period. The other ones are great too.

  • Stu

    Just finished last argument of kings yesterday, coincidence? It’s been out here in the UK for a while, guess we just got lucky. I’ve read Scott Lynch’s books and thinks he’s good but for me China Mieville sits a cut above. “Perdido Street Station” and “The Scar” are truly amazing. If you haven’t read them yet, add them to that wishlist!

  • Justin

    Dangit! I tried to buy book one this weekend, but all the book stores in my area only had book two (which I bought and am now trying to refrain from reading so I don’t ruin the first one).

  • You definately need to check out The Sword of Truth, written by Terry Goodkind.

    It is an incredible series (11 books). Each book will have you craving for more.

    There is a great love story in there about a simple woods guide and a woman with strange powers. They both make great sacrifices for each other and you can see just how far a man would go for the one he loves.

    It is pretty adult and extremely well written. The further along you go the more you understand all the implications of what he has done before in the name of love and good. A bit of a domino effect.

    It is a MUST read for any fantasy nut.

  • Looking at your goodreads list was like looking at my bookshelf, well if I kept the books, I pass them along or give them to the Library. I see you liked the Weather wardens series, have you read the “Dresden Files” series by Jim Butcher? The Scifi series tried to make a series out of it but it fell short. Also I huge fan of Kushiel’s Dart series I recommend Susan Wright’s “To Serve and Submit” and its sequel “A Pound of Flesh” fun, adventurous and just a little bit naughty… 😉
    Brad

  • Jess

    Hello Lady Day =)

    New fan, discovered you via Teh Horrible. Loved you, loved the show (and as an aside, I HATE musicals. So, you know. Just sayin’)

    Have you every tried Good Reads? Another wonderful interweb Time Sink-it’s sort of like social networking for bookworms-sharing good reads, and not being hit on or solicited for pr0n.

    And, random question that I hope doesn’t irritate you, but…

    Did Joss or Neil (or whoever did the Horrible costumes) read Doktor Sleepless? Because NPHs costume was straight off the Doktor Sleepless cover.
    I’ve been wondering since I watched it the first time.

    Best of luck to you! Again, enjoyed Horrible, like the blog and in the process of enjoying The Guild.

    Jess

  • Sounds right up my alley.

  • Hi, Felicia,

    I was doing a search on Dr Horrible when I heard about it, and imdb’d everyone in it (as i am prone to do), and saw on there you are from huntsville al. Which is interesting, because i just moved to huntsville and joined a sketch comedy troupe that plays out of the flying monkey arts center.

    I havent been able to watch Dr Horrible yet, but the trailer looks fantastic. It looks like it is very similar to a flash gordon type series i write for the troupe called “The Equalator and Scales”, a story of a guy who, after his girlfriend dumps him, decides to become a superhero to “protect the innocent from evil-doers”. However, the innocent is really his ex gf, and evil-doers are the guys that try to date her. ah… stalker humor..

    we are talking about self producing a web series with these characters. i will have to check out the Guild, that sounds really interesting.

    if you find yourself in huntsville, (saturday aug 9 @ 9:00), shameless plug) come check out a show. we would love to have you.

    i realize this has nothing to do with books, but i tried the forum, and nothing was there….

    thanks for all your work and the things you do. I was a buffy fan, and you and the rest of the cast and crew were really enjoyed.

    thanks,

    drew

  • Looking through your list, I was surprised to see a Gor novel on it.

    If you ever are inclined, I’d really like to know more about what intrigues you about it, it really surprised me to see it in your tops.

    Oh my god, this sounds way pervier than I mean it to be. It’s just there are a lot of strong opinions about these books out there, so I’m just curious what your take is.

    shuttin’ up now!

    scapebabe

  • Great books indeed…by the way, I may be late on this, but the new look of the site looks great. Can’t wait to see more work from you =)

  • Rob

    You should check out the Twilight War Series by Paul Kemp, it has similar themes.

  • Rob

    And there was just a spider crawling across my arm, I looked at it and my roommate said “You should kill it”. It a foot and half onto my chest,and he shouts “Oh god it heard me!!”. I am completely unnerved.

  • Rob

    it jumped is the above edit. Stupid spider.

  • Just started Abercrombie’s book based on your recommendation. I’ll let you know how it goes. Finished Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind. Loved it. Pissed that it’s the only book out yet. 😛 Oh, in response to your needing skimmable books sometimes. I totally get that. My skimmable books of choice lately have been the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. Total fluff. Similar to the Southern Vampire series (aka True Blood) by Charlaine Harris but with werewolves instead of vampires as the focus and… well, good (sorry, I really don’t care for that series). The protagonist isn’t a fluffy waitress, but a butt-kicking part-coyote mechanic… yet still female. 🙂 Anyways.. sorry Lynch’s Locke wasn’t to your liking (see what I did there?). Can’t win ’em all! 🙂

  • Mia

    I was kicking myself yesterday when I had some extra time to kill after my class and hit the bookstore but couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the other you’d posted about! After reading your post and people’s comments, I’m definitely going to check this one out.

  • J

    Mia,

    Yah i was planning on picking up the first couple books from the first law trilogy today but I couldn’t remember the authors name when I was at b&n. :(. Next time!

  • I understand you’re always looking for book recommendations so I thought I’d fire off a couple of my own. I apologize in advance if these have already been suggested.

    1) The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, starting with Wizard’s First Rule. This is hands down one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. Excellent plot devices, character development, and more. In my opinion, this series surpasses Jordan’s Wheel of Time (ducks under random items being thrown).

    2) An author by the name of David Eddings has written quite a few interesting books, my favorites of which are two separate series that are connected, entitled The Belgariad and The Mallorean respectively. Each series is 5 books, and there are also 3 solo books that take place in the same world, which are Belgarath the Sorcerer, Polgara the Sorceress and The Rivan Codex. I was also a huge fan of his book The Redemption of Althalus. His other books and series are good, but I think these are his best.

    I would definitely love to see your review of any of these books. No one I have recommended them to has disliked them yet, so I thought it might be interesting to test my taste in fantasy literature against someone who actually seems to read more than I do. 😉 Oh, and another quick note, although it’s lengthy and not “medieval” fantasy, the book Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was quite good if you enjoy magic and fairies.

  • Joe’s books are good and he’s also a good guy to have a pint with (it’s also interesting to watch him hard-sell his books to random strangers in a London pub). Looking forward to his next book.

    If you like the Black Company, I can strongly recommend Steven Erikson and perhaps Scott Bakker as well. Both are very good authors, but neither are exactly ‘light’ reading. For that I’d recommend Pat Rothfuss, whose first book The Name of the Wind is pretty good. Greg Keyes has a fun 4-part series as well, the Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. I’d second the rec for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

    I would definitely steer clear of the Sword of Truth though. Badly-written, and the best thing about it is the Chicken sequence (our heroine is menaced by a chicken, but it actually isn’t a chicken, it’s “evil incarnate”).

  • Stephen

    A friend recommended the trilogy to me and I absolutely loved it. Totally unpredictable and shocking, and in many ways it reminded me of David Gemmell, perhaps the greatest British Fantasy writer of the last 30 years. Sadly he passed away a couple of years ago but he has left behind one heck of huge legacy. If you’ve not read any of his stuff, go. Read. Start with Legend, and go from there.

    Oh, and have you read the synopsis of the new book Best Served Cold, Joe B is working on? All I’ll say is it sounds interesting, but also….ewwwww! Did you have to go there Joe?

    Stephen

  • Jodi

    Ditto the comment that looking at your good reads was like looking at my bookshelf. Elizabeth Moon is a favorite, especially the Paksennarion books. Elizabeth Peters is also awesome. I have read everything by her including the “horror” mystery genre ones she wrote under the pseudynym Barbara Michaels and read everything new that she puts out under any name(and as many of her books are archaeology influenced and I am a fuddy dud archaeologist that is a high recommendation…).

    I read Patrick Rothfuss and was totally enamored and exceptionally peeved that I have to wait for more. My husband turned me onto George RR Martin (usually don’t go for such serious depictions of violence) but I got hooked and finished all that he had out. Again, like Rothfuss, I must wait not so patiently for the next. Since our taste seems so similar I will have to give Abercrombie a read. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Oh, and I will have to seriously second the other person who recommended David Eddings (especially the Belgariod and Mallorean). If you haven’t read them, they are a must, but set aside time there are 10 books total (if you don’t count the extra 2 books that are prequelie)!

  • I second GSpawn’s recommendations of Goodkind and Eddings. Terry Goodkind’s series is quite epic. The last book came out last year, but I haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

    Eddings is good with the more lighthearted, funny, sarcasm-filled fantasy. The humour kinda reminds me of Buffy, actually. If it were set in medieval times and the leads were immortals and long lost royalty. XD

  • I was circling around this series for quite some time now, as it definitely sounded promising from the descriptions, but haven’t come around to give it a read yet (currently on my way to book 6 of Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, thus I’ll be still busy for a while with another fantasy series ;)), but after reading this excited review, I’ll definitely add it to my next book order, so thanks for this 🙂

  • M. Cookie

    I’m not sure we’d agree with our tastes on fantasy. (Erikson too dense, for fantasy?!?) Argh! so frustrating.
    GSpawn, Goodkind started a wonderful world! (and great books) until he got sick, now hes trying to finish it until his illness kills him.
    god bless him.

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