Novel Ideas: The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

I was watching The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King last night, for the millionth time, and still got the same sad, depressed feeling that I always get when a story I love comes to a close. What is wrong with me? I thought to myself, how can I get a pain so acute that I want to start the three hour movie over again, even though it’s two in the morning and I have class the next day. Why am I in emotional pain so intense that it is physical because Gandalf is going to the Grey Havens, never to be seen again by me or Middle Earth? Is it a weakness of mine, or a strength?

This is a philosophy I still have to debate on my own time, but the point here is, I love fiction. I love stories like they are really happening to me, like these characters are people I encounter in my real life. But stories are real life, these characters really live within the mind of the author, the heart of the readers, in the ink on the pages. And a lot of times, as readers, we don’t get to know the characters as well as we’d like to because of limitations set by the author, such as point of view. What if you are reading Harry Potter but you really love Ron? You only get to focus on Harry’s feelings, Harry’s thoughts, the entire story through the lens of the protagonist. Ron is there, and you can still love him and know him, but a lot of him and what he has to offer as a character and a person is left out.

But what if every character becomes a protagonist? What if every character gets to share their thoughts and feelings and tell his or her side of the story? Then the reader really gets to know the people who are propelling the story forward, who live in this world that he or she is immersing him or herself in; the world in which the character’s life becomes richer, more detailed, more lifelike.

In Joe Abercrombie’s original book series, The First Law trilogy, the story is told from the point of view of each and every character; no single protagonist leads the way. If you like complicated, textured, unpredictable, flawed, believable characters, The First Law books are for you. You also have to like blood, gore, battles, mystery, magic, murder, and blurred lines between good and evil.

Abercrombie’s trilogy consists of The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings.

From the first chapter of the first novel, these characters let you know they have a history and a future and a story to tell, and you do not want to put these books down until you have finished all three of them. The trilogy actually reads like one continuous novel, although it is broken up into three, quite like the infamous, ingenious, Lord of the Rings trilogy composed by the god, I mean, my hero, J.R.R. Tolkien.

The First Law trilogy follows the stories of a variety of characters: there’s Bayaz, the First of the Magi; Ferro, a vicious ex-slave and beast with a sword and bow;  Jezal Luthar, an egomaniac son of a nobleman; Sand Dan Glokta, a miserable, handicapped war veteran who was tortured and now tortures for the government for a living; and my personal favorite, Logen Ninefingers, better known as the Bloody Nine, a feared and practiced warrior and murderer with a dual-personality disorder and major anger issues, although when he is not bloodthirsty he is quite composed, intelligent, and reserved. But these are only five of at least ten major players in this modern, honest take on the classic epic quest story invented and perfected by Tolkien.

I feel like a lot of books are directed toward and/or picked up by females, but this series is definitely male-oriented, although females, like myself, with an open mind and taste for battle scenes can get serious enjoyment out of Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy.

Kasey Tveit

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