I thought the characters were developed extremely well; not necessarily likable but with such depth and texture that I really felt I knew them all. However other than Glotka, who it must be admitted is not your typical fantasy hero, I still think the characters, however well developed, were essentially pretty much standard fantasy fare. This first book seemed to be all about the development of the characters which was fine and enjoyable but the plot didn't really get going until the second book; probably my favourite of the three.
I have seen lots of posts around about declaring Glotka as their favourite character but I'm afraid I have to disagree there. He certainly could have been mine and I did like the whole concept of his personality but by the end of the series I really didn't want to read another line about how painful this is, or difficult that was for him. In any book you read the author will always occasionally repeat salient aspects of a character to remind you of them. But with Glotka almost every paragraph involving him has him struggling with stairs, stretching a leg and stoically putting up with the pain, trying to twist the kinks out of his neck and again getting the familiar pain or just reflecting yet again on how ugly he is (oh I forgot the teeth; just how many times do I have to read detailed descriptions of his missing teeth?).
Finally I'm afraid I have to disagree with the opening review of this thread with regard to the ending of the series. Whilst I thought the wrapping up of the main plot was excellent it was the tying up of the loose ends that was terrible. It felt very manfactured to me. It just seemed to be a case of "right that's the plot finished now lets just run through a list of loose ends and get them all tied up".
Don't get me wrong I enjoyed the series and will certainly read more of his work. It's just that for me least I don't see it as the ground breaking series that some others seem to see. I have to say that it struck me as good and fairly standard fantasy with a few novel twists along the way.
That's one of the potential problems with writing styles (whether 1st or 3rd person) where the characters are, in effect, the narrators. There is no doubt that Glokta has suffered, but what his POV scenes and chapters tell us (often and in detail, as you say) is just how sorry he feels for himself. It can come across as repetition, as it did to you, but it does represent how Glokta sees the world and how it often appears to be against him (in his eyes).
(If you've ever met someone who has a lot to complain about and does, you'll recognise one aspect of Glokta, though I would suggest that he's probably rather restrained in his self-pitying compared to some folk in real life**.)
He does, though, have other, more interesting facets and skills, all of which make him a more three-dimensional character, one who comes alive on the page. Which is one reason, I would suggest, his name crops up so many times when people are talking about the trilogy.
** - And most of it is in his head, though that doesn't spare the reader from hearing about it.
Yes, I think I'd agree with all you say Ursa, and clearly Joe Abercrombie saw him as the most central character; all the scenes written from his POV are without doubt much more intimately him than other scenes are with their own POV characters. I just found it intensely annoying by the end of the books, realistic maybe and probably exactly the same reaction I would have in real life, even if I would also feel guilty about it!
Just finished the series and generally enjoyed it.
I think my worst complaint is that it got a bit ... intense towards the end, with all the fighting, especially in the city.
Like the way some of the characters really came into their own, not least Bayaz revealed, and Glotka's development.
I thought I could predict the ending of the trilogy during the first book, and was pleasantly surprised to see how it all turned out for all characters. You've got to be realistic, you know ...
What was especially nice, throughout the books, was the attention to detail. It was rarely obvious in itself, but did show that Joe had some a lot of research and slipped some nice pieces in he'd read or heard.
I think the general brutality of the world - feeling authentically ancient/mediaeval as opposed to nicely nicely good vs evil, in a number of instances - was especially well carried.
The characters, of course, worked very well - but I think the best part of them was their general summary of what they were that came in the last few scenes. Bayaz's comments on Jezal especially rang harsh, but true, and was quite brilliant, really. As was the reality of Logen's history and what he actually was as opposed to what he aspired to be.
I think the only thing that grated on me is that there seemed little reason to have the Shanka, and the Gurkish were just a pesudo-Arabic horde with little real expression. I think a good Gurkish POV would have especially brought colour to the story, not least because of their antithesis to Bayaz (or not, as the case may be) - though not necessary, simply would have been interesting as an afterthought.
If you read Best Served Cold and The Heroes, you'll see that the scheming against the Gurkish is far from over. It's not in the forefront of those novels, but enough is mentioned that you know the fight very much rages on behind the scenes.
My guess is that Abercrombie will expand on that aspect in his coming books.
Started & finished the trilogy this week. Really enjoyed the books. I thought he did a good job of fleshing the characters out in the first novel & his writing improved as the story progressed.
I'd hope he does a Ferro novel. She was/is a very interesting character