First Law trilogy - SPOILERS!

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
Discussion of the First Law trilogy: DON'T read unless you've already finished:

The Blade Itself
Before they are Hanged,
Last Argument of Kings

A point about the characters that was not so apparent in the first book, but blindingly obvious by the end of the third: there were no heroes - everyone was an anti-hero.

Logen - tried to aspire to be good, but when all was said and done, he was just a killer and murderer. Especially underlined by his killing of Tul while in his Bloody Nine frenzy. No matter what he tried to do, he always was and only that.

Ferro - again, just a cold-blooded killer. So desperate for revenge she would just kill. While she sided with Bayaz to join in the quest, she never grew to be anything else but a cold-hearted killer and murderer.

Jezal - Bayaz facing off against him at the end of kings was just brilliant - he had played Jezal all through the books, and while Jezal had had the opportunity to change, not least via Ardee, he broke his promise to her. As Bayaz said, "I choose you because you were a coward" - and wile he was able to overcome at least some of his prejudices, he never really rose above the fact that he was a coward.

Bayaz - brilliant anti-character - the all powerful wizard who does what he wants, and more to the point, ensures his entrenchment to power with puppet kings. There was a great line asking what was the difference between him and Gluthod, to which he replied "Glustrod lost". He killed Juven's, Juven's daughter (and his lover) and The Marker, all to gain power. Evil b'stard!
I think the gradual revelation that Bayaz is just as evil* as, er, the Gurkhish wizardy fellow was very well done. The passage where they enter the Maker's House (or whatever it's called) and he leaves behind one of his fellows was excellent, as was the ending.

I quite liked Logen, but Ferro never really grew on me. Initially, I thought Jezal the weakest main character, but he distinctly improved as time wore on.

Surprised you didn't mention Glokta. Easily my favourite character, and, in a certain way, he almost become something approaching nice (slightly) towards the end.

On Kanedias/the Maker's daughter, didn't she sort-of survive?

I'd also dispute Jezal being an anti-hero. He's not able to thwart Bayaz, but that's due to lack of power rather than desire or goodness.

I hope that we get to see more of the Old Empire in future books.

*perhaps evil is exaggerated. Ambitious/ruthless might be better. Bayaz wants to rule, but he's not a lunatic, and the Union doesn't have slavery like the Gurkhish do.
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I didn't mention Glotka because he is so obviously an anti-hero.

Ironically, even though he is a torturer, he is the only one who really does anything positive out of all of them! A character without pretentions of being good, indeed.
That's what has made his books so successful, his characters are all very real, especially Glokta, best character ever made imo.

Joe really shows how nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and has a dark side. Perfect - can do no wrong - heroes are just fairy tales, they don't exist.

In a way, there are no good guys in Joe's books.
Anti-heroes like these are so compelling because we never know which way they're going to jump. We think they "might" do something heroic or good, but it's exciting because we don't know.

The problem with Best Served Cold, I think, is that you begin to lose this sense that the anti-heroes "might" do something good -- they're just a bit too unpleasant!

Yeah. I enjoyed Best Served Cold, but Monza was less sympathetic than she might have been. I liked Shivers more.
Downloaded all three books on my Kindle the other week and read them back to back. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Joe really twisted the genre as his story progressed. Of all the characters Ferro was the one that I least enjoyed, whilst Logen , Glotka and Jezal were all outstanding. Bayaz became one of those characters that you just loved to hate.

A brief nod must go to Practicals Frost and Severand. Two characters you would not wish to ever meet in a dark alley.
O Biodroid, avoid this thread! You know it's spoilerific.
Abercrombie has mentioned before that once he's finished his YA trilogy, he'll be returning to this world. If he does create a new series, are there are any particular characters he should return to? Personally, I'd love to see Glotka - but if any future books take place long after the First Law trilogy, that may not be possible.
Maybe. I like Glokta a lot, but returning to old favourites can mean screwing them up *cough*Vader*cough*.

I'd like to see more of Gurkhul, and the chap, whose name escapes me, who is apparently Bayaz's nemesis.

Edited extra bit: I'd also like to see more of the Old Empire.
He's returning to first law world? I figured he'd be done with it due to the contract Gollanzc have got him in.
He's returning to first law world? I figured he'd be done with it due to the contract Gollanzc have got him in.

So far as I understand it, Joe has always planned a trilogy to carry on from First Law, the question has simply been as to how closely it will follow it.

EDIT: Here's his latest on his plans:

I’ll now be turning my attention back to the adult arena, hoping to get a few more stories together for a collection of First Law-based short stories which should hopefully be coming out in 2016 some time – that’ll contain all the short stories I’ve written in the First Law world, including those that have been published in special editions and anthologies and a few as yet unseen.

As far as full-length books go, the plan is still for another trilogy set in the First Law world, but I’m still at a very early stage in the development of that, earlier than I’ve ever been before when finishing up a book. My plan is still, ideally, to draft out all three books before preparing the first for publication, which will hopefully mean we can publish all three in a timely fashion and in as good a state as they can be, but would mean a long wait for the first. We shall see.
He had a 9? book contract. Trilogy +3 standalone puts him at 6. The issue was the contract was signed as a newbie so his cash from them isnt great. I'd assumed when he switched publisher and worlds (contract from golly is linked to 9 first law books) he'd not bother with first law world due to the return on time. Maybe he's renegotiated.

I could have some facts wrong here though.
So far as I understand it - and I could be wrong here - he signed a 3 book for First Law, and then signed a second 3 book contract for which he delivered Best Served Cold, Heroes, and Red Country. And then signed another 3 book contract after, to deliver another 3 books via Gollancz.

This is all I can immediately find about it, which mentions the 3 book contract after Red Country:
Good find.

"I’ve got a contract for three more books in the First Law world, " in the second paragraph is what i'm referring to. I think thats the 9 contract thing i was talking about. When they signed him i think they locked him in for 9 books at a newbie rate. The loop hole was ''first law world' once he started selling, he realised he was getting a bum deal on returns. (hence the red country burnout?!)

When he switched to the new world YA stuff and a new publisher i assumed he was done with Golly. He might have renegotiated or he might feel honour bounded to produce three more.

If true, its very interesting for signing long term book deals. 1 book, 3 book, 9 book? They have their pluses and minuses. I mean, 9 books at 12k advance sounds good for a writer but when you hit abercrombie levels and are struggling to provide for your family, somethings off.
@biodroid Did you ever read Last Argument?

I never commented upon the First Law Trilogy... here goes...

My first foray into JA was Best Served Cold, wherein Shivers remembers the Bloody Nine. Years later, I picked up Red Country and was introduced to Logen as an old man. Then I read the trilogy and found out the history of Ninefingers. Excellent stuff. While telling the story of Logen to the Bloody Nine, Abercrombie seems to hold my head to the track and say, "You hear that Mr. Anderson? That... is the sound of... inevitability..."

Bayaz' fellowship was the worst part of the story. Bayaz, I mean Gandalf, wait... I mean Voldemort... I'll just call him Gandemort is high handed from the beginning and I agree with everyone else that he is a *&%@#. Ferro was forgettable. The best part of the fellowship was the realization that came upon me that Jezal was not going to stop being Prince Hal in order to assume his position at Henry V. No, he would remain a tool.

Glokta's dual stories of defending Constantinople from the Turks and trying to stop The Day of the Jackal were the best parts of the trilogy. I like spies. I like geo-political machinations.

I also enjoyed the Seven Samurai, err... the Magnificent Seven, no, I mean the Dirty Dozen, wait, uh... Kelly's Heroes... the Fellowship of the Ri.... no, the Thirteenth Warrior... let's see... Logen, Dogman, Forley, Black Dow, Rudd Threetrees, Tul Duru, and Harding Grim make seven... right, there were seven Northmen until Ninefingers left so they were six.... Anyway the point is that I liked their story.

I would not recommend the trilogy for someone looking for more Tolkien.

I would recommend it to someone looking for more Black Company or Malazan, but with a bit less supernatual plots.

I'll tell ya... I love me some Rocky. Not Rocky IX or whatever... just Rocky. In the ring, Apollo throws his left jab constantly... blurring Rocky's vision. Rocky can't avoid Apollo's big right crosses when they come because he's been distracted. On the other hand, Apollo never worries about Rocky's jab... it's nonexistent. But Apollo has to keep backing up because Rocky never stops coming forward... the sense of inescapability keeps increasing until Rocky unloads his left hook... (he's a southpaw). David Gemmell and George Martin are like Rocky and Apollo. Martin keeps up a constant stream of distraction and subterfuge which distracts his readers from the big surprise. Gemmell comes straight forward... what you see is what you get... but you know it's coming... you know he's going to deliver the big punch.

Abercrombie combines both Martin's incessant jabs with Gemmell's inevitable knockout.
Boaz, did you read Heroes?

The outlaws are a major, though not the only, focus in that story.