Joe Abercrombie books reading order

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
Here's a guide to the reading order for Joe Abercrombie's books:

Firstly, there are currently three distinct set of books:

First Law trilogy:
The Blade Itself (2006)
Before they are Hanged (2007)
The Last Argument of Kings (2008)

First Law world standalone novels:
Best Served Cold (2009)
The Heroes (2011)
Red Country (2012)

Shattered Sea trilogy:
Half a King (2014)
Half the World (2015)
Half a War (2015)

Now, for the First Law books, it's best to start with the First Law trilogy itself - this will form a whole series of references picked up in the standalone novels, even though the main characters may differ.

However, the First Law standalone novels can offer a good taster for someone looking to sample Abercrombie's epic fantasy, without investing in a full epic trilogy.

Best Served Cold is brutal revenge thriller that I'd personally recommend as the best standalone to pick up - it offers a good taster for Abercrombie's character-building and pacing.

If you're feeling strong-hearted then The Heroes is another strong story when it comes to character and pacing, but it's focus on being a war/anti-war novel might not have such wide appeal.

Red Country is best not read unless you're familiar with both the original First Law trilogy and Best Served Cold, as it concludes character arcs originally set up in these.

It goes without saying that if you do pick up one of the technologies, then it's best to start with the first book in that series!

The Shattered Sea trilogy has nothing to do with any of the First Law world books, instead targeted specifically at the Young Adult fiction market, rather than mature fantasy readers. Personally I've really enjoyed it so far, but some Abercrombie fans find these a bit too light by comparison to the First Law books.
Thanks Brian, good synopsis.

If, like me, you're an Abercrombie fan then you'll be pleased to know he's signed up to write 3 more novels in the First Law world. Heard it right from the horses mouth at a signing event last year.
Just what I was looking for.

I generally always read in chronologically published order and ignore internal story chronology. Looks like I can do that here and that will be the best reading experience anyway.

Think I'll start Best Served Cold tonight.
Of the standalones in the First Law universe, Best Served Cold is the best one. But the other two are also very good.

Want to highly recommend the audiobook version of all of the First Law books, as the narration is by far the best I've ever heard.
Just popping in to say I am super happy for anyone reading Best Served Cold. Super fun!
Best served cold was great. As was Red Country. Didn't fancy The Heroes after reading the blurb but will probably try it as it seems held in high regard.

Just starting Sharp Ends now :)
Thanks folks - I've put "Sharp ends" on the back burner and downloaded The Heroes :)
This is my favorite of his books so far.

"Armor is part of a state of mind in which you admit the possibility of being hit." - Whirrun of Bligh

Ah Whirrun of Bligh, the man, the myth, the legend. Master warrior, enlightened campfire philosopher and most importantly, inventor of the 'cheese trap'.

Truly a visionary, far ahead of his time.
Sharp Ends was entertaining after all the others. If anyone wants a homework assignment.... read Sharp Ends and place each story chronologically within the First Law world. Oh, and post your results here so I can read the entire story in order.
Okay... so I found someone's projected order of the stories in Sharp Ends into the rest of the First Law world. With Abercrombie's next book arriving in September, I thought I'd read through in chronological order. I'll let you know how it goes...
Two and a half hours later, I've eaten dinner and set myself up to peruse Sharp Ends... and I see that JA has already listed each story by year... this is going to be easier than I thought.

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