First Law

ColGray

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I've been burned out on Fantasy for a while now. Everything felt like it was intentionally puerile (Goblin Emperor), skinned romance (Maas) or heavily trying to be GRRM or Rothfuss (throw a cat) while reveling in tropes and laboriously insisting upon itself.

I got around to borrowing The Blade Itself and absolutely devoured it. It's excellent. I just tore through, Before They're Hanged and laughed at the ending (the quest part, not the other bits) as that is a beautiful subversion of expectations. I'm excited to finish the trilogy. Without a doubt, the best fantasy series I've read in years.
 
Ive not read beyond the trilogy but Like the the first three books immensely ! at some point II will pick up book 4.
 
It's alright and was a breath of fresh air when it came out. The writing is very good but the cynicism is pretty one-note. I found that once you'd figured out what Abercrombie is doing (when cliched fantasy goes right, he turns left) it becomes a bit predictable. That said, he's a much better writer than many of the sub-Tolkien epic authors.
 
Not so sure of the title, though - I was expecting variations on "A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm"...
 
Not so sure of the title, though - I was expecting variations on "A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm"...
I mean, Man must not eat the flesh of other men, is a pretty solid rule to rival Asimov!
 
Or there's the First Law for the wolf-pack:

Wash daily from nose tip to tail tip; drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting and forget not the day is for sleep
 
I've been burned out on Fantasy for a while now. Everything felt like it was intentionally puerile (Goblin Emperor), skinned romance (Maas) or heavily trying to be GRRM or Rothfuss (throw a cat) while reveling in tropes and laboriously insisting upon itself.

I got around to borrowing The Blade Itself and absolutely devoured it. It's excellent. I just tore through, Before They're Hanged and laughed at the ending (the quest part, not the other bits) as that is a beautiful subversion of expectations. I'm excited to finish the trilogy. Without a doubt, the best fantasy series I've read in years.
Glad you enjoyed it! The next couple of books are pretty excellent, too, and are connected to the original trilogy in terms of story and characters: Best Served Cold, and The Heroes - IMO where Abercrombie reaches his peak writing.
 
I've been burned out on Fantasy for a while now. Everything felt like it was intentionally puerile (Goblin Emperor), skinned romance (Maas) or heavily trying to be GRRM or Rothfuss (throw a cat) while reveling in tropes and laboriously insisting upon itself.

I got around to borrowing The Blade Itself and absolutely devoured it. It's excellent. I just tore through, Before They're Hanged and laughed at the ending (the quest part, not the other bits) as that is a beautiful subversion of expectations. I'm excited to finish the trilogy. Without a doubt, the best fantasy series I've read in years.

I loved the first trilogy. I loved the three stand alone novels. But I got into it in the wrong order... I did not read them as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.... I read them as 4, 6, 1, 2, 3, 5.

The trilolgy needs to be read as a unit, but the three stand alones just revolve around the trilogy.

@ColGray Let us know about your progress.
 
Oh, interesting order. Why?

SPOILERS AHEAD

I finished the first three (first law trilogy) last week and I've been digesting it over the last few days because I frankly hated the last 200-odd pages and hate how it recolored the previous two books. Lemme start by saying, Yeah, i get the previous comments on cynicism -- ya'll were right! I will also say, i think it's a pretty decent ending from a structure and storytelling perspective--though it falls apart for me with even cursory character motivation analysis. The First Law: The real antagonist was the friends we made along the way.

So, why? Because every character fails to grow or change despite having gone through immense change and growth, and Abercrombie reveals he's been masking critical information from the reader all along*.

  1. Bloody Nine missed that everyone hates and fears him and the group (Black Dow, Dog Man, etc) went from being his lost brothers in book 1 to being Dogman + some guys he beat and let live and they decided to follow him--even though feuds seem to be the norm (Shivers shows the opposite of friends to be mostly true) and actually his close friends don't like or trust Logan? Yes, Logen gives them reasons to remember he berserks, but they knew it before? And after beating the Feared he becomes king, even though he didn't want to be chief? Like... huh? And Black Dow wanted to be king? I'm... what? WHAT??
  2. Glockta -- unchanged personality despite finding people who actually care about him (both Wests) and killing his only friends? Still wielding power he borrows from others.
  3. Jezel -- all of his growth in book 2 turns into nothing. He questions everything in book 1 and nothing in book 3. He was always a bit of a guy who went with the flow -- his dad wanted him to fence but then HE committed when his commitment was questioned. When that happened here--with his wife, or Bayez--he pretends at violence then demurs. He's seen Bayez go unconscious and slack jawed from using minor magic and knows there's a risk to the magus, but Jezel has 0 guile, thought or anything in his brain and will instead by ruled by two men he hates?
  4. Ferro -- wants to grow, grows a little, sees Bayez doing what Gerkil did to her family/her and shrugs...?
  5. Tolomei -- revenge crazed but not so crazed that she revealed herself at only an critical plot moment despite several better opportunities and being involved in the discussion between Bayez and Cawneil? Wheels coming off.
  6. Bayez -- Apparently a crazed, power hungry man who excels at lying to everyone, all the time, forever and ever because ... ... ... ...
And that's where the books took a hard stumble for me. Make Bayez a villain. It's a fun twist. I was guessing whether Bayez or Manuk were the owner of the bank. Make him a man willing to do anything-- kill friends, betray lovers and mentors, break laws that he emphatically insists on throughout the books -- but ffs, give him a reason. Because he and Off-Screen-Villain-MacGuffin butted heads 1000 years ago? So, Bayez is the pettiest man who ever lived? He's harbored and fed this feud for centuries, puppet ruled kingdoms, plural, because of this feud?

It's like, SW revealing Yoda is the real villain and his motivation? Lose at pod-racing, Yoda does not.

Ultimately, I really liked the first two books. The second book was on of the best middle trilogy books I've read-- truly, excellent. The third felt like it should have cut something because it was too long and there was too much meh, and too much coincidence--he tried to Kaiser Soze, and it just didn't work for me. The reveal was an initially cool twist that undermined and weakened the story for me and i ultimately dislike it.
 
also, apologies for any misspellings -- i listened to the books :)
 
I completely agree with you. I think the cynicism is both the point of the trilogy and its biggest weakness, because it's both novel but unconvincing. To make the plot work, several characters have to become pretty stupid all of a sudden, which makes it feel as if the author is laughing at his own work and perhaps the reader for being stupid enough to think that something might actually change in this crapsack world. I was particularly amused by the death of West, who just died because he was in danger of getting a happy ending because of... radiation? He could have at least tripped over a paving stone and dashed his brains out.

There's a kind of fake "realism" to some grimdark that puts me off the genre. "Nothing changes for the better" is nonsense. The fact authors are allowed to write grimdark and not propaganda stories praising some kind of fuhrer demonstrates that cynicism is ultimately a pose and the worst may not happen. There is a difference between "real life is complex and grey" and "real life is always a massive failure".

There's also a feeling that Abercrombie is mocking a sort of story that isn't really popular anymore (or at the time he was writing TFL): the "farmboy's big destiny" story you seen in The Wheel of Time or Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (presumably the original farmboy is Frodo). And yes, Bayaz has not so much plot armour as a plot tank in which to drive over the other characters. A Renaissance prince would have disposed of him pretty easily.

None of this takes away from the fact that Abercrombie is a very good writer - at the time, perhaps the best prose stylist in fantasy.
 
There's also a feeling that Abercrombie is mocking a sort of story that isn't really popular anymore (or at the time he was writing TFL): the "farmboy's big destiny" story you seen in The Wheel of Time or Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (presumably the original farmboy is Frodo).
It's all Joseph Campbell Hero with 1,000 faces, but yes. Garion in the Eddings books is my forever goto with that farmboy to chosen one/king trope.

And yes, Bayaz has not so much plot armour as a plot tank in which to drive over the other characters. A Renaissance prince would have disposed of him pretty easily.
You framed that perfectly. He is a plot-ice-breaker-barge. "I need someone to have done XYZ", oh, sure, Bayaz does that, too.

That everything -- literally everything-- in TFL world has happened because of this feud and that every person besides Bayaz and Khalul are irrelevant to how history, countries and lives are shaped, has hollowed out this story for me. Old Empires and whole continents? They get destroyed because of the feud. New countries and continents? Same. New kings? Irrelevant--they fall in line. New men (Collum West)? Nope, same, they die.

It upends the stakes and makes them irrelevant. Their stakes no longer matter! Every POV character's motivation, desires and weaknesses are window dressing to this feud, which we only get to experience as a third party.

Finally, it leads to these massive plot holes that I'm struggling to ignore--if eaters get much more powerful and can live forever (assuming they continue eating) then it feels odd that an organization like the Inquisition isn't full of Eaters. And that the Eaters only exist under the two Magus pillars. Given the cynicism, someone else should have gone, Oh, i can do this.

Reminds me of the Pixar writing rule of: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
 
I'm pretty sure Abercrombie has talked about reading Eddings when younger. I feel like I can really see the influence.

I agree with those say that the cynicism kind of undercuts what he does after a point. If you're always expecting someone to invert something, it ceases being an inversion.

I also think the overdoing thing applies to his prose too. I started off loving his prose, then felt it was pretty good, and then after my second read of Best Served Cold kind of took him off my reading list.
 
Again, there are a few novel things about Abercrombie's prose, but the novelty does get wearing once you see what he's doing. The repetition ("Say one thing about", the bodies floating at the docks etc, the whole "this is what he thought but here's what he really said" construction) is clever but it does get repetitive. Maybe if the trilogy was shorter, it would work better, but that might have made it less saleable to publishers.

The ultimate problem with grimdark is that you end up replacing a childish optimism with an adolescent pessimism. Neither is true, and the optimism is more enjoyable to read.
 
Agreed -- by the third book, I was pretty much all set with, Say one thing for Logan Nine-Fingers, say ____. Same with Jezel. They became stand-ins for actually exploring the character's interiority and (potentially) an interesting breadcrumb to show the characters hadn't actually grown or progressed.

Weirdly, the Glockta one didn't get old, but I think it may be because Glockta's interiority was so much deeper and more explored than any other character and the line wasn't overused.

Jezel's affectation always made me think of Mike Birbiglia (the comic/actor/playwright) and his 1 man show, What I Should Have Said Was Nothing.
 
I'm pretty sure Abercrombie has talked about reading Eddings when younger. I feel like I can really see the influence.
Totally -- Again, it's a fun question and twist and replaying the Belgariad where Belgarath is a petty asshole manipulating everyone pretty hilarious. Turning that expectation -- that this immortal sorcerer isn't actually unceasingly good and altruistic -- is fun. But give me real growth and consequence and motivation.
 
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