June 4, 2012

Joe Abercrombie's The First Law Trilogy

Another post about books. I heard about The Blade Itself a while back, probably from one of the author blogs that I follow. I don't know which one; it could very well be any one of John Scalzi's blog, Joseph Mallozzi's blog, or Patrick Rothfuss. Or possibly even tor.com. I don't know; I just heard that this guy Joe Abercrombie wrote a good yarn.

I think I found "The Blade Itself" on sale on the kindle store at some point for like $5 or something. The normal price seems to be around $7, which is reasonable to me. I like the idea of not having to lug around a physical book, and I certainly can't store books in my tiny Tokyo apartment, so a virtual good is actually worth money to me, although I do balk at paying more than what a physical book would cost.

At any rate, I read through the first book at a quick clip. It has very memorable characters, a well-constructed world, a believable and interesting magic system (perhaps even three or four, depending on how you count) and an interesting story.

I'll probably verge a bit into spoiler territory, so if you are interested in hearing my thoughts, click the readmore link below.

I was struck when reading this series that one of the main characters, Bayaz, an old wizard, plays the role of the knowing old man who guides the main character in some way, but it usually somewhat inaccessible to the reader. The character is either killed off early, or mystical and only speaks cryptically at infrequent moments, or is unable to meddle directly in the events for some reason, or perhaps is the goal the main character is trying to reach. In this case Bayaz directly joins the story, has a history reaching back into antiquity in the world, and is a somewhat unreliable narrator for the reader.

In fact, the more I think about it after the events of the third book, I am left to wonder just how reliable of a narrator Bayaz is, and what his motives and goals are. It is clear that he has been deceiving himself, perhaps knowingly, for a long time, but it isn't really clear to me what he wants.

The world is left in a state that would easily allow for more books and stories in this universe, and I am interested in reading more. Abercrombie has a dark and gritty take on fantasy, which has been described by some as Fantasy Noir. I can see that. I find it refreshing to read a book where Magic is out there and made extremely visible, not used sparingly as in the GMMR Time of Fire and Ice saga, although that is of course, a very nice read a well. I have to admit that I haven't read the latest book in that series because it seems like a lot of words for what eventually happens, while in The First Law trilogy the words fly by quickly and a lot happens in fewer pages.

Anyway, not really too much in the way of spoilers there, but I enjoyed the books and recommend them!


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