I do wonder if I should do all 3 books separately, this is a very good series and all three do deserve to be read to get a full appreciation for the setting and just how cunning Abercrombie is as an author. I’m also not sure I can talk about how fantastic these books are without talking about all of them together.
Therefore without further ado on with the blog post (incidentally I started writing this months ago, saved it to drafts and then promptly forgot about it, oh well rectifying that now 🙂 )
The three books in this tilogy written by Joe Abercrombie are:
- The Blade Itself
- Before They are Hanged
- Last Argument of Kings
How did I stumble upon this series? I was in my local independent bookshop (which is incidentally an awesome place) looking for something new to read, and one of them, I suspect it was Tim showed The Blade Itself to me and said that it was a very good book and that one of the main characters was an inquisitor. Well this peeked my interest because everyone knows what inquisitors do and how they are eevvviiillll, how could you therefore write a book with one as a main character and generate any sort of sympathy for said character, without pissing the reader off. Book was thus immediately purchased.
So review below the cut as well as potential spoilers.
There are about 5 or 6 main characters throughout the 3 books, and each chapter is usually based around one of their POVs. Abercrombie has used a slightly different writing style for all of them, giving each character a distinctly different feel. So that sometimes you can pretty much tell who’s chapter your about to read next just by how the first sentence in a chapter starts. I love this. For example any chapters focusing on Glokta (the inquisitor) you tend to get a lot of his very sarky internal replies to things people say. This is of course very important as he is usually thinking the complete opposite to what he says out loud, and it’s this that will ender you to him slightly because he’s not as bad/evil as he appears. Or Logan, who doesn’t get any internal monologue but who tends to refer a lot of things back to advice his father gave him, and that he’s just very lucky.
I also love Abercrombie’s writing style, he is very descriptive, especially when it comes to gore and people’s body functions. (Quite important when one of your main characters is a cripple.) But it’s this that brings the characters to life, they aren’t superhuman (well most of them aren’t), they are normal (well normalish considering their backgrounds) people who ache after a long fight, take time to heal, and bitch about how their nipples chafe in armour. None of the characters are perfect, they all have their flaws it makes you both love and hate them at the same time. Logan is a perfect example. He’s trying so hard to change who he is, to be nice, but there is another side to him that is a horrific killer and there will be a few things he does in the books that will make you go ‘Noooo!’.
The Blade Itself
This book is actually fairly straight forward and quite ‘nice’ in some respects (especially when you read the rest of the series). The plot itself seems fairly straight forward and I could clearly see that it was unfolding into a sort of Lord of the Rings esq adventure, or at least I thought I could see where it was unfolding. A ‘kindly’ old wizard, an arrogant boy who would clearly grow as the adventure continued. A few other interesting party members, and a couple of characters that aren’t going on the journey to keep you updated with whats going on back home.. A quest to find something to defeat the Big Bad. But a very well written and entertaining one.
Before they are Hanged
This is where things start to get interesting, where you being to realise things may not be as they seem, and that it is much more than a simply go there, get this and then destroy the big bad. There is adventure in ‘exotic’ lands, the frozen lands to the north as well as across the sea to the south and in lands beyond. It begins to provide a larger view of the world then just the Empire.
Last Argument of Kings
Things really aren’t what they seem, and they very are unlikely to go the way you hoped. There is quite a lot that I didn’t see coming, and if you aren’t shouting “Come uppance!!!” at a certain person by the end of it then there is clearly something wrong with you, because come uppance is clearly well overdue for that person. (I shake my fist, as does hubby at the mere mention of the name! Its now our catch phrase for that character.) This is also the book where you realise just how mean Abercrombie is, he throws a few things in there which seem really unnecessary and would never happen in a more high fantasy type setting. But this is dark fantasy and sometimes shit happens for no good reason.