Friday, June 7, 2013

The First Law trilogy - Books 2 & 3

In my last post I discussed "The First Law: The Blade Itself," by Joe Abercrombie.   Since then I've finished his First Law trilogy.

Book 2 is entitled "Before They Are Hanged" and continues the story of Logen, Sand dan Glotka, Jezel, Bayaz, and others.  Abercrombie spends more time fleshing out additional characters, particularly the small band of Logen's former companions: Threetrees, Grimm, Black Dow, and The Dogman.  Other major contributors to the plot are Major Collem West, his sister, Ardee West, and Ferro Maljinn, a former slave bent on revenge.

As before, Abercrombie changes point of view from chapter to chapter, which helped me keep up with the ever-increasing web of his story.  His tale takes us on military campaigns, mysterious quests, and into political machinations and the intimate confines of the torture chamber.

Book 3, "Last Argument of Kings," brings everyone back together in a delicious conflagration of political, military, and romantic entanglements. 

I have a thing about trying to avoid spoilers, so I won't go any farther into the details of the plot.  But there is one device that Abercrombie uses that appealed to my sense of humour.  The title of each chapter is taken from one of his characters' lines in that chapter, with the exception of two of them.  The first chapter in "The Blade Itself" is entitled, "the end," and the final chapter of "Last Argument of Kings" is, "the beginning."  Read them, and you'll see why.

One final note:  The titles of the books themselves are all historical quotes, more or less.  "The blade itself" is from "The Odyssey," and is a quote by Homer: "The blade itself incites to deeds of violence."  "Before they are hanged" is a quote from Heinrich Heine: "We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged."  The words, "last argument of kings" is translated from the latin, Ultima Ratio Regum, which is what France's King Louis XIV has inscribed on his cannons.

As I've said before, I enjoyed these books very much, and was sorry to see the story arc end.  I leave you now with the words of Logen Ninefingers, aka The Bloody Nine.  "You can never have too many knives."

Happy reading.

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