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Joe Abercrombie

joe abercrombie the first law(1974- )
Joe Abercrombie was educated at the all-boy Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where he spent much of his time playing computer games, rolling dice, and drawing maps of places that don’t exist. He studied psychology at Manchester University and became a freelance film editor. After writing his first fantasy novel, The Blade Itself, Joe became a finalist for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. He lives in Bath with his wife and daughters. Read excerpts of his work at Joe Abercrombie’s website. Read Justin’s interview with Mr. Abercrombie.

The First Law

The First Law — (2006-2016) Publisher: Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian — leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies. Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules. Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it. Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult. Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

Joe Abercrombie The First Law 1. The Blade Itself 2. Before They are Hanged 3. The Last Argument of KingsJoe Abercrombie The First Law 1. The Blade Itself 2. Before They are Hanged 3. The Last Argument of KingsJoe Abercrombie The First Law 1. The Blade Itself 2. Before They are Hanged 3. The Last Argument of Kings

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The Blade Itself: Vivid, tense, action-packed, and droll

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The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

By setting The Blade Itself, the first book of his FIRST LAW series, in a well-built world and filling it with interesting, "gritty" characters, Joe Abercrombie creates a good balance of stage-setting and story-telling.

The story is told from the perspective of five major characters who are gradually drawn together and whose collected experiences create an engrossing tale. There is the mage, the apprentice, the barbarian, the gifted young noble, the crippled anti-hero... and so forth. Abercrombie writes engaging characters — perfect for my personal tastes. I particularly think that Sand dan Glokta, the Inquisitor, is an amazing character.

The only problem with The Blade Itself was that it takes a while before the story gets going. That's not a serious drawback, but en... Read More

Before They are Hanged: Expect more of the same

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Before They are Hanged

Before They are Hanged begins just where The Blade Itself left off and continues the stories of Logen, West, Jezal, Ferro, Bayaz, Glokta, and company. Expect more of the same in this novel: brutal fighting, sickening torture, nasty politics, ruthless characters, and barbarian grammar.

This recipe mostly works — the plot is interesting, the pace is fast, there's a bit of humor, and the characters are well-developed and continue to grow. I certainly enjoyed the story. There were a few things, however, that keep me from giving this novel (and the series) "favorite" status.

First, the editing needs a bit more polish. I find it jarring to read sentences which are missing antecedents or punctuation:
"He glanced sideways and caught Luthar's eye, licking his lips nervously in the gloom, wet hair p... Read More

Last Argument of Kings: No redemption

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Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Say one thing for Kat Hooper, say she's a weak-minded sucker.

She really enjoyed the first two books of Joe Abercrombie's THE FIRST LAW trilogy. This story was original, had a unique style, fascinating characters, and a darkly cynical style. She liked it. It was fresh. But she was kind of hoping, even daring to expect, that the last book, Last Argument of Kings, might have an ending that was, if not perhaps exactly happy, at least somewhat satisfying.

Unfortunately, Last Argument of Kings was more realistic than happy. Hooray, some might say — a realistic ending! But realistic is not what Kat reads fantasy for. For three books she read about people's heads being chopped off, painful body parts clicking, toothless gums being sucked at, pain, wasting disease, bodi... Read More

Best Served Cold: Comes with a price

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Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie is the new master of dark, gritty, realistic fantasy, and Best Served Cold might well be the masterpiece that represents that subgenre. Monza Murcatto is a renowned and very successful mercenary … or was until she was stabbed, beaten, and thrown from a mountainside by her employer. Monza wants revenge, so she contracts a party of unsavory characters to aid her. Monza’s story goes from dark to black to “a wet match in the bottom of a dark cave” — everyone suffers, lots of people die, and the trail of blood and tragedy that Monza leaves in her wake is unprecedented.

Abercrombie takes what appears to be a simple tale of revenge and twists it into a sanguine journey of self-discovery on the part of each character. The heart of Best Served Cold is how Abercrombie ... Read More

The Heroes: Abercrombie takes the genre to a whole new level of badass

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The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes is another story set in the same world as Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. Veteran readers will be happy to be reacquainted with several characters from earlier books: the wizard Bayaz; the dishonored warrior Bremer dan Gorst; Finree dan Brock, Union Commander Marshal Kroy’s ambitious daughter; Black Dow, the ruthless leader of the Northmen. But if you haven’t read any of Abercrombie’s books yet, don’t worry — you don’t need to have read them in order to fully enjoy The Heroes.

If you have read the earlier books, you’ll recall that a conflict, provoked by the manipulations of two rival magical forces, has been brewing between the Union and the barbaric Northmen who are probably best compared to the historical Vikings. When The Heroes open... Read More

Red Country: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly with swords

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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

As a fan of Joe Abercrombie’s other books, such as The Heroes, Red Country was a must-read for me. Even though I had no idea what Red Country was about, or how it might be related to his previous stories, it didn’t really matter because I was certain that Joe Abercrombie would entertain me.

Red Country feels almost like a Western in the way that the towns are laid out — there’s a quasi general store and a the local saloon, for example — and I was starting to wonder if Abercrombie was breaking away from his usual setting. But the conditions, as in all of Abercrombie’s other stories, are pretty rough, and so very realistic. Red Country has a good setting for the type of hard story that Abercrombie writes.
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Shattered Sea

Shattered Sea — (2014-2015) Publisher: “I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.” Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand. The deceived will become the deceiver. Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge. The betrayed will become the betrayer. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could. Will the usurped become the usurper? But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

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Half a King: A new series for Abercrombie

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

What happens when you are born crippled in a medieval world? What if your physical impairment is sufficient to leave you always at a disadvantage to others? How do you survive? In Half a King, the first book of Joe Abercrombie’s SHATTERED SEA series, those questions are answered in exciting and realistic ways.

Yarvi is a Prince of the ruling family of Gettland, one of the nations that surround the Shattered Sea. He has found his niche studying to become a Minister, a quasi-monk adviser to the ruler. His brilliant mind makes up for the half-formed arm and hand that he was born with. As the son of King Uthrik and with a strong, physically capable older brother, Yarvi won’t need to rely on the traditional sources of martial prowess to survive.

When King Uthrik is killed and his heir... Read More

Half the World: Beautiful and intimate characters make for an incredible read

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Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World is book two of his SHATTERED SEA trilogy. Although Yarvi and some of the cast from book one do make an appearance, Half the World isn’t exactly a sequel to Half a King, and I almost think you could read it without having read book one. The overarching storyline follows Father Yarvi’s quest to find allies abroad as Gettland’s enemies close in, but on a micro level, Half the World is much more than that. In book two, Abercrombie introduces us to a pair of new, young protagonists, Thorn and Brand, two fighters who have their warrior dreams crushed by not being chosen for the King’s raids on the neighboring Vansterland.... Read More

Half a War: Memorable grimdark saturated with Abercrombiean plot twists

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Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

Warning: Will contain mild spoilers for Half a King and Half a World

One of the worst aspects of Joe Abercrombie’s Half a War, book three of his SHATTERED SEA trilogy, is the cover art — a depiction of assorted medieval weaponry formed by tongues of flame lapping at the darkness. Needless to say, the cover art is pretty freakin’ awesome, so Abercrombie must have put an extraordinary amount of work into the substance of Half a War to make it even better than the attention-grabbing visual that serves as its housing. With the return of Brand, Thorn, Yarvi, and the cast from books one and two, the conclusion to Abercrombie’s YA series picks u... Read More

Magazine Monday: Grimdark Magazine, Issue 1

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Grimdark Magazine seeks to fill a gap in the niche market for those who enjoy “grim stories told in a dark world by morally ambiguous protagonists,” according to the editorial in the first quarterly issue. The first issue is promising, if somewhat opaque to one who is not already immersed in this relatively new subgenre.

The first story is “Shadow Hunter: A Shadows of the Apt Story” by Adrian Tchaikovsky, set in his universe in which humanoids take on the characteristics of insects. The Wasp-kinden, for example, are described as savage and angry, and have the ability to deliver a sting that emanates from the palms of their hands. One leader successfully corralled the Wasps into a mighty army and became emperor, but what happens to a Wasp who no longer interested in being a foot soldier? Gaved undert... Read More

SFM: Brackett, Vo, Vernon, Bachus, Abercrombie

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.



Enchantress of Venus by Leigh Brackett (1949, $0.99 at Amazon)

The world celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of Leigh Brackett on December 7, 2015, and to celebrate the centennial of the so-called “Queen of Space Opera” in my own way, I have resolved to finally read five novels featuring her most famous character, Eric John Stark. My only previous acquaintance with the Earth-born, Mercury-raised Conan... Read More

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

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Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Read More

Rogues: A diverse and satisfying collection

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Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Rogues, a short-story anthology by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is a marvelously diverse collection of stories and genres, tied together by those scoundrels, those tricksters, those rascals, those rogues that you can't help but love. I listened to it on audiobook and loved the experience, especially because a few of the readers were actors from Game of Thrones.

When I picked this up, I was most excited to hear two stories in particular: "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," by Neil Gaiman, and "The Lightning Tree," by Read More

Joe Abercrombie on Diamond Toilet Seats, PS3, and The Heroes

Today I’d like to welcome Joe Abercrombie to Fantasy Literature. Joe is the author of The First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, and The Last Argument of Kings) and the stand alone work Read More