I have just finished Joe Abercrombie’s fantasy trilogy The First Law (the individual novels are called The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings). The action is centred around Adua, capital city of the Union. Life is comfortable and settled enough to allow a healthy dose of political intrigue, but the threat of war is looming from neighbouring nations Gurkhul and the North. Various events set things in motion and we’re off into an exciting adventure.
The books are in 3rd person narrative, but with each chapter told from the viewpoint of one of the main characters: Logen, Glokta, Jezal, Ferro, West and the Dogman. The main characters are all vastly different, and the style of narrative allows the reader to get a good look at each one from both their own and others’ perspectives, and to see how certain of them gradually change. They all have their (pretty major) flaws but are all somehow very likeable, and I regularly laughed aloud at some of their thoughts and comments, especially those of Glokta and the Northmen. The group are tied together by Bayaz, an ancient mage, who is a main character but doesn’t have his own narrative. This is an important device and means that after a while of being distracted by such a richly portrayed cast, you gradually start to notice that nobody seems to be that aware or in control of their own motivations and paths, and that Bayaz is the one pulling the strings. It makes everything a little more mysterious and makes you want to keep reading to see if you’ve guessed correctly each little step of what’s going to happen next. And the story is a great one, full of completely unexpected twists both large and small.
I would definitely recommend The First Law trilogy, especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, as they’re quite similar – set in an imaginary world that isn’t modern but is still recognisable, with a magical element but the focus on the characters and how all their individual actions have an effect on the storyline elsewhere. As well as the trilogy there are three stand-alone novels which follow on – I’m going to read something else first but will definitely pick them up soon.