Joe Abercrombie has written some of the best fantasy books in the last 10 years. My favorites are the First Law Trilogy. Happily, I’d never heard of him when I read the first book, so when it was over I was able to read the next two within a week.
Fantastic, fun, bloody and profane, and not too serious. I’ve heard it said that Abercrombie’s books are the closest thing to Tarantino films in the fantasy genre. I would agree with that.
Here are the books in the First Law Trilogy, and then a couple of others novels that are set in the same universe:
The Blade Itself
Introduces a lot of characters that fill the trilogy, and then the books beyond it, but none is better than Logen Ninefingers, also known as “The Bloody Nine.” Think Conan The Barbarian if he were slightly reluctant and prone to blackouts that led him to many memorable scenes of battle madness.
The story itself–a tale of wizards, betrayal, who’s going to sit on the throne?, etc–isn’t that big of a deal. The characters make these stories.
Before They Are Hanged
More battles, blood, and intrigue. This second volume focuses on, and explains more, about Bayaz the wizard. I also thought this was the funniest book in the series, which seems strange in a tale about torturers, barbarians, battles, and other assorted nasty people.
Last Argument Of Kings
A big, ugly, perfect finale. It ties up all of the loose ends I cared about, introduces new plot-points that leave doors open for more adventures, and has one of the most exciting one-on-one duels I have ever read. Easily my favorite book in the series, which was a great surprise. I’m always a little nervous when an author tries to wrap up a series, but Abercrombie did it justice. Far from conventional, in all the best ways.
Best Served Cold
A straight-up revenge story from the same universe. The main character is a woman. I won’t tell you who. She is grievously wronged by a few unfortunate people. People she visits one by one over this fast-paced, blood-soaked book. There is also a great character, a master poisoner, who would have been right at home in The Poisoner’s Handbook.
If you’re looking for something different, and you like fantasy books, please give these a try.