To celebrate #FirstLawDay and the publication of Joe Abercombie’s Sharp Ends, we sat down members of Team Gollancz and asked them to tell us their memories of the First Law Universe. Join us as we share our favourite moments . . .
Make sure you read to the end of the blog post where we bring you some reviews of favourite First Law locations. Ever wondered what it would be like to visit the First Law universe? We’ve got some expert travel reviews for you . . .
Marcus: My first introduction to the First Law books was when I was given a proof copy of The Blade Itself, early in 2006. As a bookseller I was given proofs every day, and lots of them ended up in the staff room for others to pick over, but I always kept an eye out for Gollancz titles (I’m a good boy, see?). And so I gave it a go, and – as with so many other readers – was swept up by Joe’s version of fantasy, which honestly did feel different and unusual at the time. Now, of course, he’s inspired a new generation of authors who cite him as an influence (I assume a good one), and Joe himself has grown and improved as a writer. But as much as I enjoy his new works – and I devoured Sharp Ends in a day a few weeks ago – it’s that first book which I love the most, just because of the excitement I felt when I first read it.
(and yes, I still have my signed proof).
Rachel: I was hunting through the stacks at my tiny local library when the sumptuous paperback cover of The Blade Itself leapt out at me (not literally, but had it, I’m sure it would have been carrying a sharp weapon and a sharper riposte). I remember taking it home, crisp in its plastic covering (perfect for wiping it clean of the blood of your enemies, I imagine), and hardly daring to break the spine. Fittingly, I did and I was utterly absorbed. Up until that point, I hadn’t read a fantasy where I had been in the mind of – and sympathetic to – such morally ambiguous, dark, gritty, and above all complex characters. I was instantly a loyal reader, and that was only book one. His writing is always so fresh and sharp and brilliant. I don’t read Joe Abercrombie to feel safe and secure – I read him when I want to be surprised, and reminded of how versatile and invigorating this genre is.
Craig: I first saw Joe Abercrombie on the top shelf (rather appropriately) of the SFF section in my local bookshop in Cape Town. This being South Africa and not having any experience of the online genre community, my weekly visits to see what was new were always rather exciting. So, there The Blade Itself was . . . on the top shelf where the best whiskey and naughty mags are usually kept . . . with a cover than stood out immediately as a little bit rock n roll and a title that wasn’t the something of something in something – The Blade Itself. This was new. Different. And so like most fantasy fans I was immediately suspicious. And then I read it, swiftly followed by Before They Are Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings and came to the end feeling rather disappointed and a little bit broken as there were no happy endings! And then I thought ‘damn’ followed by ‘that sneaky b***ard’ and found myself smiling. For this was new and different, and has rightly inspired a whole generation of authors, whom I’ve enjoyed reading just as much as that first taste of grit and gristle provided by Joe Abercrombie those years ago.
Paul S: When I started at Orion in 2007, a colleague thrust a copy of The Blade Itself into my hands with the words “you’re a fantasy fan – read this, it’s brilliant!” It was a great bit of advice, and I’ve been a fan of Joe’s ever since – it’s gritty, entertaining and very exciting fantasy with no dull moments, and with each book so different I’m always excited about picking up his newest release. Working on the audios has also been great fun – Steven is brilliant at bringing Joe’s exceptional prose and characters to life, and Sharp Ends is no exception.
Jen: My first experience of the the First Law world was The Heroes. I was lucky enough to be working on the campaign and I remember devouring the proof on my commute home. I was sold on the world, the brilliant writing, humour, compelling characters and incredible story telling. I can’t recommend these books highly enough.
Mark: I was handed the blood-stained manuscript of The Blade Itself to read when we were bidding for the book, and I was immediately gripped not just by the thrilling pace, but the remarkable and vivid characters who were written with such clarity that they leapt off the page. Meeting Joe for the first time was also memorable. As his hunched form was led into the room and he revealed his broken teeth, I suddenly understood where these incredible characters had come from. His writing is phenomenal, always engrossing, often hilarious and bloody. Very, very bloody.
Paul H: I can’t really remember exactly when I first read The Blade Itself, but it would have been after the third book in the trilogy (Last Argument of Kings) was out in 2008 as I never really like starting trilogies when the whole thing isn’t available. What I do remember, when I cracked those pages, is being utterly drawn into this wonderfully realised world filled with violence and politics and with terrific characters, both main and supporting. Of the main characters; Bayaz, the bald ‘First of the Magi’ is a terrific creation, part Victor Meldrew and part ‘The Doctor’ but with a far shorter fuse, his secret machinations within the first book are exceptionally tantalizing. Jezal dan Luthar, another well drawn character, all young and full of bluster and a huge, huge snob. Yet despite knowing he is a bit of an ‘ass’ you can’t help but like him. Logen Ninefingers, the barbarian warrior from the North, a man with a fearsome and bloody reputation that he hates and would wish himself rid of if he could. He is a fantastic contradiction, both terrifying and deadly in a fight but a man who if at all possible wants to avoid those fights because he knows what he is capable of and is scared of it. Then there is Sand dan Glokta. Glokta is by far my favourite character in The Blade Itself. A cripple who works for His Majesty’s Inquisition. A torturer. An ex-soldier, tortured by an enemy into a hideously bent and bitter figure. A horrid creature but very pitiable (yet he would despise you for feeling pity for him). He is absolutely mesmeric. His cynical and sarcastic inner monologue is a wonderful piece of writing, as is the whole make-up of the character. For me he is the cold dark heart of The Blade Itself (and indeed the whole trilogy) and when you get small glimpses of his deeply buried humanity it just makes him even more beautifully written. I think within a few chapters featuring him I fell in utter love with him and any appearance was an absolute joy to read thereafter. The Blade Itself is a terrific world builder that by the end left me wanting to know more, about the characters and the evolving story. It was not long before I opened up the second book Before They are Hanged and was blown away once again.