Top notch action-adventure fantasy novel in the sword and sorcery department.
A couple of things set Abercrombie apart from the competition, I think. First, his writing transcends your average pulp-fiction level. His characters are well written, believable, and fleshed out in glorious 3-D. Second, he writes for a more mature audience. He pulls no punches in his combat scenes, and his descriptions of the psychology of torture is actually quite thought provoking. At times one might think it all a bit gratuitous but in general Abercrombie seems to write what is necessary in futherance of the plot. His human relationships are on the whole quite believable for the fantasy genre, indeed, he seems to go further than most in fleshing out his characters. To mitigate the violence Abercrombie is quite accomplished conveying humour into his scenarios. So, there are quite a few good laughs along the way in his books.
In summary, there is some shocking violence and death. There are believable and sympathetic characters. There is an intelligent plot, and authentic dialogue. Humour. Decent writing with poetic imagery and inventive language. Psychological insight. Philosophical conundrums. It is all round a highly recommended series for fans of sword and sorcery epics.
There are three books in his acclaimed First Law (2006-2008) series. Then he added a couple of stand-alone novels set in the same world that are also very favourably reviewed, Before They Are Hanged (2007), and Best Served Cold (2009), both of which prominently feature characters from the First Law series, so it is recommended to read these last even though there are strictly speaking stand-alone novels.
I do have one or two caveats, though. Some of the characterization is a bit juvenile, for example, the childish rivalry between the Union war generals, which is depicted as not much different from schoolyard petulance and competition for glory. It just did not ring that true in Before They Are Hanged (2007). Also, the endless descriptions of Inquisitor Glokta's aches and pains and his relentless pessimism does begin to grate just a little after two books of it. These are minor gripes though and I still recommend the series to fantasy fans. Abercrombie is certainly not at the serious five star level of George R R Martin, but he is close enough for some fine entertainment....Continua