Author: Joe Abercrombie
I’m sure a lot of us have been there, stood in the bookshop confronted with the raft of fantasy titles. Epic tales that are told over many volumes, each the thickness of a modest encyclopaedia, intrigued to know more but knowing you might be about to make a long term commitment of time and money. Where do you start? If only there was a way of sampling a series in an easy to pick up way.
Well if Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law books have ever held an attraction then you’re in luck. No previous experience of other books is required as these all function as stand alone stories. However, if you have read the previous books then there are some little extra gems in there. It is a very deft balancing act which Abercrombie makes look easy.
The backbone of the collection is a series of stories about the unlikely friendship between Shev, a talented thief looking to go straight and Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp, who is a warrior on the run from her own people. They make for a wonderfully offbeat team with Shev being dryly cynical and long suffering while having to wrangle Javre who is essentially Obelix with a sex drive. She’s very good at fighting and when there is no one left to fight she looks for someone to have sex with. My favourite story of theirs is Two’s Company which is about how the pair can’t seem to even cross a bridge without Javre leaving a trail of corpses and copulation behind her.
Of the other stories I enjoyed The Fool Jobs which tells the story of a unit of Northmen on a raid for an item and realising at the last minute that their instructions are lacking some detail. Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden tells the tail of one minor military skirmish from the point of view of both sides and the people who have the misfortune to be living on the land where it happens. Freedom! Is presented as literary found footage of a writer documenting the liberation of a town in florid prose and some footnotes from the protagonist of his tale. Some Desperado is a great slice of fantasy with the trappings of a western as a fugitive makes her stand against her pursuers in a ghost town.
If you are a Joe Abercrombie fan already I don’t need to convince you to buy this. You already own a copy and you were always going to. If you have heard of Abercrombie and want a good cross section of the world he has created, the kind of characters he writes and the other genres he weaves into his fantasy then this is an ideal place to start. These are thirteen well written, entertaining stories that also act as a tasting menu for the wider world of The First Law. You should find that they stir your appetite for more.