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File:The First Law Trilogy.jpg

The First Law is a trilogy of Low Fantasy written by British writer Joe Abercrombie. The volumes are :

  • The Blade Itself
  • Before They are Hanged
  • The Last Argument of Kings

They are characterized by extreme grittiness, grim wit, being on the far cynical hand of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and the intention to subvert and deconstruct a certain number of Fantasy tropes. The trilogy and its successive novels feature several point of view characters, but the main heroes(?) -- er, protagonists -- of the trilogy are warrior Logen Ninefingers, who's trying to find a new path in life; Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, who's wondering why he does what he does; and soldier Jezal dan Luthar, whose life is one of much ease and little responsibility. Until things go to hell, at least.

The series takes place in a fictional world that mimics several facets of ancient to classical Earth. The action, for the most part, takes place in or regards people from the central realm the Union. The Union is beset upon on all sides by savages and orc stand-ins from the North (not just a direction, but the name of the continent according to Union cartographers and Northmen both), the mighty Gurkhish Empire to the south, mercenary bands from the continent of Styria to the south-east, and the machinations of the crumbling magocratic Old Empire in the far west. The Union appears to be in a state of near-perpetual war, constantly maneuvered into seemingly useless conflicts by an uncompromisingly proud foreign policy.

This is a world filled with bad people who do the right thing, good people who do the wrong thing, stupid people who do the stupid thing and, well, pretty much any combination of those. It's a world that's not merely filled with bad people; it actively makes the good and the decent ones worse. Survival is no lean feat, and at the end of the day, dumb luck might be more of an asset than any amount of planning, skill, or noble intention.

Why would anyone want to take a jaunt through this hell-hole? Because it's damn fun, that's why.

The first three books were followed in 2009 by Best Served Cold. It is set in Styria and follows mercenary Monza Murcatto's plan to exact vengeance on those who have betrayed her. It features and makes numerous references to characters and events of the trilogy that came before it. This world is one seriously fucked up place, and Best Served Cold takes it all up to eleven.

The next book, titled The Heroes, came out in January 2011. It tells the story of the war between Union and the North, or, more precisely, the decisive battle between the sides, which lasts several days. Like the one before, it also mentions and makes use of many previously established characters.

The author continues writing stories set in this world: He has announced that he's signed a contract for 4 more stories, which at present he predicts will be a third stand-alone story followed by another trilogy, though he notes he might change his mind. The first of these contracted books—some sort of fantasy western—will likely be out in mid-2012, and is titled (A) Red Country (America isn't getting the "A" part for some unknown reason). In addition, none of the following novels will feature the same cast (at least not in main character roles [1]) and each story is set several years after the last, so the next trilogy may be more than a decade ahead of The First Law trilogy.


This work provides examples of :

  • Aborted Declaration of Love - Logen Ninefingers, Ardee West.
  • Action Girl - Ferro, and Vitari when she crops up.
    • Monza in Best Served Cold.
    • Wonderful in The Heroes.
  • Adipose Rex - King Guslav V is this trope taken Up to Eleven. He is so fat he has to be carried everywhere, and seems nothing more than a figurehead - indeed, he is portrayed as having a hard time thinking about politics (or anything much) at all.
  • Alien Geometries - The inside of the House of the Maker.
  • Anti-Hero - All of the main characters. The nicest ones are Type IV at best.
  • Anyone Can Die - The Heroes, mostly, but also present a bit in the trilogy.
  • The Archer - Many characters are proficient with the bow, but the Dogman (who rarely uses anything else), Grim (who also rarely uses anything else), and Ferro (who has preternatural eyesight and aim) stand out.
  • Arc Words - "Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than live with the fear of it."
    • - "Why do I do this?"
    • In Best Served Cold, "Mercy and cowardice are the same."
      • "What would I do without you ?" and all variations.
    • Those are the times.
  • Arch Enemy - Stairs to Glokta. Also, Bayaz and Khalul.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil - But don't worry, so is everyone else.
  • Armor Is Useless - "Armour... is part of a state of mind... in which you admit the possibility... of being hit."
    • That said, most characters that see combat use at least some armor, and many use shields. Armor in this series is overcome via crossbows, maces, and the occasional BFS, as well as stabbing through joints. Not because it's made of paper-mâché.
      • In real life, these real world techniques only worked because either the one using it was also in armor, or the armored foe had already been disabled enough to level the coup de grace. Also, much was made about armor being heavy, but armor at the height of its development was light enough to do cartwheels in. It was certainly lighter than the gear today's Navy Seals would carry. Full body armor only became heavy in response to firearms, and then quickly abandoned.
  • Artifact of Doom - The Seed, also a MacGuffin.
    • Only for the second book; The Seed actually gets used in the third one to rather devastating effect.
  • Ascended Extra - Caul Shivers in Best Served Cold. A few other secondary characters from the trilogy play important roles as well, like Nicomo Cosca, Vitari, Sulfur, and Duke Orso.
    • Prince Calder and Bremer dan Gorst in The Heroes.
  • Ax Crazy - Logen, when he blacks out.
  • Awesome McCoolname - Logen Ninefingers, also known as "Logen Rip-Your-Fucking-Face-Off Ninefingers" to his friends.
    • AKA The Bloody Nine. Now that is one bad ass nick name, although Logen himself hates it.
  • Badass - Logen and the Named men with him. Ferro.
    • Not all the Named Men; Just his friends -- Harding Grim, The Dogman, Tul Duru "The Thunderhead", Rudd Threetrees and of course, Black Dow.
    • The Heroes, being pretty much a war novel, has a lot of them, but special attention must be paid to Bremer dan Gorst, who routinely faces exceeding odds and comes alive out of this.
  • Bald of Evil - Logen should have known better than to trust a man with no hair.
  • Balkanize Me - The Old Empire collapsed into a plethora of tinpot dictatorships, petty fiefdoms, and city-states. They've been fighting among themselves ever since.
  • Barbarian Hero - Logen Ninefingers.
  • Barbarian Tribe - Mostly the Shanka, but quite often the Gurkish and the Northmen also, when they aren't on a Last Stand. Stranger-Come-Knocking Bragger-Come-Boasting and his boys from beyond the Crinna.
  • The Berserker - Logen's alternate personality of the Bloody-Nine, and how.
    • In The Heroes," Bremer dan Gorst.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Khalul and Bethod are set up early on, but as the story progresses we learn that Tolomei is alive and now works for The Legions of Hell, and more shockingly that revelation means that Bayaz is actually a Big Bad as well, and maybe even the Big Bad since not only does he get exactly what he was after, Khalul and Tolomei were both only evil because the Jumped Off the Slippery Slope trying to bring him down (and Bethod may or may not have been his Unwitting Pawn, at least once upon a time), and his centuries of treachery and ruthless manipulation are responsible, directly or indirectly, for nearly every war the Union as ever took part in, all because he's a self-centred bastard with delusions of grandeur who pretty much thinks humanity can't survive without him.
  • Bittersweet Ending - Possibly even a Downer Ending, depending on your point of view. Best Served Cold ends on a somewhat higher note, which is surprising, considering the even darker tone of the book.
  • Black and Gray Morality - Pushed to the point where you wonder at the end whether the protagonists were really the least evil, or if, perhaps, they weren't actually even worse than their antagonist.
  • Blood Knight - Ferro. Bremen dan Gorst becomes a more subdued example in The Heroes.
  • Bolivian Army Ending - For Logen Ninefingers. It's (probably deliberately) unclear whether he survives, although it's worth noting that he survived an almost identical fall at the start of the first novel.
    • It's worth noting that Logen was originally a character the author wrote about years before he started this story; The First Law began as kind of a Retcon retelling of his misadventures. Basically, he's the main character and this world was built around him, so if you're going to bet on it, he's probably still alive.
      • Played with in The Heroes: his death is kept deliberately unconfirmed, and Dogman uses this to scare the enemy shitless before attacking. His death is still unconfirmed.
  • Book Ends - The Blade Itself begins with Logen falling in a river from a great height and the chapter is called The End. The last chapter of Last Argument of Kings is called The Beginning and ends exactly in the same way.
    • Best Served Cold begins and ends with a sentence describing "a sunrise the color of bad blood".
    • Let's just say a lot of individual POVs in different books end this way. Definitely one of the favorite tropes of the author.
  • Bow and Sword In Accord - Ferro.
  • Brick Joke - The Dogman, despite his fame for stealthiness, has a habit of tripping over stumbling over things when silence is vital.
  • Brother-Sister Incest - Monza and Benna in Best Served Cold (or, more precisely, before). Shivers is squicked.
  • The Brute - Bremer dan Gorst is built up to be this... but actually loses very gracefully.
    • As of The Heroes He fits the trope nicely. Worse, he's a Hero.
  • Bullet Time - Shenkt in Best Served Cold can do this.
  • Chekhov's Gunman - The East Wind (Ishri) is first mentioned in The Blade Itself as one of Khalul's more dangerous disciples, but she doesn't make an appearance until Best Served Cold and is much more integral in The Heroes as some sort of pyrotechnics and weather sorceress.
  • The Chessmaster - Bayaz.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture - Several instances in each book, generally performed by Glokta.
    • Debatable, since he was just doing his job and constantly asks himself 'Why do I do this?'. He gets one mention that qualifies for this trope at the end of the trilogy, where he answers that question.
    • Played straighter in Best Served Cold, with Shivers' torturers.
  • Cannot Spit It Out - Gorst has been in love with Finree for years, yet could never muster the courage to confess. And when he does, he mentions it so off-handedly that it's not clear if she even noticed, caught in her What the Hell, Hero? rhetoric.
  • Catch Phrase -

 Logen: "You have to be realistic about these things", "Say one thing for Logen Ninefingers, say he's X", "You can never have too many knives" "I'm still alive", "Shit.".

Glokta: Body found floating by the docks..., "Why do I do this?", "Click, tap, pain", any mention of his teeth.

Ferro: "Fucking pinks!", "Ssss!"

The Dogman: By the dead, he needed to piss, like always.

Curnden Craw: It was the right thing to do.

  • Character Development - Lots for Jezal dan Luthar, constantly steering him from one direction to another. Deliberately averted for most other characters - inability to escape your old life is one of the major themes of the books.
    • Monza during her revenge.
    • Calder after he loses his father and position.
    • Shivers starts out trying to do the right thing and gradually gives up over the course of Best Served Cold. Losing his eye is the breaking point. By The Heroes, he merits consideration as a candidate for the cruelest character in the series. That's no small achievement.
  • Church Militant - The Gurkish Temple, while many civilizations of the world have God, only the Gurkish Temple is headed by a crazy cannibal wizard who thinks that he is God's Right Hand to purify the unbelievers through fire and steel.
  • Continuity Nod - "Oh hey! It's that guy from the trilogy!" Happens numerous times. The dialogue in the stand-alone books also makes plenty of allusions to prior events.
  • Covers Always Lie - The setting of Best Served Cold--obviously modeled after Italy and Spain--as well as the style of the dueling make very clear that Monza's sword is made for fencing, not to mention it being described as thin at one point. Despite this the American hardcover shows Monza with not one but two arming swords, and the mass-market paperback has a snake curling itself around a greatsword of all things! As if that weren't bad enough the UK edition--which came out first--very clearly has a rapier on it. Why?
  • Crapsack World - not just a shitty place to live, but a place that actively makes decent people shittier.
  • Dead Person Impersonation - Tolomei, who, much to Bayaz' dismay was Not Quite Dead.
  • Deadly Decadent Court - the Midderland court is portrayed like this, with some criminal levels of indifference and sometimes stupidity among its nobles.
  • Deadpan Snarker - mainly Glokta, although many other characters give as well.
  • Deconstructor Fleet
  • Did Not Get the Girl - Pretty much everyone when it's their turn to be sympathetic.
    • Subverted to HELL with Glokta and Ardee.
  • Downer Ending - Logen is left friendless, alone, and driven to jumping out a window, trading certain death for likely death. Glokta has given up on any hope that he might redeem himself and set to torturing for a malevolent master once again. Jezal lives beaten, disillusioned, and resigned to being a puppet at best, knowing that the man he hates most has married the only woman he ever loved. Ferro has abandoned all reason and gone off on her own to murder Khalul. Longfoot is maimed, and Bayaz has achieved his goal at the cost of immeasurable pain to those around him. Oh, and peace between The Union and Gurkhul is prevented because it would hamper Bayaz's desire to wage war against Khalul, dooming any chance of peace in the future as well. How's that for cheerful?
    • Also, Shivers' fate in Best Served Cold, although most other characters fare better. Or at least those left alive.
  • Do You Want to Copulate? - "You want to fuck?"
  • The Dragon - Fenris the Feared in the trilogy, Shenkt in Best Served Cold (although he turned out to have an agenda).
    • Shivers is one to Black Dow in The Heroes... until he turns on him - not because he wants the power, but simply in revenge for bad treatment. Then he becomes one to Calder.
  • Dual-Wielding - Jezal dan Luthar and other men of class use a form of swordplay somewhere between the style of the European parrying dagger and Musashi's katana/wakizashi combination, with one vaguely described "long steel" and one "short steel."
  • Duel to the Death - A popular custom in the North. All the Named Men who follow Logen do so because they lost one to him.
    • ...making them not, in fact, duels to the death.
    • Quite a few throughout Best Served Cold, and not all with Monza.
    • The Heroes has a hilariously one sided bout between Black Dow and Calder
  • Eccentric Mentor - Subverted, with a vengeance -- Bayaz at first seems like your average grumpy wizard mentor. Quickly you suspect he's a much darker figure than that, but the full extent of his chessmastery is only revealed at the end, when you realize the number of people he betrayed while pinning the blame on someone else. In fact, he is as much a Big Bad as Khalul is, more so in fact since for all the lines he has crossed Khalul's primary motivation is simply to bring Bayaz to justice for his murderous treachery.
  • The Empire - The Gurkish empire from the south.
  • Evil Albino - Played with in the case of Practical Frost, a large and passive man who just follows Glokta's orders. Played straight with him again when he betrays Glokta for no real reason.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The female Eater Glokta encounters (later revealed to be Tolomei) leaves him with this impression. Given that she has literally made a Deal with the Devil and implies she has actually been to Hell, this might not be just metaphorical, either.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture - As explained by Abercrombie here:

  "So the Union I based around a kind of Holy Roman Empire (largely Germanic) with some banking and commerce from medieval Flanders and a political system closer to the Venetian Republic. That produced names like Sult, Marovia, Valint and Balk, Bremer dan Gorst. Gurkhul was more like an Ottoman Empire that had absorbed a whole range of Middle-Eastern and African cultures, producing names like Uthman-ul-Dosht, Khalul, Mamun, and Ferro Maljinn. With the North I went for something slightly different, a kind of Viking or Scots culture, but with a northern English tilt to the language, and in which the men were given names when they reached manhood related to some deed they’d done or the place they’d done it — things like Rudd Threetrees, Caul Shivers, Forley the Weakest, and Black Dow."

  • Fantastic Drug - Aside from alcohol, there seem to be two main vices in Abercrombie's world: husk, which appears to be an Expy of opium, and chagga, a weed smoked by the Northerners which seems to be marijuana.
  • Fantasy Gun Control - On the cusp of aversion. The Gurkish enthusiasm for gunpowder is apparently contagious, and Bayaz oversees the testing of primitive cannons in The Heroes.
  • Fantastic Nuke - The Seed in Book 3.
  • Fantasy World Map - averted and spoofed in a very Take That way (see quote at the trope write up)
    • Partially played straight in Best Served Cold, the opening of each section of the book has a map of the locale in Styria that the characters are currently occupying. When pieced together, a coherent map of the continent emerges.
    • Justified in Best Served Cold, because the main characters go through about eight different cities, and without a map it would quickly become confusing to the reader.
    • And in The Heroes we actually get annotated maps of the ebb and flow of battle throughout the book.
  • A Father to His Men - Marshall Burr is this, at least to West.
    • Curnden Craw to his dozen.
  • Five-Man Band - the most feared men in the North. (Threetrees - The Hero, Black Dow - The Lancer, Tul Duru - The Big Guy, Grim - The Smart Guy, Dogman - The Chick.) It takes a couple casualties to get them there.
  • Foreshadowing - In Best Served Cold, Shivers and another Northman reenact the battle between Logen and Fenris the Feared, a giant. In The Heroes, Shivers gets Logen's sword and kills Black Dow with it--and another giant, Stranger-Come-Knocking, has been introduced...
  • Functional Magic - We get this gem from The Heroes
    • "Why don't you just use magic?" -Finree
    • "Because it's just a lot easier to get people to kill each other." -Bayaz
  • The Ghost - Khalul.
  • Good with Numbers - Friendly.
  • Grim Up North - the North, played straight.
    • "Uh."
  • Grave Robbing - Shanka like it as well as the Gurkish sorcerers, but really no one is above the practice.
  • Handicapped Badass - Please, don't fuck with Glokta. It won't end well.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords - Logen begins the book with an axe, but while he claims to be equally proficient with all weapons he never lets go of the Maker's sword once he acquires it, and chooses it himself from a very wide selection of weapons. Jezal is a trained duelist and carries two, and Ferro loves her sword almost as much as her bow. The Dogman also picks one up when shooting isn't an option. Of all the trilogy's protagonists, the only one who doesn't use one is Glokta and even he was a masterful duelist and successful cavalry officer in his youth.
    • Hell, even Glokta has a Sword Cane. Sure, it's only used once, but...
    • Continued in Best Served Cold, with Monza favoring her Calvez and Shivers still favoring his axe but occasionally picking up a sword as situations demand.
    • And again in The Heroes. Shivers inherits the Maker's sword. Craw, Gorst, and Beck never touch another weapon. Whirrun of Bligh is a genuine Hero and has a Cool Sword to go with his name.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - deliciously subverted with Cosca's apparent death in Visserine. He is found by the invading soldiers, mistaken for a friendly casualty because of the uniform he stole and wore to infiltrate, and nursed back to health. He then proceeds to reclaim leadership of the Thousand Swords, right from under Monza's nose.
    • General Jallenhorm quite intentionally, to avoid further responsibilities in The Heroes.
      • Actually, he wanted redemption for his previous failures, not because he was afraid of responsibility.
  • Husband And Kids Up North: Wonderful's family comes up several times in conversation with her crew. Some of them ask he when she'll go back to them, and she laughs them off. Towards the end of the book, she admits she had returned to her farm for a visit several years ago. The entire valley they lived in was abandoned; she has no idea what happened to them.
  • The Igor - Glokta's practicals (assistant torturers) Severard and Frost, are portrayed this way.
  • I'm a Humanitarian - The Second Law is about eating the flesh of people, and the Eaters have broken it. Grants superhuman abilities, including differing levels of increased speed and strength and being able to take on the form of the eaten.
  • Immortality Immorality - The Magi (one in particular), combined with We Are as Mayflies.
  • Implacable Man - Fenris The Feared.
  • It Gets Easier - Logen and the rest of the Named Men basically run on this trope.
    • Red Beck however is a subversion, after he gets his name he turns his back on the whole business.
  • It Got Worse - Oh boy, did it ever get worse.
  • It Will Never Catch On - Whirrun invents the cheese trap sandwich. No one is impressed.
  • Jerkass - A ridiculously high percentage of the characters.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Arguably Black Dow. He may be a dick, but he comes through for his companions when he's needed, and he can make some very heartfelt speeches when no one else will. He was also the only one brave enough to demand that the Bloody Nine answer for the slaying of Tul Duru and Crummock's child, as well as getting the North into a war it hadn't wanted.
  • Karma Houdini - Characters that at first seem like a Complete Monster end up being quite sympathetic by the end of the novels, whereas one or two that appeared good are revealed to be acting on very sinister motives.
  • Kick the Dog - Our heroes, Logen and Glokta, are determined to do this at least once every chapter. West as well, when he smacks Ardee around. Bayaz, at the series' end.
  • The Kingdom - Subverted, as Midderland isn't a very nice place to live.
  • King on His Deathbed - King Guslav.
  • Knife Nut - You can never have too many of 'em...
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Terez
  • Little Girls Kick Shins - Crummock-i-Phail's daughter.
  • Ludicrous Gibs - Don't make Bayaz angry.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter - Tolomei.
  • The Man Behind the Man - A magus. Always a magus. Except when it's a banker. I lied--still a magus, even then.
  • Manipulative Bastard - The series is overflowing with them, but Bayaz takes first prize.
  • The Magic Goes Away - Slowly but surely. At present, though, both magi and Eaters retain quite a bit of power.
    • It's not very clear that The Magic Goes Away affects the Powered by a Forsaken Child Eaters (the contrary is implicit in Mammun's words). And the Maker's work is stated not to fade with time. So it's a subverted trope, really.
      • Not quite, since Bayaz at least seems to consider the Maker's work as sufficiently advanced science; magic is explicitly power drawn from The Other Side, and the Maker's work is explicitly not from The Other Side. And Mammun states that the magic is going away even if he and his fellow Eater's are not affected by it (yet). And given how Ax Crazy Mammun is, he could be an unreliable source, either outright lying or too insane to notice his slowly fading power. But even if they are the exception, the trope is still otherwise in effect.
  • Magic Versus Science - A war not particularly desired by anyone whose torch is nonetheless carried valiantly by Morveer. And even then, the lines are blurry. As the magic is supposedly leaking from the world, Bayaz seems to have no problem turning to science. If it can help him crush his enemies, he's all for it.
  • Master Poisoner - Morveer
  • Mismatched Eyes - Yoru Sulfur. It's the only thing he keeps when he changes form.
  • The Mole - Both Frost and Severard.
    • Bayaz has a few in the Northmen's camp in The Heroes.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast - in the North, Named Men are people badass enough to earn one of these, like Shama Heartless, the Bloody-Nine, or Tul Duru the Thunderhead. Black Dow is this trope.
    • Subverted with Caul Shivers, who got his name when he fell in a river on a raid.
    • Subverted even more with a character whose Naming as a Named Man is Forley the Weakest.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me - Sergeant Pike, aka Salem Rews, to Glokta.
  • No Immortal Inertia - Eaters usually turn to dust when they are killed.
  • Nostalgia Filter - A lot of Northmen like to imagine that everything was glorious before Bethod set out to make himself king. Only a few characters point out that the "good old days" were even more pointlessly bloody than the present.
  • Only Sane Man - West, during the Angland campaign. Subverted when he snaps, bites a man's nose off in a berserker rage, and then calmly murders the Crown Prince.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier - The Eaters.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions - Most of the Union and parts of Styria take this stance towards deities. Euz and his sons used to be worshiped in Midderland, but are currently seen as mere ancient heroes.
  • Pet the Dog - Glokta, Ferro, Logen, and even Severard get some.
    • Black Dow, of all people, gets a couple. Usually at someone's funeral.
      • That last one's particularly egregious, considering what the UNBELIEVABLE BASTARD in question has done. he was going to be a potter once...
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage - Calder and his wife Seff were promised to each other since they were babies, yet they truly love each other, even despite Ugly Wife Hot Husband thing.
  • Perky Female Minion - Day, to Morveer.
  • The Quest - the focus of most of the second volume, subverted when they do not find the McGuffin at the end of their journey.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad - Goyle's circus of practicals.
    • Monza's victims in Best Served Cold.
    • Possibly Khalul's small army of Eaters.
  • The Rainman - Friendly in Best Served Cold. There were 24 letters in that sentence.
  • Red Right Hand - Yoru Sulfur has mismatched eyes, one blue, one green. It's mentioned every time he appears.
  • Reliable Traitor - Cosca's been on more or less every possible side of every conflict in Styria. Simultaneously, in some cases.
  • Replicant Snatching - Yoru Sulfur most notably impersonating High Justice Marovia and The Tanner.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge - Best Served Cold.
  • Satisfied Street Rat - Ferro Maljinn.
  • Scars Are Forever - Abercrombie seems to like scars on his characters. It appears to be one of the running features of his main cast to have some physical peculiarity or visible injury about them. If they don't, they soon gain it in one way or another, for example Jezal, who was hit in the face with a club mace and from Best Served Cold, Monza, who got thrown down a mountain after being stabbed several times.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money - The Banking House of Valint and Balk. It's the primary means through which Bayaz maintains his influence over the world and its inhabitants.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here - Shivers does this regarding Black Dow's attempt to murder Logen at the end.
    • Vitari and Friendly appear to do this partway through Best Served Cold.
    • Beck in the end of The Heroes. Craw tries as well, but fails and returns to fighting.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog
  • Shout-Out - Some of Abercrombie's characters are suspiciously similar to ones that feature in that other famous gritty Low Fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Monza is a famously skilled duelist who lost the use of her dominant hand and had to learn again with her left, who was engaged in an incestuous relationship with her twin sibling of the opposite sex, and who became a better person after being separated from that sibling.
    • Shivers is a grim mercenary who hates his brother and who suffered horrible burns down one side of his face, which only served to sour his mood and which give him an even grimmer reputation--and who, after being set up as Black Dow's man, is referred to as his "dog."
  • Smug Snake - Castor Morveer.
  • Son of a Whore - Jezal.
  • The Stoic - Harding Grim, also an Archer. Shivers after his... accident.
  • The Straight Will and Grace - Curnden Craw and Wonderful in The Heroes.
  • Sociopathic Hero: - Ferro, Black Dow, The Bloody-Nine, eventually, Shivers, although the "hero" part is debatablepractically non-existent.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side - Logen Ninefingers, as it's gradually revealed that 'The Bloody Nine' isn't quite him. Implied that it may lead to Split Personality Takeover if he lives.
  • Tautological Templar - Bayaz, who believes civilization cannot function without his guidance, even if he has to massacre a few thousand people every now and then.
  • Those Two Bad Guys - Frost and Severard.
    • Deep and Shallow in The Heroes.
  • Token Evil Teammate - Black Dow. Sure, he looks after his companions and respects the "good" ones of the lot. At the same time, he's a horrible, murderous bastard and everyone knows it. His loyalties are about the only thing holding him in check... and even that doesn't always work. And then he goes and uses his time as regent to form and consolidate a power base, (probably) more or less murders Logen, plunges the North into another civil war, and seems dead-set on being an even worse ruler than Bethod ever was.
  • Torture Always Works - Even though he doesn't always necessarily want the confessions his victims give him to be truthful, Glokta always knows when he's being lied to.
  • Too Dumb to Live - Ladisla (But that's not what kills him!)
  • Unreliable Narrator - In Best Served Cold Morveer often thinks about his mother death and how it has traumatized him and we sort of sympathize with him as he recalls how he was bullied in the orphanage. That is, until we find out that he actually poisoned his mother, as well as literally every person he ever had more than a passing acquaintance with.
  • Vestigial Empire - The Union AND Gurkhul.
    • The Old Empire has sunk beyond "vestigial".
  • Wave Motion Gun - Wave Motion Vortex Spell Of Death
  • Warrior Poet - Logen Ninefingers
  • What Happened to the Mouse? - The last we see of Finree's friend Aliz, she's still in the clutches of Stranger-Come-Knocking. Who wants children - civilised children.
  • The White Prince - Jezal, and to a greater extent Ladisla

Notes

  1. Though A Red Country may or may not be the exception as one major character is suspected to be none other than the very-much alive Logen Ninefingers; it is possible he is just in a big supporting role, however
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