YMMV / The First Law

  • Anvilicious - The Heroes is pretty unsubtle with its War Is Hell message...
    • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped - It's got a lot of sub-messages that usually escape Anti-War books. Supply lines are long, arduous, and rarely efficient. Petty, stupid rivalries on your own side can be far more deadly than the enemy. Sometimes, the most unlikely men are actually courageous, and they rarely receive the glory they deserve. It goes on and on to subvert the stereotypical image of a smoothly-running, well-trained professional army. YMMV, but it's about time someone pointed out that there's a REASON armies rarely rose above forty thousand men before the Industrial Revolution.
  • Complete Monster: Bayaz at first appears to be a kindly, if grumpy, old wizard-mentor archetype. The truth is far more sinister. Bayaz has been the secret puppet master of The Union for centuries, sending countless men to pointless deaths against his Rival Turned Evil Khalul, who supposed betrayed his and Bayaz's master. While Khalul is a threat with his incredible magic power and legion of Eaters, those who have gained sinister powers upon eating human flesh, Bayaz manages to be far worse. He sadistically dominates the new king when the young man tries to stand up to him, revealing him as nothing more than an expendable Son of a Whore, and his whole plan of setting up a puppet king in the first place was so that he could crush any dissenting opinions and increase his autocratic hold on the Union, and achieving that end involved numerous evil acts including ordering the murders of social reformers and sabotaging efforts at making peace with Gurkhul. After using the magical equivalent of a WMD that wipes out a huge faction of his own men, Bayaz's only response is a satisfied grin and to say "It works, " not caring the slightest about the massive civilian casualties. Making things even worse, every justification Bayaz uses to justify his means of fighting Khalul turn out to be a lie. Bayaz was the traitor and killed his own lover and Khalul only fell to darkness in order to bring Bayaz to justice. In fact, even Bayaz's professed abhorrence of Eaters turns out to be a lie, as Bayaz made his loyal sidekick Yoru Sulfur an Eater and over the course of the series, Sulfur eats alive two people to facilitate Bayaz's schemes. Bayaz is driven entirely by ego and spite, wanting nothing more than to crush Khalul for daring to oppose him, and enforcing an oppressive regime over the Union based entirely about satisfying his own megalomania.
  • Crazy Awesome - The ever-quotable Whirrun of Bligh.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: Glokta berates West for never coming to visit him after he returned from being tortured by the Gurkhish. West responds that he came, but was turned away—twice. Only moments before, Glokta had been thinking about how he neither had, wanted, nor needed friends. After this revelation, he suddenly sees his friendship with West as a precious thing.
  • Crosses the Line Twice - For the most part the books avoid this, but Best Served Cold provides one example. Despite the tone of the series, it's sarcasm.
    Morveer: "What could possibly be more amusing than orphan children sold into slavery?"
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: For some readers, this has been known to set in within the first 20 pages.
  • Dont Do This Cool Thing: Openly admitted by the author in the foreword to The Heroes, where he says his intention with the book wasn't so much to show that War Is Hell as to explore the reasons why stories of it still fascinate us.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Glokta's wit, Pet the Dog moments and sympathetic backstory tend to obscure the atrocities he commits and enjoys committing.
  • Evil Is Sexy - Caurib, Bethod's sorceress, is described as frighteningly beautiful. Tolomei was certainly a looker as well.
  • Harsher in Hindsight - One of the few heartwarming moments in the trilogy is early on, when Logen saves Quai's life by carrying the apprentice to safety, despite A) Being on the verge of starvation himself, and B) Hardly knowing the man he risked his life to save. Then we find out Quai was Killed And Replaced before the first book was even more, making Logen's heroism pointless.
  • Jerkass Woobie - Inquisitor Glokta. He certainly doesn't do much that merits sympathy, but at the same time it's impossible not to pity his broken body and wish him a miraculous recovery, even if it would only serve to make him do horrible things more efficiently.
    • Terez, a man-hating Royal Brat who ends up having to become a baby farm for the king to prevent her lover from being tortured to death.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune, is here for dinner.
    • Bayaz is a truly evil bastard, but it's undeniable how impressive his manipulations are. This is a man who fermented a bloody peasant uprising just so he could call it off to give his chosen puppet king a bit more street cred.
    • Glokta especially later on, judging by Carlot dan Eider's words in Best Served Cold.
    • By the end of The Heroes, Calder is looking like he's graduated from Smug Snake.