- Alas, Poor Scrappy: Not many people like Terez at all, as she's a rather unlikable, elitist person, but it's not uncommon to be utterly horrified at her revealed as a lesbian forced into an unwanted marriage with Jezal, only to have her lover kidnapped with Terez blackmailed into being party to her own rape with an unwitting Jezal to bear heirs for the Union. Joe Abercrombie himself wasn't entirely happy with the way he handled this subplot.
- Anvilicious: The Heroes is pretty unsubtle with its War Is Hell message...
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Don't expect to hear about the Shanka again after the party leaves Alcus, despite them being the only non-Human intelligence in the Circle of the World.
- Complete Monster: Bayaz at first appear 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 death against his Rival Turned Evil Khalul, who betrayed his and Bayaz's master and murdered his own daughter, who was Bayaz's lover. 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 when Bayaz uses 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 that another of his brother's disciples was caught in it. Bayaz even sabotages any attempt at peace that would save countless lives, just so he can keep waging war on Khalul. It is then revealed that Bayaz was the traitor and murdered his own lover, and Khalul fell to darkness to bring Bayaz to justice. It's further implied Bayaz might even be a cannibal himself and has no compunction using the Eaters for his own benefit.
- Crazy Awesome: The ever-quotable Whirrun of Bligh.
- 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.
- Funny Moments: Shev from Sharp Ends has tried having sex with men, but...Shev: Bloody useless. Like trying to have a conversation with someone who doesn't even speak your language, let alone understand the topic.Javre: Some are certainly more horizontally fluent than others.Shev: No. Just no. The hairiness, and the lumpiness, and the great big fumbling fingers and... balls. I mean, balls. What's that about? That is one singularly unattractive piece of anathomy. That is just... that is bad design, is what that is.
- 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. Later we find out Quai was Killed And Replaced before the first book even ends, making Logen's heroism pointless.
- Heartwarming Moments: 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 did not have, want, or need friends. After this revelation, he suddenly sees his friendship with West as a precious thing.
- 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.
- Moral Event Horizon
- Bayaz crosses it in The Last Argument of Kings, when he unleashes the equivalent of a magical WMD against his enemies, which kills a good chunk of his own allies in the initial attack and thousands more through a fantastical version of radiation sickness. Not only does he not care about all the people he's killed, he's actively proud of his achievement and still considers himself a righteous man.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The Heroes has 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.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: "wasted" might be too strong a word as Savian is still a major badass but the readers never learn exactly what made him that way. Seems like a waste of a fine backstory, really.
YMMV / The First Law