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Abercrombie's site provides samples of his work so you can decide whether you'd like to get deeper into it. I appreciate that.
The descriptive writing was excellent and there were some intense battle scenes. The words engage the senses quite vividly. This might be a good thing, if you enjoy wading into a swamp, feeling the muck cling and pull at your boots while the leeches slither up your pants and the suspicious reptile-shaped logs make ominous faces in your direction. I don't. I stopped.
I couldn't like any of the characters. Everybody is miserable in a world where everything is miserable. Most memorable example: Glokta is constantly in pain and agony dwells in his 70 year old granny knees and 70 year old concentration camp granny teeth and his 70 year old starvation victim stomach. He seems to enjoy sharing that pain around. Or maybe he doesn't and he's secretly noble, it's all hard to tell when the thing that stands out the most is how he's constantly in pain and crumbling away and every other line serves to remind you of that.
I listened in on some fan discussions after that. I've heard good things about the author, so he sounds like someone worth respecting, not least for letting me have a free preview and decide what to do with his work from there. I haven't heard quite so good things from the fanbase, whose praise for the writing skews heavily toward calling it a "deconstruction". Quite frankly, I'm tired of deconstructions. I'd like to be able to enjoy something for once without everything about it going to shit so the author or their fanbase can tell me what a horrible and immature person I am for liking the thing.
If being an adult means unironically hating things that make you happy, I'm fine hanging out at the kids' table.
...I like your title and final paragraphs a lot. Good review, did a great job of letting me know whether or not I'll like the work. Though the guy underneath unironically praising the characters as unlikable dickheads in a world with nothing worth caring about helps.
Lol! I have the same issues with the Warhammer fanbase.
The whole maim a character once a chapter is definitely an exaggeration. The only character that actively pursues torture is Glotka, and as an inquisitor its more or less his job. There is some confusion as to what Glotka's view on torture is but more than anything its a form of control, his way of exerting the pain he feels onto others. However, he is very much a Pay Evil Unto Evil,sort of guy, his torture scenes involving abusive authorities and traitors involves much less self-reflecting thoughts and much more sarcasm and contempt. He is very reluctant to employ torture on strangers or those he is certain are innocent. In one scenario he finds a traitor but the traitor exposes that the war scenario Glotka is organizing as doomed from the start with the city being a sacrificial piece to stall the invaders until the Union has more time to assemble its defenses. Glotka goes through a mental breakdown as a result. Glotka isn't noble but believes that he performs a nastiness that is necessary for the sake of his country. However defining the series by Glotka alone is a bit unfair as he is arguably the darkest protagonist (with the exception of two villain protagonists) in the series.
What differs The First Law from Warhammer 40k, is that the latter series (with the exception of Ciphas Cain) contains characters that are very casual about cruelty. Don't like the Emperor? Burn them. Retreating from a losing battle? They're deserters. Shoot them. Forced to cooperate at gunpoint by the enemy? Should have remembered we have guns too, sweetheart, as well as chainswords which are much more painful. 40k portrays many of its soldiers as unapologetic, racist, fanatics which makes them hard to root for. You'd have a hard time finding any protagonists in The First Law series that have clean hands (except Corporal Tunny who should have been the one that drowned in that sinkhole instead of one his cadets ) but the difference is they try to be better. Logan throws gold to a pair of muggers rather than kill them even though he could do so easily "because it's only money". Major Wilhelm gives a poor farmer all the money he has on his person after he is turned away by the Arch Lector. Jezel refuses to punish a traitor's relatives for the betrayer's actions. They often fail to uphold the code of honor they want to support but at the very least they try and carry their regret with them when they fail.
You want to hate edgy literature look no further than the Broken Empire, with too cool for school protagonist, Jorg Ancrath who practically bleeds edge. He's unrepentant rapist but only when he feels like it as he boast such sexual prowess that he can easily exhaust whores every night. He can kill most opponents with ease, treats his soldiers as expendable but they fear him too much to be defiant, and can out think veteran commanders. Did I mention he's thirteen? Or how about Black Company which doesn't care about morality until they get bored of fighting for one side and then switch to the other. The main protagonist dislikes rape and torture but turns a blind eye when his men and his later love interest do the same. I have a whole review written about that one.
Abercrombie can be sometimes heavy handed with his writing, but much of his work involves protagonists realizing the cynical pursuits of their lives are empty, with the characters seeing the glimmers of idealism eventually finding peace.
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