Abercrombie is a master of battle narration. He presents fantasy combat uniquely, vividly, and with enthralling intensity. But the characters were nowhere near as strong as his first law trilogy. Nor was the story unfortunately. It felt more like lightly-decorated hallways between a few gorgeous gardens. Gardens filled with blood and chaos and jaded weariness.
The finale to Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy is a great example of “epic” done right. But then it was over, and not one of the characters got much in the way of closure. But it was as thrilling and fantastic as the other two, with Abercrombie’s characteristic wit spilling over each and every well-nuanced character, while forcing you into the most vivid and intense battles I’ve seen put to the page.
The characters changed quite a bit, some growing well, others more drastic or forced. But I found myself interested in entirely different characters than the first volume, which is a point to the author I suppose. And he also continues to score with his action scenes. This time we have several huge battle scenes, told from many different perspectives but each time with brutal and gut-wrenching vividness. It has a tantalizing but disheartening ending, as many second stories in a trilogy are wont to do, which will, predictably, goad me into reading the next book.
I listened to the audio version of this book, read by Steven Pacey, and while the strength of Abercrombie’s writing lies in his characters, Pacey truly brought those characters to life. Abercrombie gives probably a dozen characters each a distinct voice, fully-fleshed personality, and believable motivations. And his actions sequences are frantic, brutal, and completely enthralling. And though it suffers from first-in-a-trilogy-syndrome, it answers just enough questions for a modicum of closure, while still leaving plenty more to force book two to the top of my reading list.