Splattered Abercrombie

While he's written a few books since his debut trilogy I hold a soft spot for Joe Abercrombie's first trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. And given these books when I say soft spot -- well, under the ribs is supposed to be a nice efficient spot to thrust a blade up into a man's heart. The cover of Book One is nicely splattered in blood in fair warning of the story itself.

In many ways this is a very traditional fantasy cast of characters. There's a barbarian berserker, a wise old wizard, a dashing swordsman and so on.  But there's a dark spin on all of them.  Think about it. Would you really want to be traveling with a trained killer of a man that can't tell friend from foe on the battlefield and towers over you?  Logen Ninefingers may be an ally of the moment but he is an unwashed savage killer and dangerous to friend as well as foe.  That wise old wizard?  Well, you've only lived a human lifespan and he's got goals that don't really count the ant-like human lives around him. The dashing swordsman?  Kind of a pathetic little man really. Of all the many characters I found myself feeling the most for the torturer Glokta. The most 'evil' of the main characters actually isn't too bad a guy...at least not for someone that is willing to torture people into confessions to support a corrupt institution.

They're off to save the kingdom...or collect a relic that can open a gate to the realm of demons.  Not that the wizard is passing out straight answers.  The series is dark, gritty and in its own way humorous.