I loved the last book, I went into it cold because I wanted to be surprised. I didn’t even know if this was going to be an extension of the First Law series or an entirely new world. I was so happy that it was an extension – I adore this world and these characters and I could probably read endless books about them so long as the quality stays as high as it is. There aren’t many authors who can get me so enraptured by the characters and so apprehensive about the outcomes of battles than Abercrombie. You truly never know which characters are going to make it, or even which characters you want to make it because he makes it easy to sympathize with all sides of an argument… and also despise them at the same time. It’s a fine line to walk and there aren’t many authors I’ve found that do it with as much skill.
Savine got her ass kicked in the last book and it’s made her a little more cautious, but has not dampened her ambitions at all. She is still as power hungry as ever and helps go full in on an outlandish scheme that could cost her everything. On top of it all, she’s pregnant. I was surprised by her decision making throughout this book, and by her genuine affections towards her new husband. She had to find a ‘baby daddy’ after all, and went in an unexpected direction. I thought she was going to be miserable in her marriage, but she softened in some ways while hardening in others. I find her to be an interesting character since she’s always the most entangled in plots and schemes, but not a particularly sympathetic character. I wanted to see her fail, to be honest.
Rikka has begun to struggle with uncontrollable visions of the future that blend with her present, making everything an indistinguishable blur of confusion. She sees buildings on fire when they aren’t yet, and has repeated visions of a dead witch with gold stitching on her mouth. Even Issa is scared of this witch… and since that’s such a rare occurence it doubles Rikka’s apprehension. It’s said the witch was sent back from hell itself and to ally with her could be disastrous. I really enjoy Rikka as a person. She’s thoughtful, she tries to be fair but also has to show strength and does well with both. She’s goes through an incredible amount of pain and is faced with difficult decisions where thousands of lives hang in the balance, it was fascinating to watch her grow into a leadership role. She’s definitely one of my favorite characters in the series and one I was rooting for throughout.
Broad is now under Savine’s employment and is a breaker of souls and wills just like Glokta was which makes him a more unsympathetic character than he was in the first one. He was never my favorite since I don’t tend to relate with rage filled characters, but he became even more unsavory in this edition.
Orso… dear Orso. He’s another favorite and also the one who has gone through some of the biggest changes from the first book to the second. He’s harder now, more motivated, and feels the weight of his position. He’s reeling from Savine’s rejection and is still not privy to their biological ties. Watching Savine marry someone else stung more than he thought it would and came to realize that he truly did love her. He’s becoming more cunning, and has made efforts to become a better leader even though he’d really rather be lazy.
Leo is still one of my least favorite characters. People who charge in all willy nilly without thinking of the consequences drive me bananas. This guy is the epitome of that. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t change. He does however get a wife who is his complete opposite which helps stem his more reckless decision making. Sort of.
Abercrombie’s prose is still some of my favorite in the genre, it’s biting, funny, dark, crude, real, and engrossing. None of that changed this time around. If you liked the first book, you’re getting more of the same and maybe even a little better. There’s a scene in this that rivals the one in Best Served Cold – the POV’s switch from one to the next in rapid succession in a pivotal and dramatic scene. There aren’t many times where my heart is literally racing while I read something, and this hit all the right spots to make the tension palpable.
It doesn’t pull punches, either. Not that anyone should expect there to be any mercy in this kind of a series. Some people’s favorite characters aren’t going to make it out of this book in one piece, it was back to the mud with some fan favorites.
I adored this second installment and eagerly await the third book.
- Plot: 14/15
- Characters: 15/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 14/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 92/100