I owe you a lot, I know. It’s just that… you’re too angry for me. That’s all.

Cathil on West, Before They Are Hanged

Collem West is a common-born Major in the Union Army, and a secondary Point-of-View character throughout the trilogy.

Appearance Edit

West is a tall, gaunt, worried-looking man with a sharp, lined face and thinning hair.


Collem West is intelligent and dilligent with a good heart; he tries to do what he can for those less fortunate than himself, like Goodman Heath. However, he also has a terrible temper, which he finds hard to control. This is exacerbated by the chronic headaches he periodically suffers from.

As a low-born commoner, he has had to work hard to get to where he is now. Having achieved his rank through merit, rather than blood, he often finds himself the lone voice of sanity in the Union Army. He tries hard to hide his annoyance when Jezal complains about his much easier training.

In addition to the common tongue, he also speaks Northern[1].


West was born and raised in Angland, with his sister Ardee. Their father was prone to drunken violence, often directed towards his children. West escaped by joining the Union Army, leaving Ardee behind. With their father now dead and war threatening in Angland, he sends for his sister to come live with him in Adua[2].

As a commoner, West rise through the army ranks was not easy. However, despite having no natural talent for fencing, he won The Contest, through sheer determination[3]. He went on to serve during the First Gurkish War in Glokta's cavalry regiment. He won a reputation during the siege of Ulrioch, when he was the first through the breach[4].

Major West frequently drinks and plays cards with his friends Captain Jezal, Lieutenant Kaspa, Lieutenant Brint, and Lieutenant Jalenhorm.

The Blade ItselfEdit

Major Collem West agrees to be Jezal dan Luthar’s training partner while preparing for The Contest under the famed fencing master Lord Marshal Varuz. Despite Jezal being younger and having more natural fencing ability, he’s lazy and lacks focus, and West usually has enough guile to beat him; one of his tricks is to feign weakness, to bait Jezal into overcommitting his attack.

Ardee arrives in Adua from Angland; the looming war in The North pales in comparison. With duty calling, West enlists Jezal’s help in entertaining his sister, a decisions he almost immediately regrets. Some days later, West comes home to find Ardee and Jezal drinking in his apartment. The Major warn Jezal to leave off visiting his sister, who has suffered enough in her life and doesn’t need a rich nobleman toying with her emotions.

At a meeting with Lord Marshal Burr, Burr appoints Major West to his personal staff. West, concerned that his common-born roots will undermine his effectiveness, tries to beg off, but the Lord Marshal insists he needs capable military men — something the army desperately lacks.

West returns to his quarters with a pounding headache after an exhausting day, to find Ardee inside having helped herself to the decanter. He finds a letter on the desk arranging a rendezvous with Jezal. Unable to suppress his rage at how her actions will affect his standing, West beats her. Unbowed, Ardee hits him with some home truths: he's now no different from their abusive father. Reeling from her words, West’s apologies fall on deaf ears.

West goes to see his former friend Sand dan Glokta. After Glokta refuses to indulge his attempts to reminisce on old times, West admits he has come to ask Glokta to watch over Ardee. Bitterness rises in Glokta, and he berates West for never visiting him when he was broken and alone after the war. West is bewildered by Glokta’s reaction; he actually did visit twice, but was turned away by his mother, who disapproved of her son’s friendship with a commoner. Rocked by the revelation, Glokta re-evaluates his hostility towards West. They bond over their shared self-loathing, and he agrees to look in on Ardee.

Before They Are HangedEdit

Collem West and Union Army arrive in Angland. At a meeting of the command staff, Lord Marshall Burr outlines the strategy that will split the army into three commands, two to flush Bethod onto the field of battle, and one to guard their back led by Prince Ladisla. Burr, fearing Ladisla’s competence, assigns now Colonel West as the Prince’s advisor. After the meeting, Burr takes West to inspect the regiment. Enroute, they are ambushed by Rudd Threetrees and his crew, who offers an alliance. Burr assigns the crew of Northmen to Colonel West.

In Ladisla’s detachment, the Prince deludes himself that the men are fit and ready, however West sees the levies are too old for marching, let alone fighting. Soon West learns that the camp has a dire lack of blacksmiths. West resolves to press gang into service criminals from a nearby Inquisition prison. At the prison, the Inquisitor resists, but eventually caves to his demands. The first to volunteer is Pike, a half burned man who identifies other capable smiths. He also asks that his daughter Cathil be taken as well. The Colonel only agrees because she reminds him of his sister and the guilt he carries.

Colonel West finds himself spending more time than he should in the smithy, finding the former criminals more honest than the Prince and his lackeys. Of course, Cathil’s figure has nothing to do with it. Soon, Threetrees and Dogman return from scouting bearing grim news; Bethod is days from the camp with ten thousand men. West immediately goes to Prince Ladisla to argue for an orderly withdrawal. However, Ladisla, urged on by his flunkeys, demands that the army march on Bethod without delay. Threetrees declares them all fools. His crew won’t fight with The Union, too blind to see they have no chance of defeating Bethod’s host. West can't help but agree and despatches Jalenhorm to inform the Lord Marshal of the Prince’s error.

Deployed for battle, Ladisla watches as the ragtag Northmen taunting them from a low hill. Despite West’s warning of a trap, the Prince orders the cavalry to charge. Once the cavalry disappears over the hill, a heavy mist begins to rise around the Union forces, and emerging from it is Bethod’s true army. The Northmen unleash hell. In the chaos, West is thrown to the ground with a Northman ready to end his life. However, Cathil saves him, and along with Pike, they find the Prince and escape into the trees, only to be found by Dogman.

Threetrees and his crew keep following Bethod's army, surprised to find they are going north, ignoring the easy pickings further south. Prince Ladisla is horribly slow, and West, Pike, and Cathil aren’t much better, although they complain less. When Dogman spots some of Bethod's scouts, Threetrees jumps at the chance to get food and gear from them. West and Pike go along, leaving only Cathil and Ladisla behind. After the battle, the whole crew is astonished to see West bit one of his opponents nose clean off, a deed worthy of a Named Man - he is named Furious. West rushes back to Cathil and Ladisla. As he approaches, he hears a woman’s scream and fears the worst. Breaking into the clearing, he sees Ladisla trying to force himself on Cathil. Without any rage, just a cold will, West pushes the Crown Prince off the cliff to his death.

After weeks of trudging through the icy north, they reach the main army’s camp. Inside Burr’s tent, West brings the grateful commander some reliable intelligence; Bethod’s forces are two days march to the south. After a drink with Jalenhorm and his old drinking buddies from Adua, West goes to see Cathil whom he’s grown close to. At the Northmen’s camp, Threetrees and the others are truly drunk. Following thier directions to Cathil, and is shocked to find Cathil and Dogman mid-coitus. When he later confronts her to know why she chose Dogman over him, Cathil awkwardly tells him he is just too angry for her.

At a meeting of the command staff, Burr outlines his battle plan: General Kroy will commit Bethod’s forces to battle, while General Poulder brings his troops through the trees to take Bethod in the flank. Threetrees crew are ordered to high flank of Poulder’s line, the "safest place in the battle” as thanks for their scouting.

In the morning, the battle seems to go to plan as Kroy's division holds against Bethod's forces, until Poulder fails to engage. The Shanka have attacked Poulder's division; another of Bethod’s surprises. In the command post, Burr is cursing Poulder’s failure to arrive, when he convulses and sprays black vomit over the table top. West drags him into his tent, and hides the truth, fearing Kroy and Poulder will tear the army apart competing for command, if they knows Burr is incapacitated. With Kroy now hard pressed, he commits the reserves to reinforce his position.

The battle ends with Kroy having succeeded in forcing Bethod’s troops to retreat, as has Poulder on the flank. The two generals bicker over whose failure endangered the battle, and demand to see Burr. Just as things are about to dissolve, Burr staggers out of his tent, his shirt stained with blood, but alive.

Last Argument of KingsEdit

Having pushed Bethod's forces out of Angland, now the Closed Council is eager to take the fight into The North. However, they soon get bogged down in skirmishes while probing for a way through to Carleon. Eventually, the Dogman comes to them with a plan to lure Bethod into a trap in the High Places, using his hatred of Logen, Crummock, and the men around them.

However, just as the army is prepared to spring the trap, Burr is found dead in his tent from his gut-rot. No soon have Kroy and Poulder paid their respects over the Lord Marshal’s coffin, than the pair begin planning life after Burr. Of course, they cannot advance until the King has appointed a new Lord Marshal.

Days later, Kroy and Poulder are left sputtering, when West himself is appointed Lord Marshal, thanks to his friendship with new King Jezal. Lord Marshal West quickly puts Poulder and Kroy in their place, which somehow allows a sort of respect to grow between the pair. Kroy's division is ordered  to clear the road to Carleon, while Poulder and the Lord Marshal head to the High Places.

Lord Marshal West and the vanguard of the Union army arrive in the High Places on the seventh day to find the Dogman’s forces are still holding against Bethod. West must make a decision; charge with a weary cavalry or wait for the infantry to catch up. He throws the dice and orders the charge. While casualties are high, Bethod’s forces utterly routed, although Bethod himself escapes. They quickly realize the war isn’t over. Bethod will head to Carleon and so must they.

Just as the Union Army put siege to the city, a Knights Herald streaks into camp to announce that the Gurkish have invaded Midderland and the army is ordered home to the Battle of Adua. Logen agrees to a radical plan, if West will keep his army in Carleon for one more day, Logen will challenge Bethod to single combat. West holds a shield for Logen in his duel with Fenris the Feared, and watches as Ninefingers defeats the Feared, kills Bethod, and becomes the new King of the Northmen.

Lord Marshal West and the Union Army return to Midderland, to find Adua under siege, and the western districts under firm Gurkish control. They marched on the city immediately. General Kroy’s division attack from the north-east, then push westward towards the Agriont. General Poulder’s division approached from the south-east, to move on the docks. Admiral Reutzer leads the fleet in an attack against the Gurkish ships in the harbour.

Eventually, Poulder’s division succeed in recapturing the docks, with Lord Marshal West setting up his command post there. Admiral Reutzer’s engagement with the Gurkish fleet also succeeded, when Duke Orso (King Jezal’s father-in-law) and his fleet suddenly appeared, and routed the blockade. However, the Gurkish still have the Agriont well surrounded. In the end, Collem West is injured when the Tower of Chains collapses due to Bayaz’s ritual with The Seed in the Square of Marshals.

He wakes in a hospital tent, with his sister Ardee at his bedside. At last, the two finally reconcile. Although, West's injuries are not serious, he soon falls victim to the wasting disease that sweeps the city caused by The Seed. He is expected to die at the end of the book.

The Heroes Edit

West is mentionned by Corporal Tunny as one of the many Lord Marshals he has served under. He's remembered as a good man who was gone too soon, making it clear that West eventually died from his sickness.

Sharp Ends Edit

West is a major of the army, having reach this position regardless of his humble origin and the only person Glokta really respected and considered a friend. He fights with Glokta as an exhibition challenge, and wins the combat, and when Glokta wants rematch, the Gurkish army approaches and Glokta volunteers to lead the charge. West wishes to accompany him, but he rejects saying that he wants someone competent in the army camp and that he should be away from the danger for his sister.



  1. Before They Are Hanged, Heading North
  2. The Blade Itself, Nobody's Dog
  3. The Blade Itself, The Ideal Audience
  4. The Blade Itself, Fencing Practice