First Law Wiki
First Law Wiki

The First Law is a series of gritty modern fantasy novels by British author Joe Abercrombie. The first three novels form a trilogy, while the remaining stories are stand-alone but interconnected novels. A new trilogy set in the same world started September 2019.


The series is set in an epic fantasy world called the Circle of the World, that is reminiscent of medieval Europe. Magic was once a force in this world, but now seems to be fading, to the point that most people don’t believe in it. The action, for the most part, takes place in or regards people from the central realm known as the Union. The Union appears to be in a state of near-perpetual war, constantly maneuvered into seemingly useless conflicts by a dysfunctional government and an uncompromisingly proud foreign policy. In the frigid north, it rumbles towards an inevitable war with the Northmen, a rough alliance of barbarous, warmongering tribes. In the heat-ravaged south, the Union and Gurkish Empire are in a conflict over control of the city of Dagoska.

The story follows the fortunes and misfortunes of bad people who do the right thing, good people who do the wrong thing, stupid people who do the stupid thing and, well, pretty much any combination of the above. Survival is no mean feat, and at the end of the day, dumb luck might be more of an asset than any amount of planning, skill, or noble intention.

The original trilogy comprises the novels The Blade Itself (2006), Before They Are Hanged (2007) and Last Argument of Kings (2008). The story follows the interweaving fortunes and misfortunes of six viewpoint characters; Logen Ninefingers, Jezal dan Luthar, Sand dan Glokta, Ferro Maljinn, The Dogman, and Collem West. Each is drawn in the plan of Bayaz, a wizard of the Older Time, whose his magical skill is only outstripped by his political savvy.

The series is followed by the three standalone novels in which some minor characters from the trilogy play important roles. Best Served Cold (2009) is set in Styria, a land of warring city-states, and follows mercenary-general Monza Murcatto. After being thrown down a mountain by her employer, she sets out for revenge with a motley crew of misfits. The Heroes (2011) is set in the North seven years after the trilogy, and centres on another war between The Union and The North, culminating in the three-day battle over a ring of stones called The Heroes. And finally, Red Country (2012) is set in the Far Country about thirteen years after the original trilogy. Youthful Shy South had hoped to bury her bloody past, but she’ll not flinch from what needs doing when her brother and sister are kidnapped, with only her cowardly old step-father for company.

A Little Hatred (2019) is the beginning of a new trilogy, set roughly 28 years after the events of the original trilogy. The focus is on a new cast of characters, many of whom are children of characters from the previous novels. Old ways are swept aside as the Union enters an Industrial Age, with chimneys rising all over Midderland, but that doesn't mean that the old powers have gone away, or that things have gotten any better. The slums seethe with discontent that could blow the new world wide open, even as a new generation of Northmen led by Stour Nightfall seek once again to drive the Union from Angland.

Back Story[]


The back story begins thousands of years before the event in the books, with the half-human, half-demon Euz. He rose-up against the demons and banished them from the world to the Other Side, thus allowing humans to flourish. Afterward, he granted gifts to his three eldest sons – the three pure disciplines of magic – and then left them, telling his sons to bring order to the world. To Juvens he granted High Art, the ability to manipulate of the laws of physics through magic. To Kanedias he granted Making, the ability to craft artifacts. To Bedesh he granted the ability to speak with spirits. Finally, Glustrod received no gifts from his father apart from his blessings.

While Kanedias and Bedesh used their gifts in isolation, Juvens used his to shape the greatest civilisation in the Circle of the World, the Old Empire. He also gathered twelve apprentices and taught them the High Art – the Order of the Magi. However, Juvens' younger brother Glustrod became envious of his achievements. He studied forbidden magic and made contact with demons from the Other Side. They helped him find the Seed, and gather an army of demon-bloods. The war that followed destroyed both the Old Empire and Glustrod himself.

Some years later, a conflict arose between Juvens and his brother Kanedias over one of his apprentices, Bayaz.  The brothers fought, and Juvens was killed. Swearing vengeance, Bayaz gathered the Magi from across the world and made war on Kanedias; all except Khalul who refused. The war ended with the death of Kanedias.

History repeats itself. Brother fights brother. As Juvens fought Glustrod, as Kanedias fought Juvens, so Bayaz struggles with Khalul. Smaller men in a bigger world, but with no less hatred, and no more mercy. Will this sordid rivalry end even as well as the others? Or will it be worse?

Cawneil, Before They Are Hanged

Works in the Series[]


# Title Type Release
1 The Blade Itself Trilogy 2006
2 Before They Are Hanged Trilogy 2007
3 Last Argument of Kings Trilogy 2008
4 Best Served Cold Standalone 2009
5 The Heroes Standalone 2011
6 Red Country Standalone 2012
7 Sharp Ends Short Story 2016
8 A Little Hatred Trilogy 2019
9 The Trouble With Peace Trilogy 2020
10 The Wisdom of Crowds Trilogy 2021

Audiobook Adaptation[]

An unabridged audiobook version of each of the books has been released, narrated by Steven Pacey and published by Blackstone(UK) and Orion (US). Steven Pacey is an English actor, best known for his role as Del Tarrant in the sci-fi series Blake's 7, and a audiobook narrator.

Comic Adaptation[]


In association with Blind Ferret Entertainment, The First Law – The Comic has been adapted by Chuck Dixon, with art by Andie Tong, colours by Pete Pantazis, lettering and design from Bill Tortolini. Only the first four chapters were published. Although there has been no formal announcement, no further chapters are planned. Joe Abercrombie commented, "Sadly, it's currently parked. I was really pleased with it but it just wasn't successful enough - graphic novels is a tough market unless you're dealing with established properties. If the physical editions continue to sell there's a possibility it may start up again. We shall see."

Background and Publication[]

'The Blade Itself' was my first book. Probably I should've tried a few short stories first, but for some reason I decided to begin with Everest.

–Joe Abercrombie

As a freelance film editor, Joe Abercrombie found himself with more free time than he previously had. With the time, he decided to reconsider a story plot he had dreamed up in his University days that had once been scrapped. The idea had started out six years prior as a result of Abercrombie's dream of "single-handedly redefining the fantasy genre". He began experimenting with the book that would become The Blade Itself in 2001, completing it in 2004. It took a year of rejection by publishing agencies before Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz accepted the book for a five-figure deal in 2005. It was published by Gollancz in 2006 and Pyr bought US rights in 2007. It was followed in the succeeding two years by the two other books in the trilogy.

In 2009, Abercrombie released the novel Best Served Cold, set in the same world as The First Law Trilogy but is a stand-alone novel. He followed with The Heroes (2011) and Red Country (2012). The books have now been published in close to 30 languages, and sold somewhere in the region of 3-4 million books.

In 2011, Abercrombie signed a deal with Gollancz for four more books set in the First Law world. However, before returning to the First Law world, he wrote three books aimed at younger readers, called The Shattered Sea Trilogy. In 2015, he announced that he had start thinking about another trilogy in the First Law world. Called The Age of Madness, the first book, A Little Hatred, was published in September 2019. A second book titled The Trouble With Peace followed in September 2020.