An interview with Joe Abercrombie

This week Josh interviews Joe Abercrombie, author of the highly acclaimed First Law trilogy. They talk about Joe's new book Red Country, darkness in modern fantasy, and what Joe is doing on tour in Australia.

Photo by Lou Abercrombie

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About Joe
Joe Abercrombie was born in Lancaster, England, on the last day of 1974. He was educated at the stiflingly all-boy Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where he spent much of his time playing computer games, rolling dice, and drawing maps of places that don't exist. He went on to Manchester University to study Psychology. The dice and the maps stopped, but the computer games continued. Having long dreamed of single-handedly redefining the fantasy genre, he started to write an epic trilogy based around the misadventures of thinking man's barbarian Logen Ninefingers. The result was pompous toss, and swiftly abandoned.

With heroic help and support from his family the first volume, The Blade Itself, was completed in 2004. Following a heart-breaking trail of rejection at the hands of several of Britain's foremost literary agencies, The First Law trilogy was snatched up by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz in 2005 in a seven-figure deal (if you count the pence columns). A year later The Blade Itself was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. It now has publishers in thirteen countries. The sequels, Before They are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings were published in 2007 and 2008, when Joe was a finalist for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. Best Served Cold, a standalone book set in the same world, was published in June 2009, and a second standalone, The Heroes, came in January 2011 and made no. 3 on the Sunday Times Hardcover Bestseller List. A third standalone, Red Country, is due in October 2012.

Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, his daughters Grace and Eve, and his son Teddy. He still occasionally edits concerts and music festivals for TV, but spends most of his time writing edgy yet humorous fantasy novels…

The awesome music you'll hear at the beginning and end of this podcast is by musician and composer Bart Stoop, who you can find on Facebook at and on YouTube at

Our Joe Abercrombie reviews

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

It doesn’t last, sure, but the titular argument of Abercrombie’s latest takes a stab at determining why. The grim conclusion is that taking sides in governing a nation – even if it’s crystal clear that one is trying to ‘do the right thing’ – is that it’s going to lead to dangerous division and potential war.Ask Orso, a ne’er-do-well prince who finds himself crowned King far earlier than he had imagined. He grew up thinking his father was a terrible King as there was nothing that seemed to get done. But as Orso settles into the rol [...]


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The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

I was up until half five yesterday morning reading intensely to finish off this story. I didn’t write the review then as it would have been a tired, mumbled mess with little to no eloquence and it wouldn’t have included any cool sounding words. Let’s see how I get on now after a good night's sleep…Prior to reading this, I had completed Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy and enjoyed it a lot. Where that was classic story focused fantasy with twists aplenty, this is best described as a macabre, dark and twisted character study of morally questionable [...]


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The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

The Wisdom of Crowds is Abercrombie's most political book to date - some of it subtle, some of it banged over your head with the flat of a blade before it guts you with sharp commentary. 'The Trouble with Peace' ended on the cusp of The Great Change, and I thought Wisdom would take some time before the Change itself became the centerpiece to the story. But there was no time wasted, as the big battle was gotten out of the way early. I was surprised to see a lengthy 'Little People' section (a consistent favorite of mine) occurred so early in chapter [...]


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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half A King by Joe Abercrombie has been marketed as Abercrombie's attempt at telling a "grimdark" Young Adult story. Once you get past all the buzzwords and marketing speech, you will find a story about a young man with a horribly disfigured and almost useless limb who is not satisfied with simply surviving extreme adversity in a bleak world, but rather he strives to become the master of all. This is not just a story for teenagers, this is story for anyone who enjoys fantasy.The story follows Prince Yarvi, second son of a proud king, seen as a liability because of a bir [...]


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Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

The second in Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, Half the World continues the story of Yarvi but from a slightly different perspective. Thorn is disliked by most, a prickly, arrogant girl who finds herself in Yarvi’s debt and dragged halfway across the world because of it.I loved the first book, I barely put it down on my first reading and so it was with much anticipation and very high hopes that I picked up the second instalment. I was a little disappointed to not be privy to Yarvi’s entertaining narrative any longer, but Thorn struck me as an interesting - if no [...]


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Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

"We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged" - Heinrich HeineBefore They Are Hanged is Abercrombie's second entry into the twisted and grim world of The First Law. It follows on from the three story arcs that The Blade itself stylishly led towards. Bayaz, the first of the Magi is venturing to the end of the Earth with his bizarre collection of distinctive personnel for reasons unbeknown to all apart from the Mage himself. Superior Glokta has traveled South to infiltrate the politics of an allied nation, hoping to find out what happened to his ill-fate [...]


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A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

‘War? It’s a fight so big almost no one comes out of it well’First of all, this is not fantasy as we know it. In fact, this is barely fantasy at all. Undoubtedly epic, with more than a hint of magic, this is a high fantasy world with a low fantasy feel. It's a sign of the times- even the big hitters are pursing influence though finance and banking instead of sorcery… The First Law world is, for all intents and purposes, our world. As a result, the book reads a bit more like historical fiction. A lot more like history. If nothing else, the author must have [...]


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Last Argument Of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

In this much anticipated and last instalment of the First Law trilogy from Joe Abercrombie we find the answers to all our questions and some we didn’t even realise existed!The campaign in the North against Bethod and his men continues with the odds ever against Colem West, the Army of the Union and of course Dogman and his band of mercenaries. Logan has travelled North to rejoin his men, although he suspects that not everyone will be pleased he’s still alive and not gone back to the mud; and of course wherever Logan goes, so does the Bloody Nine – handy in the battl [...]


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Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”– Obi Wan Kanobi, Star WarsThere is a growing focus on gritty, dirty, realistic tales. Les Miserables was an almost too realistic view of revolutionary France, with all of the dirt, grime, sores, blood, and sweat associated with a poor underclass society fighting for the right to take a bath once a week. Previews for the new Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion, and recent films like The Hunger Games bear out the wide chasm between the have’s and the have not’s by focusing on the squalor of the [...]


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Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

'A warriors place is at Death's side' said Raith as he stood. 'So he can introduce her to his enemies.'Half a War is the conclusive third book in Joe Abercrombie's Shattered Sea saga. It follows on smoothly from the events at the conclusion of Half a World and we find ourselves witness to the politics and events surrounding a very shaky alliance of nations. These nations of once bitter enemies being Vansterland ruled by The Breaker of Swords and neighbouring Gettland whose monarch is The Iron King. (You don't get nicknames like those anymore, especially no [...]


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The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

This is a stand alone novel, but having previously read Abercrombie's First Law books is highly recommended. Some old heroes return, a new lot show their faces and some of the underlying currents will certainly be recognised.I recommend this story to everyone who wants to read something from of the heroic fantasy genre. Its unique in its way, fast paced and thrilling.Making this review was kind of something like reading the book. It has multiple sides. In one hand this is a book about war and heroes. Every cliché at its best. But at the other hand Abercrombie manage [...]


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Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Let me start by making one thing very clear: Joe Abercrombie has a very special gift with words. He is capable of writing beautifully vivid or dangerously horrific scenes with the same quality. I enjoyed ‘The Blade Itself’ well enough, though sadly not enough to continue reading the following two books in the trilogy (“one day” came the oft called cry from the lounge room).Sadly, while his writing hasn’t let him down, Abercrombie’s understanding of what makes an enjoyable story apparently dissipated like fog in December heat when he turned his atte [...]


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Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in the rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.From the world of the First Law comes an anthology of short stories following various characters, some of whom are old friends and others who are completely new.This is definitely a different approach to Abercrombie’s usual multi-book stories for sure, most of the stories run between 20 and [...]


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