This book follows several characters in their struggle with the hard world this story is set in. We meet Logen, aka the Bloody-Nine (he only has nine fingers left), a barbarian who doesn't seek out trouble, but well, trouble finds him. Then there is Glokta, a cripple Inquisitioner that doesn't do much asking, but more torturing instead. We also follow Captain Luthar in his struggle to become the winner of the annual Contest. A small role is for Mayor West, and his sister Ardee. And then, the person that connects all these people: the mysterious First of the Magi Bayaz. Also notable is his sickly assistant, Quai.
There are so many characters in this book, and at first that is rather annoying because it makes it harder to really get to know them, but as I continue reading, it struck me that this really is the strength of this book, because they actually are all interesting and have so much depth, that they indeed deserve a story of their own.
Thumbs up for Mr. Abercrombie for the highly original fantasy story he has created. It is hard to write in a genre like fantasy, where is written so much and almost everything has been done before, and still he manages to write a book that feels refreshing.
Be warned though: this book contains a lot of dark humour. If you don't appreciate that, please don't read this. If you can't handle torture, don't bother trying it. This is not for the weakly minded.