Tag Archives: Logen Ninefingers

Favourite Fantasy Fiction Characters: Logen Ninefingers (aka the Bloody Nine)

This is the start of a regular series of posts about favourite characters from fiction. First up one of the vividly realised characters at the centre of Joe Abercrombie‘s First Law Trilogy.

Logen Ninefingers (aka the Bloody Nine) is a mercenary and ex Northmen military leader. He’s a berserker with a brain, and as his name suggests is missing one of pinkies. Abercrombie seems to have a thing for physical impairment (see the next instalment in this series – answers on a postcard if you can guess who it might be!). Perhaps it’s a symbol of his characters being damaged goods psychologically as well as physically. Logen starts the trilogy as an outcast from the North and also from the mercenary band that he used to lead, but he ends up a hero and reunited with his old comrades that he used to lead. For me there are three classic Logen moments – one at the beginning of The Blade Itself, where he looks like he’s a gonner – disappearing down a muddy slope if memory serves me right, the second is a Helms Deep style affair where he and his old comrades and a small makeshift army defend a wall at the end of a mountain valley against superior numbers – very Gemmell this I think? Then lastly he fights the demonic champion of the new king of the north, and goes into a berserk killing frenzy as he does so.

I like him because he’s a classic hero – brave and strong and good at what he does. But he’s not cheesy and predictable – he is hated by his former comrades and he is very much an unwilling hero as well at the beginning of the trilogy.

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Fight, Fight, Fight – Writing Combat Scenes in Fantasy Literature

David Gemmel
Image via Wikipedia

How do you write a good combat scene? I set myself an exercise over the weekend of analysing what works for me as a reader in some of my favourite fantasy books.

Tolkien’s Avoidance

The weird thing that I found was that in some cases where I thought there would be quite a bit of material to look at – such as The Lord of the Rings for instance, there was little actual description of a full individual against individual combat. Even where Boromir dies, which is a big scene at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring move, the combat is described through a report by Legolas, Boromir dies bravely. Tolkien is more interested in the mass movement of armies and epic scope of battles rather than the nitty gritty of hand-to-hand combat.

Abercrombie’s Confusion

What I found was that in the best examples I came across, such as in Joe Abercrombie and David Gemmell, the way combat was described was very dependent on character and the character’s emotions. So for instance when King Jezal charges foolishly at a horde of Gurkish warriors the combat is very confusing as Jezal himself doesn’t really know what he is doing. He is hit from behind, he’s not sure what’s going on around him etc. Whereas in a scene involving Logen Ninefingers the combat is more precisely described as Logen is in more control of the situation – except when he gets berserk of course.

Gemmell’s Power

Gemmell though was the best example I found, especially when he deals with a straight-forward combat between a hero and his enemies. The action is fast and furious, none of the slow-motion nonsense you get sometimes when writers try to describe every detail of a fight, but lots of powerful, descriptive verbs, such as shattered, hammered, splintered, smashed etc. Every phrase and sentence describes a new attack or new movement. Everything happens rapidly and is conveyed with a sense of breathless energy.

In other scene’s Gemmell is not afraid to tell us what his character’s are thinking, and in some cases what multiple characters are thinking as well. So here again the character and their emotions plays a big part. A bigger, more important part than the precise description of the martial arts.

The energy and visceral power of Gemmell and Abercrombie is definitely something to aspire to I think.

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Finish Your Plotlines But Not Before They Are Hanged

One of the common issues for the second book of a trilogy is how it will keep the plot going and develop the characters ready for a good ending in the third book. Often you see the cause of good suffer a number setbacks so that the odds are really stacked against them for the end of the trilogy – think Two Towers and Empire Strikes Back for instance.
Joe Abercrombie’s Before They Are Hanged continues the plot lines established in the first book and does a good job of bridging the gap for the third book. However, I think there is a clear case that probably only one of the plotlines narrated in this book is really necessary. The other two feel like padding. The events of the narrative do more to build character, which is important, but very little actually really seems to happen that changes anything for the overall story. I’m not going to give any more detail on which plots accomplish this or don’t as that might necessitate too much description of what happens at the end of the book. I’d like to say now that this is still an immensely enjoyable read. Abercrombie again is brilliant at characterisation of his main characters and describing very tangicble and dangerous scenes for them. In the context of a trilogy I’m just not sure how strong the book is. However, I suspect that this is quite a common problem for any story that has to be wedged into the trilogy structure by unimaginative publishers.
So what plot lines are continued in this title:

Bayaz and his party venture to a new continent and across the steppe via ancient ruined cities looking for something that will defeat the rogue Magi who threatens the world. The most interesting part here is the development of the Luthar character and the relationship between Logen Ninefingers and Ferro.  Say one thing about Logen Ninefingers, say he’s a memorable character.

In Angland Union forces fight against the invasion of Bethod’s forces. This chapters featuring this plot contain some excellent battle scenes and is probably my second favourite part of the book.

But probably the best features Glotka who arrives in Daroska to find out what happened to the last Superior and get the defences sorted out in preparation for attack by the Gurkish. He does well in pulling things into shape although he annoys the ruling council in the process. All the while he is worrying about his possible fate if he fails, providing his own commentary nearly everytime he speaks to another character. “Found floating face down in the docks” is how he imagines his death being reported if he puts a foot wrong with his superior, Arch Lector Sult.

All in all a good book and a good read, but not sure if it was all really necessary in the grand scheme of things.