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The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie [SPOILER THREAD]


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I don't see Bayaz wasting his time trying to pass off Hildi as Orso's bastard, at least initially. If he succeeds in overthrowing Savine and Leo then he may try that or look to elevate some other puppet. Rikke's vision strongly implies that Bayaz is going to use Hildi as the frontwoman to do what he was doing previously with his bank. He's going to attempt to gain control of the Union through investment, debts and blackmail and will probably already own at least half the Union by the start of the third trilogy.

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1 hour ago, Varysblackfyre321 said:

And hilde also officially wouldn’t be a change in dynasty if legitimatized as orso’s bastard.

I think you've lost track of the discussion. I said a change of dynasty would be an alternative to Bayaz trying that scheme.

1 hour ago, Varysblackfyre321 said:

But we also already had characters who shared their propensity towards violence, take comfort in a middle management type position and not really care about the cause they’re fighting for. Gorst, and craw.

That appears to me to be a serious misread of Craw's character. He's a professional warrior, yes, but he's not Broad or Gorst or Logen.

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17 minutes ago, mormont said:

He's a professional warrior, yes, but he's not Broad or Gorst or Logen.

He’s not as sadistic as they can be sure, but he doesn’t find any meaning or joy pursuing a peaceful lifestyle which from his internal monologues he bemoans not being able to have previously.

Also forgot to say I think shivers—least the one we post-BEst served cold—follows in the type of a man who goes with the flow when it comes to violence. He followed Monza. Bemoaned her brutality audibly but it didn’t take much for him to side with her until the very end. He then joined Black Dow, preceded to murder him, and serve Calder instead of trying for the position of king himself.

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4 hours ago, mormont said:

ETA - I'd also note that it's open to discussion how successful Broad is in that role but it's a fact that characters who are followers are by nature less interesting to read, because they're less dynamic.

That’s a continuation of my point - he would have been interesting if maybe the conflict or twisted rationale for why he was comfortable in that role, or if the characters voice changed significantly from other characters. His POV didn’t give me much - it was too aware of the actions and implications around him the whole time for someone who just wanted to follow (especially for someone trying to ignore everything via drinking), but it didn’t actually give any deeper rationale that someone with the clarity of the POV. 

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  • 1 month later...

I put off reading the final installment of this new trilogy for a long time. Mostly due to other commitments and a very late delivery of my signed copy, but also because I had an inkling that I was not going to be a big fan of the narrative.

Turned out my premonition was right. I greatly enjoyed reading the book. Abercrombie has a flair for violence and he's one of the writers who gets narrative propulsion, but at this point I'm also wondering whether I'm not just nostalgic for some of the experiences I had reading his work as a teenager. When I evaluate the book (and trilogy) as a whole it does feel rather stale.

I have a hard time picking what I liked the least about this final book, so I'll just list the worst offenders for me in no particular order.

The first thing I hated was the endless parade of obvious twists in the entire thing. It was all so inelegantly done and he took fucking forever to take us there. This was particularly bad with Rikke's trap for Black Calder. From the moment she put her plan in motion it was clear to see but then it took like 4 or 5 chapters to get there (including Clover's), all of which were dull apart from the glimpse at Bethod's ancestral hall (It's usually not a good sign when the best thing about a long sequence is the fact that it made one wistfully look back on the prior trilogy).

The book was full of those poorly constructed twists. Mostly because of a lack of subtlety, as I feel Joe was often beating us over the head with the fact that Zuri was an eater, Glokta was the man behind the curtains, Leo was going to turn full Kylo Ren, Broad's letter was a forgery and so on. Then there were even complete arse pulled twists like Rikke being the owl which came completely out of left field and were even worse.

A great twist is like a Black Swann event, it comes as a complete surprise, but in hindsight you are able to see the clues all over for it. Most of the twists here were quite laborious and there were so many of them it just felt lame. 

Other things I didn't like was the world building. This has never been Joe's strong suit, but the more this story progresses, the more dissonance I get when switching between the North and the Union. There is a lot that is off with Joe's world in general, but I accept it because his characters are so damn great, but it's getting more noticeable in the North in particular because nothing ever seems to change there.

I was particularly bored by the men from beyond the Crinna. I have no idea why that's still a thing (you would have guessed that Stour should have conquered it after killing Stranger Come Knocking) and why they seem to be stuck in the Bronze age wearing bone armor, riding wagons and thinking Banzai attacks are a winning strategy. Even if there is nothing to be plundered there, these losers are so pathetically military incompetent that they'd make a great resource for slaves at little cost.

I also found a lot of the character stuff quite badly done. Broad has had his fair share of criticism already and while I'll agree he was a one-note character I wasn't bothered as much here because he had preciously little chapters. Worst was some of the other jumps. Leo in particular goes from incompetent douche to iron-willed Cromwell in like one chapter. It's almost as if being badly crippled is somewhat of a superpower in this world (think about it: Caul Shivers misses an eye, RIkke misses an eye, the Bloody Nine a finger and now Glokta and Leo). I just didn't buy it. The extreme pettiness of Leo I could follow, but him turning out to be competent was just a bit much. It can't all have been Jurand, as someone needed to set out strategy before Jurand's supposed talents at organization could come to the fore.

The entire book is full of these weird transitions and logic fails. Black Calder might be in anguish over his son, but how does one of the most intelligent crooks in the series miss three separate armies converging on him? Why on earth would Rikke betray Orso, when there is precious little to be gained there. She clearly wasn't indebted to Leo as Savine had screwed the pouch earlier. If she had any wits about her, she should have spirited Orso away and sold him to the Southerners, handed him over to Bayaz or send him packing to Sipani. Any of those moves would have made far more sense in terms of goodwill, money and stability for the North to develop. If she had any wits about her, she should have leaped at the chance to take Angland back when there was no shred of military power (and no Finree) left to hold it. That would have opened another front against Leo limbless and Orso might have actually granted her that for her trouble (and that's without taking the possibility of a political marriage between the two of them into account).

I also did not understand the alliance between Glokta and the Eaters. What was that all about? What is to stop the Eaters from... eating Glokta? I feel like he put himself at the mercy there of exactly the wrong characters.

On a personal note, I also felt disappointed with some of the characters Abercrombie chose to eliminate. I almost feel like there is a law of diminishing returns at work. With the exception of Orso, all his best characters are from the older books but he keeps on killing the old favorites while leaving the less interesting ones alive. Cosca, Black Dow and now Sulfur, Black Calder and Bremer Dan Gorst? Such a waste of potential. Bremer Dan Gorst in particular deserved more as a character. I also think the final reveal that Glokta is behind all the madness did the character a disservice. I was always hoping he would be scheming against Bayaz, but I expected something... nobler. Now it's just plotting to replace one Bayaz with another, which is a rote motivation in this universe.

Despite all the criticism above, I will however, gladly admit that Rikke's final vision suckered me in again and I hope Abercrombie gets to his next adventures in the First Law universe fast. I have no interest in the Italy thing he's doing at the moment (from the few things I read about it here, it feels a bit too Twilight for me), but a resolution of all the hanging plot points in this universe? Sign me up directly.

As to my interpretation of the visions. The two people are clearly Calder jr. and Hildi (the hat she wears in the vision) and for me the most obvious candidate for the glowing figure to return is Glustrod. Kanedias and Juvens are dead most like, Euz seems more like an aloof creator figure than anything else, Bedesh would be weird so Glustrod, who is clearly the Satan of this world seems like the best fit.

I also wonder which other characters Abercrombie would finally bring back. If the end of the world is at hand and a killing needs to be done, I'm sure Logan can be found again. He might not like the Bloody Nine fanboys, but there must be pay-off to his spirit talking.

And one out of left field, am I the only one who is not convinced that Orso is dead? I know there is a general resignation that Abercrombie kills everyone remotely good or interesting before their time, but there was just something about that execution that didn't sit right with me.

EDIT: Also if the next trilogy is pitting Team Bayaz against Team Glokta, sign me up for Team Bayaz.

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On 12/21/2021 at 8:24 PM, Veltigar said:

I was particularly bored by the men from beyond the Crinna. I have no idea why that's still a thing (you would have guessed that Stour should have conquered it after killing Stranger Come Knocking) and why they seem to be stuck in the Bronze age wearing bone armor, riding wagons and thinking Banzai attacks are a winning strategy. Even if there is nothing to be plundered there, these losers are so pathetically military incompetent that they'd make a great resource for slaves at little cost.

That's not how these things work though. From what we know, the Crinna is a very poor and inhospitable country that would cost a lot to conquer for no real gain. That's why the Romans never bothered to conquer anything north of the Antonine Wall.

The differences are exaggerated, of course, but it's a fantasy novel.

On 12/21/2021 at 8:24 PM, Veltigar said:

Leo in particular goes from incompetent douche to iron-willed Cromwell in like one chapter.

He doesn't, though. He makes one reasonably astute move and then can't hang onto the power he seized. He's still an incompetent douche.

On 12/21/2021 at 8:24 PM, Veltigar said:

Why on earth would Rikke betray Orso, when there is precious little to be gained there. She clearly wasn't indebted to Leo as Savine had screwed the pouch earlier. If she had any wits about her, she should have spirited Orso away and sold him to the Southerners, handed him over to Bayaz or send him packing to Sipani. Any of those moves would have made far more sense in terms of goodwill, money and stability for the North to develop.

None of them would in my opinion, and all required her to take a very great risk with a very fragile peace. If she was caught trying to get Orso out of the Union, Leo would undoubtedly declare war. Meanwhile Rikke wants nothing to do with Bayaz, who she has pissed off, and how is sneaking Orso out and then selling him out a better option? Why does Sipani give a shit?

On 12/21/2021 at 8:24 PM, Veltigar said:

I also did not understand the alliance between Glokta and the Eaters. What was that all about? What is to stop the Eaters from... eating Glokta?

Revenge.

On 12/21/2021 at 8:24 PM, Veltigar said:

Cosca, Black Dow and now Sulfur, Black Calder and Bremer Dan Gorst? Such a waste of potential.

I don't see much more potential in any of these characters: they've been extensively explored across several books and most of the span of their lives.

I dunno. I feel like these criticisms are less 'this book is bad' and more 'this is not the book I wanted to read'.

 

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8 hours ago, Garlan the Gallant said:

With the time jump for the next series, I don’t think Glotka will still be alive

Do we know for sure there will be a big time jump? If they jump ahead 5 or 10 years he could still be there (if he hasn't turned to eating himself, as that would prolong his life span and fuel his Bayaz 2.0 ambitions).

At any rate, if Glokta is gone next time around, that makes it even easier to support Bayaz over Rikke/Savine/Leo for me

5 hours ago, mormont said:

That's not how these things work though. From what we know, the Crinna is a very poor and inhospitable country that would cost a lot to conquer for no real gain. That's why the Romans never bothered to conquer anything north of the Antonine Wall.

The differences are exaggerated, of course, but it's a fantasy novel.

Please, that's the excuse I told myself at first (and even that is shaky, we don't really know anything about what resources they might have up there) but it just doesn't survive my suspension of disbelief anymore. The Romans might not have gone beyond the Antonine Wall because the cost/benefit wasn't there, but they were fighting actual people not stereotypes with their ridiculous military beliefs.

Fantasy doesn't mean it shouldn't be plausible. That whole "it's okay, it's just fantasy" is exactly what stops a lot of writers in this genre from reaching true literary greatness.

5 hours ago, mormont said:

He doesn't, though. He makes one reasonably astute move and then can't hang onto the power he seized. He's still an incompetent douche.

 

Precisely, it's like someone switched the Cromwell function on and off from one moment to the next. It didn't feel organic or earned to me.

5 hours ago, mormont said:

None of them would in my opinion, and all required her to take a very great risk with a very fragile peace. If she was caught trying to get Orso out of the Union, Leo would undoubtedly declare war. Meanwhile Rikke wants nothing to do with Bayaz, who she has pissed off, and how is sneaking Orso out and then selling him out a better option? Why does Sipani give a shit?

The chancellor of Sipani is Orso's brother-in-law, but if you want I can amend my text and put Starikland instead as he has a brother-in-law there as well. Or she could sell him to the Snake of Talinns or the Old Empire. I'll bet you that a nice puppet king in the Union or even just a spare exile would be worth a great deal to all of them.

It's very clear from the book that handing over Orso didn't buy her anything with Leo. If he had the men, he would not hesitate to make a move on her possessions. Selling Otto to Bayaz (whom she didn't want to be indebted too, but him indebted to her? Well, that's a different matter now isn't it), his brothers-in-law or a hostile foreign power would have netted her far more as on top of the prize for him, she would have been able to call in a favor if he was ever restored to the throne.

5 hours ago, mormont said:

Revenge.

Sure, and what after? Who will stop the Eaters from taking over after Bayaz? Why did they agree to a junior partnership? So many variables left unexplained. Same with the entirety of Glokta's conspiracy. What could he offer that Bayaz couldn't? How did they logistically engineer this. it's all left preposterously vague but it's okay, it's just fantasy isn't it.

 

5 hours ago, mormont said:

I don't see much more potential in any of these characters: they've been extensively explored across several books and most of the span of their lives.

Meh, agree to disagree here. I feel with most we barely scratched the surface and the ones we did have some more time with as POV characters were eliminated quite spuriously by acting out character. Bremer sacrificing himself for the King sure, but at that moment and with that intent it was plainly pointless. Calder all of a sudden forgetting all his cunning and getting drawn into such a convoluted trap was also a waste.

But it's different to argue on the counterfactual in these cases. 

5 hours ago, mormont said:

I dunno. I feel like these criticisms are less 'this book is bad' and more 'this is not the book I wanted to read'.

I feel like most of your retorts are less "genuine counterarguments" and more "I have low standards and want everyone to grovel down in the mud with me."

You see I can also make unnecessary snide remarks. Good that we can all live up to the promise of the internet.

 

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I didn't think Mormont's response was particularly snide. 

Rikke smuggling Orso out would have been an extremely risky maneuver.  Yes, there are some potential payoffs, but if Orso were discovered, it is a complete disaster for her (she probably wouldn't even make it back to the North).  Giving him up maintains her power and gives the North some peace, which she wants.  That calculation made sense to me, and I thought it was a reasonable ending to the whole arc.

Some of the other "twists" you mentioned weren't really meant to be surprises.  Or perhaps you could say they would be surprises to people who aren't reading closely, but if you are they're quite obvious and that was intentional.  I would agree that some of them probably could have been executed better (the Zuri + Glokta reveal was too late in the book IMO), but that's a different thing. 

Leo's betrayal was the only twist that caught me by surprise.  But that wasn't some masterful feat of planning, it was getting a cadre of loyal troops near the king at the right moment.  Not exactly Zhukov level strategy.  I thought it quite fitting that once he had power he realized that being co-regent with his wife was an abominable arrangement for him, playing to all his weaknesses and all her strengths. 

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6 hours ago, Maithanet said:

I didn't think Mormont's response was particularly snide. 

Wasn't meant to be. Sorry if it came over that way.

8 hours ago, Veltigar said:

Selling Otto to Bayaz (whom she didn't want to be indebted too, but him indebted to her? Well, that's a different matter now isn't it)

 Not especially. Can you name a single character or historical figure who ever had Bayaz indebted to them, and found it turned out well? I can't. That's Bayaz: being involved with him is always bad news, no matter the ostensible dynamics. And Rikke doesn't seem to want that at any price.

8 hours ago, Veltigar said:

his brothers-in-law or a hostile foreign power would have netted her far more as on top of the prize for him, she would have been able to call in a favor if he was ever restored to the throne.

It's all a bit if and when whereas the immediate problem she had was, is it worth risking an attempt to get Orso out of here, which is not straightforward to do?

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Just want to say that I don't see the wasted potential in Cosca.  We see him in very different "seasons of" his life, to ape Stevie Nicks.  The Cosca in Red Country would never have stuck his neck out for Mozca, he's a broken man compared to the one we see in BSC.  This is to me, one of JA's strengths, portraying the capacity for people to change, for better or worse, over time.

 

Eta:Cosca may be my favorite JA character other than Shev and Javre

Edited by Lermo T.I. Krrrammpus
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On 12/23/2021 at 7:23 AM, Maithanet said:

That calculation made sense to me, and I thought it was a reasonable ending to the whole arc.

I thought it was weird she personally came all together before sending an emissary to judge Leo’s temperament.

He could have easily taken her head out of revenge and/or calculating the cost of reconquering and putting in a more loyal puppet king would be worth it.

On 12/23/2021 at 2:10 PM, mormont said:

Can you name a single character or historical figure who ever had Bayaz indebted to them, and found it turned out well? I can't.

How many people was he indebted to?

16 hours ago, Lermo T.I. Krrrammpus said:

The Cosca in Red Country would never have stuck his neck out for Mozca, he's a broken man compared to the one we see in BSC. 

I disagree on that; remember how monza found him; drunk, homeless, alone.

He still joined up with her though.

In part for money, and in part for love.

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5 hours ago, Varysblackfyre321 said:

I thought it was weird she personally came all together before sending an emissary to judge Leo’s temperament.

He could have easily taken her head out of revenge and/or calculating the cost of reconquering and putting in a more loyal puppet king would be worth it.

Why would turning Orso over to Leo (thus doing him a huge favor) result in Leo wanting to kill her and start a war with the North?  Leo's actual reaction was about as cold as realistically possible, and it still wasn't even close to that.  Even Leo knows that the Union isn't looking to start a bunch of fights right then.  Given how weak the Union military is, the North has a better chance of conquering Angland than visa versa. 

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On 12/23/2021 at 11:10 PM, mormont said:

Wasn't meant to be. Sorry if it came over that way.

No worries, all is well :) 

On 12/23/2021 at 11:10 PM, mormont said:

 Not especially. Can you name a single character or historical figure who ever had Bayaz indebted to them, and found it turned out well? I can't. That's Bayaz: being involved with him is always bad news, no matter the ostensible dynamics. And Rikke doesn't seem to want that at any price.

Apart from @Varysblackfyre321 excellent point, I would say that for any person in a position of power (particularly within the North and the Union) it is impossible not to have a relationship with Bayaz. We all know that her petulant rejection of Bayaz is going to cause her a large amount of grief (if not be the end of her). It would have been smarter to take the Stranger-Come-Knocking route and show Bayaz that she can be a valuable ally. At least that would have given her some more breathing space to screw him over later if that's really what she wants.

On 12/23/2021 at 11:10 PM, mormont said:

It's all a bit if and when whereas the immediate problem she had was, is it worth risking an attempt to get Orso out of here, which is not straightforward to do?

She was willing to risk it all on a hairbrained scheme to trick the notoriously willy Black Calder into a trap. I think this falls below that in the risk department. That being said, if she really wanted to keep it safe, she should have just stayed out of it completely.

47 minutes ago, Maithanet said:

Why would turning Orso over to Leo (thus doing him a huge favor) result in Leo wanting to kill her and start a war with the North?  Leo's actual reaction was about as cold as realistically possible, and it still wasn't even close to that.  Even Leo knows that the Union isn't looking to start a bunch of fights right then.  Given how weak the Union military is, the North has a better chance of conquering Angland than visa versa. 

He's not talking about the Orso handover in particular, but rather the whole idea of the trip that put her in the position to catch Orso in the first place. It is a rather daft trip into the den of the lion she's making without first sounding out the waters and seeking diplomatic protection. The fact that she does that with a wide cross-section of the North's elite in tow makes it even more hazardous. If Leo had any sense he'd have unleashed his Anglanders on her and forced the North on its knees due to all the plum hostages he would have had on his hand.

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7 hours ago, Varysblackfyre321 said:

How many people was he indebted to?

Where to start?

Logen, Ferro and Jezal saved Bayaz' life and cared for him when he was incapacitated in BTAH. Tomolei betrayed her father for him. Juvens took him in and taught him the Art. Kanedias did the same. Yulwei aided Bayaz for years. I could go on.

Bayaz was indebted to every one of them and betrayed every one of them. He doesn't like to be in debt. He's a narcissist. Power is what he's all about, and he doesn't permit anyone else to have power over him, even so petty a power as owing them a favour. Can you name any favour he's actually repaid fairly and honestly? Having Bayaz owe you a favour is a dangerous state of affairs.

40 minutes ago, Veltigar said:

Apart from @Varysblackfyre321 excellent point, I would say that for any person in a position of power (particularly within the North and the Union) it is impossible not to have a relationship with Bayaz.

He certainly strives to make it so, but that's the point. If you don't fight against that, what hope is there for change? And so Rikke has determined she'll fight against it, just as Glokta has.

40 minutes ago, Veltigar said:

She was willing to risk it all on a hairbrained scheme to trick the notoriously willy Black Calder into a trap. I think this falls below that in the risk department. That being said, if she really wanted to keep it safe, she should have just stayed out of it completely.

There's no way to stay out of it once Orso knocked on her door.

 

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He certainly betrayed Kanedias, Tolomei, and Yulwei, maybe Cawneil, Juvens too.

Oddly, I think he had some regard for both Logen and Ferro, and actually thought he was rewarding them.  Logen didn’t feel personally betrayed by Bayaz, but was disgusted by his actions towards the people of Adua.  Even people who aren’t betrayed by Bayaz become disillusioned with him.

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7 hours ago, mormont said:

He certainly strives to make it so, but that's the point. If you don't fight against that, what hope is there for change?

So long as he’s alive and cognizant none really.

If you’re not collared by him in some fashion you become a rival to be quashed.

7 hours ago, mormont said:

Logen, Ferro and Jezal saved Bayaz' life and cared for him when he was incapacitated in BTAH. Tomolei betrayed her father for him. Juvens took him in and taught him the Art. Kanedias did the same. Yulwei aided Bayaz for years. I could go on.

Mostly fair enough I suppose.

8 hours ago, Veltigar said:

If Leo had any sense he'd have unleashed his Anglanders on her and forced the North on its knees due to all the plum hostages he would have had on his hand.

Yeah. He could have even married rikke off to a loyal ally and brought up her children to be loyal to him.

or killed her and launch the north into a civil war over who should replace her.

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On 12/28/2021 at 5:59 PM, mormont said:

There's no way to stay out of it once Orso knocked on her door.

 

"Thank you, not interested. Please go and fuck off." Seems like a simple enough thing to say in this world.

On 12/28/2021 at 5:59 PM, mormont said:

He certainly strives to make it so, but that's the point. If you don't fight against that, what hope is there for change? And so Rikke has determined she'll fight against it, just as Glokta has.

Is that what Glokta does? Seems like he saw Bayaz and said to himself "sweet deal, I want what that guy has" instead of fighting to change things unfortunately.

20 hours ago, Varysblackfyre321 said:

So long as he’s alive and cognizant none really.

If you’re not collared by him in some fashion you become a rival to be quashed.

And fair enough I suppose, most of the people he deals with on that level are power hungry killers anyway. It's difficult to feel compassion for Bethod, Black Calder, Glokta and Rikke when you know they have inflicted such an insane amount of self-serving damage on others even without a push from Bayaz.

On 12/28/2021 at 5:59 PM, mormont said:

Logen, Ferro and Jezal saved Bayaz' life and cared for him when he was incapacitated in BTAH. Tomolei betrayed her father for him. Juvens took him in and taught him the Art. Kanedias did the same. Yulwei aided Bayaz for years. I could go on.

Fair point indeed!

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On 12/29/2021 at 12:27 PM, Veltigar said:

that what Glokta does? Seems like he saw Bayaz and said to himself "sweet deal, I want what that guy has" instead of fighting to change things unfortunately

Glokta is interesting in a way I don’t think many people have caught on.

He’s actually pretty similar to how Jezal was in his passivity to acquiring power.

At the start of the series he was mostly content with his station in life.

Glockta never had an over arching ambition to being the second most powerful man in the union. He was more obsessed with doing his job proficiently. 
Its Adree who pushed both Jezal and glockta to reach for new heights usually through the appeal of in part bettering the station of a family member.

In the first trilogy  it was her brother. This trilogy it’s her daughter. It was her plan to seat Savine on the throne.  Jezal would forgone competing in the tourney that launched him to stardom 

It’s Ardree who actually pushed him to fighting. In a way I always felt really manipulative and mean I have to say. Collem was a nice guy but Jezal isn’t obliged to keep on doing a sport he genuinely had no interest in pursuing.

On 12/29/2021 at 12:27 PM, Veltigar said:

It's difficult to feel compassion for Bethod, Black Calder, Glokta and Rikke when you know they have inflicted such an insane amount of self-serving damage on others even without a push from Bayaz.

Yeah it should be noted most of the people who’ve actively gone against Bayaz have committed the same sins to acquire their power.

 

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