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Hollywood Is Still Sleeping On Joe Abercrombie's First Law Series (& Why That's An Epic Mistake)

In recent years — well, decades at this point — fantasy fans have been enjoying a continuous stream of live-action adaptations of their favorite works. From "Harry Potter" to "The Wheel of Time," book series after book series have made their way to screens big and small. Fantasy-friendly shows like "Stranger Things" have sung the praises of formerly nerdy activities like role-playing games. Paramount+ is betting big on "Dungeons & Dragons" despite the fact that "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" isn't even out yet. All in all, it's pretty clear that Hollywood is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to adapting cool (and potentially lucrative) fantasy series.

Still, somehow, no one in Hollywood has bothered to peek under one particularly big, shiny stone that hides Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law." This is frankly mind-boggling, because not only does this fantasy series check all the boxes for great live-action adaptation potential, but there's also a massive wealth of material to adapt. The first book of the lengthy series was published in 2006, and as of today, there are two trilogies and a number of standalone works' worth of story to tear through, guaranteeing a cool six to eight seasons of prestige TV at the very least.

"The First Law" is set in a warring, more than mildly dystopian world where swords are everywhere, but sorcery comes at a cost – the only way to deal with magic is to deal with a demon-infested "Other Side," and the titular First Law specifically forbids you to do that. The series boasts a combination of high fantasy and historically-rooted realism that, with the right approach, could very easily become the next "Game of Thrones."

The setting caters for fans of historic and fantasy drama alike

"The First Law" isn't the first fantasy show that takes place in a world that's at war. After all, military conflict is pretty much a prerequisite for the genre. However, it is one of the few that come with a unique yet familiar visual language, because instead of relying on sword-and-sorcery imagery and fantasy creatures (don't worry, there's a bunch of those as well), its tone is heavily based on real-world history.

The main warring nations are basically expies of major historical European and Middle-Eastern empires, with the obligatory barbarian-slash-Viking North and a bunch of other lands thrown in the mix. This would give the live-action version of the books a ready-made visual tone that's recognizable by history and fantasy buffs alike. Essentially, "The First Law" would allow the makers to have their cake and eat it when it comes to creating cool historical epics without being all that beholden to, you know, actual history. It wouldn't be the first work to do so -– "Vikings," in particular, draws heavily from sagas and legends. Still, the fact that "The First Law" would explicitly be a fantasy show takes things -– and the show's ability to do things -– far above and beyond your average history epic.

There's plenty of precedent for this being a recipe for success, because as it happens, "Game of Thrones" does the exact same thing. Its story draws inspiration from a real period of British history known as the Wars of the Roses, but because it's still set in a fantasy world, it's free to throw in magic, dragons and resurrections whenever necessary.

Adaptations of the books could create some of the most compelling characters in fantasy

Another thing playing in "The First Law's" favor is its cast of characters, which is just as sprawling as you'd hope from a fantasy series, but also as cinematic as you could possibly hope. Going with the point of view characters alone, Abercrombie's array of unhappy fantasy figures is just waiting to come to life on screen.

You've got your stoic, "aw, here we go again" barbarian warrior in Logen Ninefingers, King Bethod's fatalistic, exiled enforcer. His posse of appropriately colorful personalities includes the Dogman — who, without going into the specifics of his arc, has all the makings of a fan favorite. Looking for a snarky, self-deprecating, and grievously injured shadow eminence with a dark history, for whom life is pain but his inherent unwillingness to lose keeps him going somehow? Sand dan Glokta is your man. A seemingly unstoppable rebel with a very good reason for being so fearsome? Ferro Maljinn, take a bow. Swashbuckling, arrogant Union noble Jezal dan Luthar is essentially every Lannister sibling rolled into one, and his storyline comes with a few twists for the ages. Even the ostensibly heroic Collem West comes with a massive anger management problem that makes it extremely clear that truly good folks don't really exist in these parts.

Of course, it goes without saying that all of these people — and many more in the series' sprawling cast — turn out to be much more than meets the eye, as they struggle in the difficult world of "The First Law." Generally speaking, the cast of characters is familiar enough for fans of fantasy and prestige shows alike to feel right at home, yet different from anything we've seen on screen so far.