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Review of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Review of The Blade Itself by Joe AbercrombieThe Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Series: First Law #1
on 2009-06-18
Genres: Epic, Fantasy
Pages: 544


Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.

Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men.

And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up in a hole in the snow with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die really, really hard indeed . . . . . . especially when Bayaz gets involved.

A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult . . .

Where to begin . . . I have such a wide range of feelings for this book.

First off, we’ll start with the world. I thought it was very well done, had a nice rounded out feel to it, and seemed very solid. There were races and countries at war, prejudices and an array of cultural differences, old heroes and long forgotten lore. It gave me enough without boring me to tears. Always a bonus. When I was learning, it was through the eyes of a character, so it made it much more enjoyable. No info dumping! Loved that I didn’t have to read pages of history.

The pacing was rather slow at times. Normally that would bother me, but it didn’t with this book. Personally, I view this as more of a character read. Sure, there were some amazing action scenes, but overall—to me—it moved a bit slow. I would have been bored if some of the characters weren’t so damn amazing! So while the story might have lazily plodded along, I was content because I had some interesting people to plod alongside with. Now, that being said, I had no problem putting the book down and coming back to it later. This was one of those few times where I read other books while enjoying this one. This book felt like a first book. A lot of setup. Character examination. World building. Again, nothing wrong with it. There was a point to this buildup that I understood by the end. I don’t think it was a waste and it was needed. Now that I’ve grown rather close to some of the characters, I’m anticipating book two will raise the stakes and I’ll become obsessed. I nearly was with this book towards the end, which was incredibly fun.

As for those characters, that’s where this book shines.

First off, I really didn’t like Jezal. I don’t think we’re meant to, honestly. For me, I cared the least about him, I didn’t find his story that engaging, and I ended up skimming some of his sections. Abercrombie nailed Jezal’s character: haughty nobel with no idea how insufferable he is. I hope he grows. I hope in the next book his story is a bit more interesting. He’s the only character I didn’t like and sighed each time I came to one of his chapters.

Logen. Now, he was a favorite of mine pretty quickly. I not only loved his character, but he had a fun story: traveling, fighting, action. His journey held my interests the most of all the characters. That’s not to say he was my all time favorite, just that his story was. I tend to like traveling with characters and seeing the world.

Glokta, my favorite character of the whole book. I can’t say enough amazing things about him, but I don’t want to ruin how well Abercrombie rolls out his entrance in the book. I’ll just say that I loved him. I wanted to be in his PoV just to hear his internal thoughts. However, his storyline wasn’t as interesting to me as Logen’s. It’s just a matter of personal tastes on that one. As I said, I like traveling and exploring. I tend to grow bored with political intrigue, which is where Glokta’s story unfolds. Shame. Not to say the intrigue wasn’t good, it was, it’s just not something that can get me flipping through pages in excitement. Regardless, I never shied away from his PoV like I did Jezal.

The other characters were done well. I think in the next book West will play a bigger role which I’m actually excited about. I liked him from the start and as the book grew, he became one of the PoV’s I was excited to read, especially as his role in the unfolding story becomes more important. We see sides to him I would never had guessed. Brilliantly done.

Abercrombie’s writing took me a few chapters to adjust to. Most of the longer reads of late have been very poetic almost, the prose reading smoothly and, at times, flowery. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of a way to describe Abercrombie’s writing and the closest I can get is delightfully choppy. Harsh maybe, compared to the others. It kinda reminds me of Logen, honestly. It’s how I would imagine him writing a book. Though it took me a bit to adjust, once I did I was completely enraptured by it. I hit my stride and found that I thoroughly enjoyed his style. There was something alluring to it, something that made me feel entrenched in the story when reading.

So overall, a bit of a yo-yo effect for me, but it ended on a high. I’m very excited to pick up the next book. Matter of fact, I’m aching to, but I’ve got two I need to read before I can carry on with the series. But as soon as I can, I’m buying the second book. This is one of those reads that would be enjoyed by a wide range of readers. I’ll be recommending this to both my sister and mother and anyone else who hasn’t picked it up yet.

About Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Manchester University, where he studied psychology. He moved into television production before taking up a career as a freelance film editor. During a break between jobs he began writing The Blade Itself in 2002, completing it in 2004. It was published by Gollancz in 2006 and was followed by two other books in The First Law Trilogy, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. He currently lives and works in London with his wife and daughter. In early 2008 Joe Abercrombie was one of the contributors to the BBC Worlds of Fantasy series, alongside other contributors such as Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett and China Mieville.

4 thoughts on “Review of The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

  1. Leona says:

    Ah, Glokta! Who doesn’t love Sand Dan Glokta?
    Funny how I have the complete opposite review on this (except for Glokta!) I found Logen’s parts a bit boring and Glokta’s political intrigue storyline quite intriguing. Maybe cause I read too much adventure and quest stuff, but I read the medieval chronicles for the political intrigue dose, go figure. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series (a few review commitments got in the way) and find out more about Ferro, see what Bayaz ends up doing, what kind of stuff will unfold. Great book overall.

  2. booksbylkevans says:

    Ha, it’s funny how a book can be liked by different people for different reasons. It’s why books are so incredibly fun to talk about! And how can anyone not like Glokta? He’s an amazing character. You’ve reminded me how much I want to read this second one. Gotta pick it up soon!

  3. Lesj Conj says:

    Agree with you about Glokta – actually there was no POV I shied away from, except the girl. Logen and Glokta have dedicated their lives to what they’re good at, and Jezals’ a laughable failure, but her character and history was mostly left mysterious. I didn’t buy it.
    I actually loved Jezal and looked forward to his POV’s. I’ve read another reviewer say they didn’t like him. Frustrating! I do love unlikeable characters. Most people love a good villain, I don’t get why they can’t love Jezal. He’s an arsehole and that’s why I want to read him. I don’t want to spend my free time immersed in some perfect human being. I want to witness the thoughts and actions of the reprehensible. Because I want to understand it and also to indulge in their shittiness – in real life I have to be nice to people all bloody day!
    I also wanted to see more of Quai. He’s survived, when he should have curled up and quietly coughed his last. He probably still feels like doing that. But he’s still around – among people who are in the midst of and causing big change. How did he get to be Bayaz’ apprentice? How is he going to grow? Or is he gonna crack?

    • booksbylkevans says:

      That’s the beauty of books with multiple PoV’s: you can usually connect a reader to at least one. I do love a character with moral ambiguity, the ones that tend to act upon their darker impulses (Raistlen, Royce, Jorge), but Jezal just didn’t connect with me. It’s good he has a fan, though. But Glokta! I really need to read the second book just so I can hang out with him again!


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