The Blade Itself is the first book in The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, and it’s pretty awesome.
Logan Ninefingers, the barbarian with a heart of gold, Captain Jezal dan Luthar, the nobleman who has it all – talent, money and charm, and Inquistor Glokta, the cripple who’s great at torturing because he’s got nothing to live for. These men are going around their business as usual, but Bayaz, the legendary First of the Magi has other plans for them. Although everyone is too mired in politics to notice, The Union is in terrible danger – beset by wars on two fronts, manipulated behind the scenes by ancient foes.
This probably sounds pretty stereotypical, but The Blade Itself is distinctive for a few different reasons:
- It manages to invert a lot of classic fantasy tropes without making fun of them. For instance, the young and talented male protagonist is not infinitely courageous and honourable – he’s lazy, selfish and extremely haughty. For some reason, he’s still likeable, though.
- The characters are extremely three-dimensional – by the end of the book, I felt like I actually knew all the characters. They’re sympathetic, but all abundantly flawed. It’s a hard balance to maintain, but Abercrombie manages it effortlessly.
- It has a great sense of humour, but the book is definitely not a comedy. You’re aware of the significance of events and the horrors caused by the enemies, but Abercrombie has a great writing style, and his descriptions of some things made me laugh out loud. This is also a hard line to walk.
I only have a couple of small criticisms – I didn’t really like the usage of modern swearwords, especially since they were used across very different cultures, colloquially. I guess they convey the feeling behind the words pretty well, but they still jolted me out of the world whenever I encountered them. The book also seemed to meander a bit, but I’ll reserve judgement on that until I read the rest of the series.
I really can’t wait to read Before They Are Hanged.
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (First Law, #1)
Pyr, 2006 | Buy the book