The Blade Itself


Published June 1, 2001 by GOLLANCZ, imusti.

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4 stars (7 reviews)

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies. Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long …

14 editions

Solid Act 1, but it's just an Act 1

3 stars

It's a bugbear of mine to have half a story sold as a full book (and don't start me on television series). That's what we have here.

The fundamentals are really good. The characters are solid (if broadly unpleasant). The writing is atmospheric and immersive. The world building is good. I particularly like how magic is described from the perspectives of the non-magical characters.

But it took me a sprint to get through this without getting too frustrated. There are interesting things happening throughout, but no coherence to it, and it is only in the last 50 pages or so we really start to see what the contours of the plot will be. I'd prefer to see better construction than that - some kind of arc within each book not just across the whole series.

Still, I will be going back for seconds...

Review of 'The Blade Itself' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Wow, this ended up really surprising me. I walked into this book having heard some of the more common criticisms, namely the almost complete lack of plot. I'm more of a character reader myself, so I wasn't terribly worried. But even though interesting character work is important to me as a reader, I also really REALLY don't like it when the first book of a series exists solely as an introduction without its own story to lean on, so I started this off This book expecting to be really critical of that. However I knew that Abercrombie's character work was very well regarded, so I was curious to see how that tension panned out. And I have to admit, the characters won me over hard.

We follow several different POV characters as they move about their own individual adventures without any real consistent through line or story. There are hints …

The First Law is first class

5 stars

Unlike its genre cousin science fiction, fantasy has closer bonds to backward looking types of storytelling. It is linked to the older forms like myth and fairy tale, and that can make innovation a bit more tricky. We can't just keep on recycling "chosen one" tropes; at some stage we need to say something new, or our original stories risk being redundant compared to the superior rivals already in the canon.

At the same time, we can't depart from the form too much, or in the wrong way, or else it seems inauthentic or a sellout.

For some, Abercrombie might have strayed from the marvelous and primal form that gives fantasy its great strength. But for me, he has breathed life into the genre. "The First Law" trilogy and its sequel "The Age of Madness" are well worth the investment of your time.

Having read all six of Abercrombie's books …

Review of 'The Blade Itself' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Not boring, but not much happens. It's not a story that stands on its own. It doesn't have an ending. Though the last couple of chapters finally saw some kind of progression. You really have to go on to book 2, otherwise you don't really have a story.

The characters are great, though. Not a lot of world building. I sure hope it improves in the next books.

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3 stars