“The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie

I buddy-read this with Emily at Embuhleeliest back in June. We were trying it out to see if it’ll serve as a nice chunky series for us to jump in and get hooked on like we did with Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings. And, so far I’d say Abercrombie’s series has potential.


Genre

Fantasy

Series

First Law, book 1

Pubbed

2006

From Goodreads

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, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar 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 enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. 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 Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge. (Goodreads)


My thoughts

I won’t bother trying to do my own summary of the story because… what is the story about? I don’t know. I was just introduced to a bunch of characters and told what they are up to. I didn’t bother reading the synopsis before beginning, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it’d be pretty easy to figure out the story and have an idea of where it’s going. That didn’t happen. I feel as unsure about where the story is heading as I did when I started the book. But weirdly, I didn’t mind. I got the impression that this is all a character study of people in a fantasy world, either that or the plot is building really slowly. But I didn’t mind this as I read because the characters interested me.

“Every day is its own little hell for me. Every day.”

Although he’s an unlikeable person being all bitter and angry at everyone and the world, I immediately took an interest in Inquisitor Gloka. His character rang true to me. He has endured much, having been tortured and had his body mutilated during the torture, and experiences constant pain every day because of it. His personality appealed to me and the way he considers and plans out things just rings true to me due to his situation. I think this is probably the first I’ve encountered a character in a fantasy world who complains about how far things are and the many, many stairs in buildings and how all such things affect him and how he’s able to move about. I find that so relatable that it’s one of the reasons why I preferred reading from Glokta’s POV. He’s also a really smart, perceptive dude and from his POV we learn of corruption in the government, so that has my interest as well.

Logen Ninefingers is another immediate favorite. Him being able to commune with spirits sparked my curiosity and also Bayaz collecting him. I loved his reaction to Adua when he arrived there — frustrated with “civilization” and how it complicates simple things; marveling at the fountains; and even feeling claustrophobic in the city, which makes a lot of sense me and is something I’ve never seen a character do in fantasy books, although I’ve read a few where characters go from living in a remote area with few people to somewhere crowded. I enjoyed Logen’s interactions with Bayaz, and I thought I had the dude quite figured out, but then Abercrombie threw me for loop when the Bloody-Nine appeared. I was so surprised, but it was a wonderful one, although grisly and made me start thinking of Logen as a teddy bear in comparison.

Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is the only other major character who stood out to me but only because I wonder what the hell he’s up to. What is he playing at? Is he collecting all these people to confront the other magi dude who’s creating Eaters? Does Bayaz intend to turn Logen, Jezal, and Ferro into Eaters too? I don’t trust the dude. I think he intends to do good but will instead tap into “the Other Side” to do so and become corrupt and then all the good will be bad.

As for the minor characters, Brother Longfoot is my absolute favorite, lol! And Major West had my interest until he started beating on his sister, which seemed so random to me. I was so pissed about that scene. Jezal is too arrogant for me to have much interest in him, but his uber-arrogance made him a little comical to me. However, the tournament bits were some of my favorite parts of the book. I wonder if Bayaz will tell Jezal what really happened there.

Well, that’s it. All characters. Will the story develop a plot later? Where exactly is all this going — or rather, where is Bayaz leading these threads to? I can’t help wondering this, but if you know, please don’t tell me. Like Logen, I’d rather not know where this is all going. The characters are interesting enough for me to trust Abercrombie and try the next book in the series.

Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½

It was interesting. I hope this will be one of those series that gets better with each book.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

13 thoughts on ““The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie

  1. I’ve yet to try any of his work but hope to one day, possibly starting with this book. It’s interesting how, at least for me, a story light on plot but rich with fascinating characters will almost always win out over a plot-driven story lacking in characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely adore the series/world Abercrombie has created. I read this years ago and did a re-read via audio books. The narrator brought this to life so well. Abercrombie’s turns of phrase make him stand out as an author to me.

    I do enjoy Glokta’s battle with stairs 😂

    Like

  3. I love this series. If you like the first trilogy, then there two more trilogies to come (so far), Some of the characters survive everything despite the author not being kind hearted towards his creations.

    Like

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