Review: “The Blade Itself” by Joe Abercrombie

Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publication Date: March 8th 2007
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Format: Paperback
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads

Synopsis

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 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.

From Goodreads

Review

TLDR; an interesting voyage split among 4-5 characters. Some spikes of action but mostly even progression IMO. Does’t hit the next-level magic & big twists I’d hoped for but was a relaxing read. Ending left me holding some big questions and sets the stage for the next in series.

I picked up this book for a bargain at a half price used bookstore, and am so new to the fantasy genre I didn’t realize what gold I’d found. Joe Abercrombie is heralded as one of the top high/epic fantasy writers with this series being his debut. The first book of three, The Blade Itself follows the arcs of around 4-5 characters each with their own motives, quests, and designs. Having just read Brandon Sandersons’ The Way of Kings I saw a lot of structural similarities in this pattern – there’s a lot of up front setup introducing the characters which takes a decent portion of the book. Around 50% through I finally felt I had enough information to settle in and enjoy the stories, but it took some perseverance to hang in up to that point. If you can, this book is a satisfying fantasy with plenty of fighting, conflict, backstabbing, and conspiracy to fill a few evenings.

My favorite character of them all ended up being a tie between Glokta the bitter torturer and Bayaz the baller wizard. I’m a sucker for a solid wizard that ticks all the trope’s boxes. He’s mysterious, powerful, has been around the block for a while, and doesn’t suffer fools (and there are plenty of fools in this book). In all he’s a fantastic character. Glokta on the other hand is a completely different story. A ‘fallen hero’-style character turned to the dark side that appears to enjoy inflicting pain on the traitors under his care, he is more complex. Although he’s bitter and dark, as the book progresses you see his pain and I grew quite attached to him. His chapters are also scattered with italic asides giving his thoughts on what’s going on, which is both entertaining and enlightening.

Jezel (a nobleman captain) I didn’t like at all as a character. Without spoiling too much I’ll just say he came off as a self-important narcissist and his commentary on women during the first bit of the book is a huge turn off. I understand the narcissism is something the author intentionally added, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to care about him without feeling any attachment to him. Maybe this will be solved in the next book of the trilogy..

Overall this was a pretty good fantasy book with some interesting plot. It seemed to lack some of the more intricate magic and world building I had been hoping for, but I think more will be exposed in the next book of the series. Again I also should mention there was a lot of setup front-loaded in the book to set the stage. There was starting to be good payoff on that towards the end but I was really hoping for some bigger twists and didn’t find anything super stunning. The book rolled on for me with no huge ‘aha!’ moments, but was a fun read nonetheless. I’m just hoping the next book will tells us more about the wizards and ‘Eaters’ that became so interesting towards the end πŸ˜‰

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