The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

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July 10, 2012 by McDowski

Logen Ninefingers – the most feared man in the North. He’s killed more men than the plague. The Bloody-Nine is a name to instill fear in the hearts of the strongest of men, a name mothers use to scare their children. But what if it didn’t have to be so?

Jezal dan Luthar – the son of a wealthy nobleman. A handsome, arrogant, young man whose life consists of playing cards and getting drunk, in between training for the Contest, a popular fencing competition that has set many a noble on the path to high station.

Sand dan Glokta – an officer for the His Majesty’s Inquisition, a once famous Colonel in the army headed for greatness. Until he was captured in war, tortured, returning two years later to his homeland, a crippled, broken and bitter shell of his former self. Now he tortures others in the name of his King, all the while wondering why he does it.

The Blade Itself is the debut novel and the first book in Abercrombie’s trilogy, The First Law. This isn’t your typical Fantasy. Gritty and bloody with dark humor, Abercrombie weaves a story that has you hooked and wanting for more. The primary characters are all interesting in their own way – Logen the feared killer, inwardly a surprisingly philosophical and practical man who really wants to separate himself from his violent past; Jezal the spoilt brat, with enough talent and wealth to accomplish great things, but seems to lack the desire; and Glokta, the fallen hero turned Inquisitor, whose daily life is one of agony and self-loathing.

Then there is Bayaz, the legendary and mysterious First of the Magi, who has surprisingly returned to the Union after centuries of self-imposed exile to help shape the path for the looming war with the Gurkish Emperor and his invading army. But is his path really the right path?

Meanwhile, the North has amassed an army under their self-proclaimed King and are eager for conquest. Is the Union, preoccupied with the familiar threat of the Gurkish, ignoring a more immediate and pressing danger?

It’s hard to say too much without giving things away, but suffice to say this novel is a must-read for any fan of modern Fantasy. Each of Abercrombie’s novels are excellent, but this being the first, not surprisingly has some issues with pacing. But it only gets better as it goes along, and by the end he has you hooked. He continues his growth as a writer with his later books, as his prose and style come into their own. But more on that another time.

I would easily give this book a 9 out of 10. An excellent debut, and the start of what has so far been a pretty terrific writing career.

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