64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blunt Force Trauma Fantasy
Joe Abercrombie was recommended to me by a friend who has also been reading fantasy for a long time. He knew I was a huge fan of David Gemmell and said there were some similarities between his and Abercrombie's work; a certain level of grittiness, grey characters and an unpredictable plot. If Brent Weeks writes dark fantasy or crime fantasy, then Abercrombie's is...
Published on 29 Jun 2010 by SteveA (UK)
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sets the Stage...
The Blade Itself is a decent book but by no means brilliant. I bought it here after reading the reviews and have to say I was disappointed.
The book sets the stage for a grand tale but never really gets into it (although the second does and is a better read for it) and left me wondering whether to bother continuing. Some of the reasoning behind character...
Published on 1 Dec 2007 by ne mo
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blunt Force Trauma Fantasy,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One (Paperback)Joe Abercrombie was recommended to me by a friend who has also been reading fantasy for a long time. He knew I was a huge fan of David Gemmell and said there were some similarities between his and Abercrombie's work; a certain level of grittiness, grey characters and an unpredictable plot. If Brent Weeks writes dark fantasy or crime fantasy, then Abercrombie's is definitely gritty fantasy or maybe blunt force trauma fantasy. Marketing people love labels, and sometimes they can be annoying, but in this case it tells you exactly what to expect. A shock to the system that will leave you reeling and bloody afterwards.
At first you might think The Blade Itself is a Me Too book as two of the characters are a battered warrior and a cranky old wizard. However, another main character is a torturer, someone who was himself a victim of torture, so much so that he is now crippled and in constant pain. And if someone were to kill him it would almost be a relief, because there would be an end to his daily suffering. Glokta was a former golden boy, a swordsman of renown who was captured by the enemy and broken in their cells. He didn't slaughter an army single-handed and fight his way home. If that's the kind of fantasy story you're expecting then look elsewhere. What emerged from the enemy cells not only looked different but inside Glokta was a new, very twisted man. This bitterness might sound depressing but in fact Glokta's dark sense of humour and internal monologue is some of the funniest material in the series. In any good book, no matter the genre, if it's dark you need some comedy or an undercurrent of black comedy to make it less depressing and Glokta delivers this.
What emerged for me throughout this book is how human Abercrombie makes his characters. All are flawed in some way, emotionally or sometimes mentally, and while some have previously achieved greatness, they have also stumbled since those heady days and turned down darker paths. His characters have texture and are perfectly formed in the mind of the reader. A hero might have won a great battle, but what does he do afterwards? Marry a princess and walk off into the sunset to live happily ever after? Well, there isn't such an animal in this book, although you can find this sort of thing in some fantasy that is more fairytale and less realistic. That's not to say there are no happy endings, but each person has their own version of that concept, and likewise each character in the story does as well. A happy ending for one person might be an end to physical pain, or revenge, or glory on the battlefield. It's very much a personal thing.
After reading only one chapter I realised this is not a typical fantasy series. Abercrombie might use some familiar tropes, but he takes them and remoulds them to create something unique. We are given hints throughout the trilogy of a momentous past full of great deeds carried out by wizards who are almost god-like beings, disciples to Juvens, the greatest of them all. But all of that is gone. They are a part of history that few remember. Remnants and bits and pieces remain, but this story is not about giants reshaping the world with their bare hands. The story is what comes after, but we are also given glimpses of other forces at work that are pulling the strings behind the curtain.
One of the three main characters is Logen Ninefingers, a warrior from the North, a Named Man, and someone well known and respected. He is also feared, and rightly so, for his past is incredibly bloody and unpleasant. The second is Jezel, a foppish turd who has no real aspirations who I found incredibly unpleasant and difficult to like, throughout the trilogy in fact. But of course I don't believe we're supposed to like him very much, not at first anyway. And the third is Glokta, who through his work begins to realise that a conflict seems to be brewing between the Union and the North. There is also a third political power whose influence is felt more acutely in the next books in the trilogy but I won't spoil any details.
The plot is full of twists and turns where characters bludgeon, torture and blackmail their way towards answers, and by the end of this first book you are deeply immersed in the world and the fate of the characters. The fight scenes are brutal, detailed without being over the top, and Abercrombie does a good job of painting both the world and the characters without it clogging up the story and making you read pages of tedious description. This was his debut book and it immediately caught my attention and I couldn't wait to read the next two books in the trilogy. I can also see why this book was nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award for fantasy, because Abercrombie's no nonsense style of writing shares elements of Gemmell's style of digging into areas of fantasy others wouldn't dare to go. There is magic, and mystery and elements of the supernatural in the story, but none of it is done overtly.
A minor complaint I've heard from a couple of people is the lack of a map. I can see why someone might want one, but I don't think it's really necessary since the whole story and all of the characters are effectively conjured in your head through the text. If any writer has done a good job then you can clearly see the cities and the characters, and you can navigate around without being led by the nose. I'm not against maps, and if there is one then great, but I don't spend time flicking back and forth to it as I read any book. But some people expect it in every fantasy book and seemed genuinely put out by what is a minor issue at best. To me at least, it seems like another fantasy trope, and this book, and indeed the series, does the unexpected which makes some people uncomfortable.
If you want a fantasy book that isn't safe, that is full of gritty, violent and fascinating characters in a well thought out world, with a story that is often surprising, then this is the book for you. Abercrombie is an exciting new voice in the genre and his blunt force trauma fantasy novels certainly leave an impression (and a mark) on you after reading them.
132 of 138 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent debut novel.,
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This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)At first glance The Blade Itself is pretty old-school: it's book one of a trilogy (entitled The First Law; the second volume, Before They Are Hanged, is out now, to be followed by The Last Argument of Kings in March 2008), it features an old wizard mentor character and a barbarian hero as well as an untried youth, a feisty young woman and an army of nasty barbarians on the march in the north, whilst a resurgent desert empire threatens our heroes' homeland - the Midderland Union - from the south. There's also the threat of a non-human species gathering its forces beyond the northern-most reach of humankind's lands (isn't there always?).
Yet Abercrombie invests these storylines with vigour and energy. None of our heroes are quite what they first appear to be and the author expertly deconstructs them throughout the book, revealing their true motivations when you last expect it. Abercrombie is also a dab hand are writing excellent battle scenes and swordfights. There is also a hint of otherwordly alieness in this book, such as the scenes set in the House of the Maker which are quite memorable. The only major complaint I had about the book is the lack of a map. Most fantasy novels with a map don't really need them, but with military campaigns getting underway it would be nice to tell exactly where Adua is in relation to the Northlands, and where both are in relation to Dagoska, for example. But this is a minor complaint at best.
By the end of the book the pace has been ramped up to a compelling level, as our heroes depart in different directions to face their various destinies and full-scale war seems about to erupt on all sides. The Blade Itself is a tremendously enjoyable novel and I count myself fortunate to have read it late enough in the day to only have a brief wait for the second book.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Characters,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)Usually when a book has many good reviews and I agree with them, I don't bother adding my voice to the throng. However, in this case I'll make an exception because I enjoyed this trilogy enormously. Not what I'd call hardcore fantasy, but a great story set in a fantasy environment. Many others here have sung the praises of these books in detail. What really sets them apart from most fiction I've read - the characters. Outstanding. Superb. The most interesting, funny, realistic, complex characters I've read in a long time. I think I read someone compared the author's writing to Dickens. I thought - come on - are you insane? After reading this, I think they must've been talking about the characters. Truly Mr. Abercrombie is in the same parish as Dickens when it comes to characters. Sand den Glokta is the most interesting character I've ever read outside Dickens. Jezel, Ardee, "Ninefingers" the Dogman... all great. After reading this along with "Before They are Hanged" and "Last Argument of Kings", I'm looking forward to his next book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing fantasy novel!,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)I decided to give this book a go having read some favourable reviews on a fantasy literature website, and having got somewhat bored of the traditional fantasy genre.
I really enjoyed this book, the characters were well written with strong personalities, and the plot was full of mystery and intrigue. My favourite character would have to be Inquisitioner Glokta, his cynicism and sarcasm made me laugh out loud at times. Each of the characters seems to have an interesting history, and how they all mesh together makes for a gripping read.
This is an excellent debut novel, and sets the scene well for the second book in the series, which I'm really looking forward to reading. I'm expecting great things of it!
I'd recommend this book for anyone who's feeling a bit jaded about the typical fantasy template that most authors these days seem to churn out. There's still plenty of swords and sorcery here, but written in a modern and refreshing way!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book with a Difference,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)This is the first in a trilogy of books. I found that the author wrote a book with some very interesting characters, none of whom are your average everday heroes. Though I found that this book really just sets up the characters for what is to come, as nothing of note really happened in it.
I have two comments to make. The one is that I read another review and it mentioned that there is no map in the books. All these sorts of books have maps so you can put into context what country is where. The other thing is the use of bad language - excessive bad language throughout. If this was a CD it would have a warning of explicit lyrics on the cover. I don't like the use of bad language and in this genre it is quite uncommon (it is in the books I've read). I did think at times that the author used the 'f' word like it was going out of fashion. But that's my opinion, others might not be put off by the use of excessive swear words, practically on every page, but I must admit it did spoil it for me.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read while waiting for Song of Ice and Fire ...,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)I've been waiting for some decent charactter-led fantasy to read while George RR Martin got off his backside and came out with the next installment of Song of Ice and Fire and I must say that this hits all the right buttons with me. It's not anywhere near as tangled a web as Ice and Fire, but it has some lovely machiavellian protaganists - and with all good writers, Mr Abercrombie has got me caring about all of them.
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must-read!,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One: Book One of The First Law (GOLLANCZ S.F.) (Paperback)I admit it - I bought this book purely because I liked the cover. It's a bad habit I have, and it doesn't often pay off, but this time it really, truely did. I was stunned to discover I'd just bought one of the finest fantasy novels I've read to date. Abercrombie's prose is deceptively simplistic, but under the surface is an elegance of style that makes it not only easy to read, but pure fun as well.
The Blade Itself boasts the most interesting cast of characters I have come across in a long time. Despite fitting into familiar stereotypes, Logen Ninefingers, Bayaz, and Luthar are still fascinating and fun, but it's inquisitor Sand dan Glokta who really steals the show with his dry cynicism and refreshing honesty. Some of his chapters are startlingly grusome, but I challenge anyone to put the book down in the middle of a hair-raising torture scene. The secondary characters - including Major West and his sister, and Logen's band of barbarians - all have their own stories and voices that make for an addictive tale of swords, sourcery and cynicism.
I'm giving The Blade Itself four stars because, despite its brilliance, it only tells a fraction of the story, and it is impossible to judge the entire saga from the first installment. I look forward to finishing Before They Are Hanged, but I've no idea how I'll wait another year to find out what happens next!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing characters,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)AHH I loved this book so much! I ended up absolutely falling for the characters...Logen is my favourite. I'm sick of reading fantasy novels about glory and honour and you certainly don't get any of that in this book. It's dark and gritty and some violent parts made me gasp (audibly...on the train..which I loved). It has changed my perspective on fantasy novels and now, when I'm picking a new book, I find myself rejecting any that do not seem character-centric. One of my favourite books. READ IT!! Even if it starts slowly, keep going. You won't regret it.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sets the Stage...,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)The Blade Itself is a decent book but by no means brilliant. I bought it here after reading the reviews and have to say I was disappointed.
The book sets the stage for a grand tale but never really gets into it (although the second does and is a better read for it) and left me wondering whether to bother continuing. Some of the reasoning behind character actions is flimsy enough to be annoying. Which moves into the main gripe, the characters themselves, I don't care for them.
I don't have to like a character (or hate them for that matter) to enjoy a book but I do need to care whether they live or die. In this book, honestly, I don't. Of the main characters only Logen even registers any degree of interest from me and I'm sorry to say the rest are fairly stereotypical. Arrogant, powerful wizard with a dark secret? Check! Arrogant, selfish noble who despises commoners? Check! Angry, vengeance-seeking half breed? Check! Ineffectual, decadent Monarchy/Government? Check! Evil Emperor? Oh you get the idea...
Which makes it sound like I don't like the book but thats not true, it's just not that great. The second book is better if you stick with it however.
Say one thing for this book, say it's a beginning.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it worth the read...?,
This review is from: The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) (Paperback)OK, after reading books such as the Magicians guild, and the Age of 5 i found it hard to find a book that even looked like it could live up to these two great trilogy's. I actually thought these books had ruined all fantasy for me, as everything i looked at seemed mundane compared to them.
After reading the great reviews for this book i thought i would give it a go, here's what i thought:
The first few pages were slow and i thought i had made a mistake in buying the book, but for £6 i soldiered on, and i am very glad i did so.
Once the story started progressing i felt myself being drawn in, you can actually see the characters develop as well as the authors writing ability thoughout the book, i was enthralled by the end of it.
Do you ever have those moments where you check how much of a book is left and want to find out the ending as quick as possible but make the book last as long as possible? well, this happened to me with 'the blade itself' Truly good book with great characters, a hint of the mystical and mystery and i felt myself wanting more, so much so that once i realised i was almost at the end of the book i put it down (for the first time since i started reading) and ordered the next one to be delivered as soon as possible.
Sorry for rambling on, but in short the first book is well worth the read and is up there in the league of Trudi Canarvan with her trilogy's. Lets hope he can keep it up for the next two books.
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The Blade Itself: Book One Of The First Law (Gollancz S.F.) by Joe Abercrombie (Paperback - 8 Mar 2007)