Title: The Blade Itself
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Goodreads Rating: 4.16
“Once you’ve got a task to do, it’s better to do it than live with the fear of it.”
In The Blade Itself, we are introduced to Logan Ninefingers, Sand dan Glokta, and Jezal dan Luthar – three very different, complex characters starting off with their own separate situations and challenges. Their trials and tribulations lead to a shared storyline that is bloody and intense. From the opening chapter to the very end of the book, Abercrombie sucks you in with this fast-paced, morally gray, cringe-worthy adventure.
Character complexity and variety
With Abercrombie, no character is a “good guy”. Right when you think you meet a morally good character, the author rips it away rather abruptly in a stunning realization. The characters all live in this morally gray world and there’s no right side to be on because no one seems to have it all figured out. That makes them relatable… to some extent. Each character will provide cringe-worthy moments to show just how far they’re willing to go to get the job done.
With that in mind, The Blade Itself has introduced me to one of my favorite characters… Bayaz, the First of the Magi! His ruthlessness, sarcasm, and willingness to bend the rules was extremely entertaining.
Fast-paced, gripping story telling
After recently reading a few books with slow starts, it was amazing to be engrossed in The Blade Itself almost immediately. Abercrombie kept the story moving along with very little “fluff”. He didn’t overly explain anything and gave you just enough to understand what was going on.
Magic system complexity
In The Blade Itself, the magi magic system is handled very well. In a lot of books where there is one magic group, it can often feel overpowered where those with magical abilities crush those without. This happens in The Gentleman Bastard series. However, in The Blade Itself, the complexity, laws and responsibility around using the magi powers makes it more controlled and limited.
There’s. No. Map.
For an author who has said how much he loves the map for A Song of Ice and Fire, Abercrombie does not provide a map for The First Law trilogy. Now if the characters were all staying in the same city or area the entire time, I could make do without a map. But Abercrombie has his characters going on an adventure to, quite literally, the edge of the world! Along with that, he regularly mentions where the characters are located and it drove me absolutely nuts that I couldn’t look at the map to see how far away they were from one another.
Lots of enemies and battlefronts
The book provides you with plenty of enemies to consider. We’ve got northern barbarians, orc-like creatures, cannibals, and a southern empire. Then there is a mysterious enemy mentioned by the magi. It is quite a bit to keep up with and can feel overwhelming by the end of the book.
At first, I was hesitant to pick up The First Law trilogy because it was described to me as grimdark fantasy. Readers warned me that it was gruesome and sickening at times. But after finishing the book, I was surprised by how little the grimdark aspects bothered me. If you can handle a fair bit of torture, bloody battles, and death, you may love The Blade Itself. Just make sure you’ve got a strong stomach for particular chapters.