The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The First Law (Book #1 of 3), First Law World (Book, #1 of 10)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy
Published: 4th May 2006 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)
Before anyone gasped in surprise that I’ve not read this excellent grimdark entry by Joe Abercrombie, allow me to provide a little backstory.
I have attempted to read The Blade Itself 6 years ago. However, I was then suffering from a massive, and I truly mean massive, hangover after finishing Words of Radiance; my head and heart were too reluctant to leave the characters and their stories. Frankly, I don’t think any fantasy read would have helped, and so I set aside this book barely a quarter in. By now, I’ve learnt that the only way to get over from a book hangover is to read a completely different genre.
It had been my intention to start the The First Law series again, but it was always pushed aside for either new releases, or other books I’ve always wanted to read. I’ve even read Abercrombie’s young adult Shattered Seas trilogy; two of them at least. With the release of A Little Hatred last year and the persistent (and well-deserved) praises for Abercrombie’s writing from my co-bloggers, I decided that the time has come for me to give The Blade Itself another go.
My gosh, I felt like I was reading a completely different book to when I attempted this years ago. I couldn’t really get into it the first time around mainly because my head was stuck in another book. Secondly, The Blade Itself is so tightly focused on character development that there wasn’t much of a plot to begin with. Understandably, this made it even more difficult for me to move on back then. This time though, I connected with and enjoyed reading about these characters very quickly. Perhaps I’ve already made an acquiantance with them before, but that was 6 years ago so it’s largely to Abercrombie’s credit that they were so memorable. Logen Ninefingers, Inquisitor Glokta, Jezal dan Luthar and even Bayaz, First of the Magi, who didn’t have his own POV. Such vastly different and flawed individuals and yet all compellingly written.
Characterisation aside, it was the writing that really made this book so delightfully entertaining, despite the absence of a solid plot at this point. Clever, dark and wry humour abound in the characters’ internal monologues and dialogues. Even the humour present in each character’s point-of-view was distinct to their personality; giving each a voice that was well-defined and unmistakably their own.
The Blade Itself felt like a huge prologue to The First Law series but it’s an undeniably excellent one. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading it tremendously from front to back and couldn’t wait to start on the next one.