Joe Abercrombie – The Blade Itself
109. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (2006)
The First Law, Book 1
Length: 531 pages
Started: 23 August 2009
Finished: 05 September 2009
Where did it come from? Barnes & Noble, with a holiday giftcard.
Why do I have it? I’d heard a lot about this great new fantasy author, and I’m always looking for good new epic fantasy.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 19 January 2009
Verdict? Eh. I’ll probably be passing along this one, along with its sequels, to someone who might have better luck with them.
that’s filled with blood, mud, and dirt
but not so much plot.
Summary: Logen Ninefingers is a war-battered barbarian whose only real goal is to stay alive. Jezal dan Luther, however, is a young nobleman and officer in the army, whose days consist of drinking, gambling, and training for the all-important fencing contest. Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta was once like Jezal, but war and torture have left him crippled, broken, and bitter, and his occupation as torturer for the Union’s Inquisition leaves little room for the niceties of court life. These three men may seem very different, but their lives are about to be thrown together. For their kingdom is on the brink of war, a war which has attracted the attention of Bayaz, a cheerfully brash but powerful old man who may or may not be the First of the Magi.
Review: I’d heard from a number of sources, both on the internet and in real life, that this series was great, a fantastic new voice in high fantasy in the same vein as Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss, and that I was absolutely going to love it. I was so sure I was going to love it that I actually bought all three books in the series right off the bat. And, unfortunately, and disappointingly…. not so much.
The story is certainly ambitious in its scope, with multiple well-drawn POV narrators, and the world that Abercrombie creates certainly does have potential. My problem was that, for the life of me, I just could not get into the story. As good as the characterization might have been, I never really cared about the characters, and so never got particularly invested in what happened to them. I’d pick this book up, meaning to read for half an hour before bed, and get three paragraphs in and decide I’d rather be sleeping. The story never really grabbed me until about a hundred pages from the end, and I’m sorry, but 440 pages in is not where you want your best hook.
A large part of the reason why this book was such a struggle for me was almost certainly the writing style. Abercrombie spends a lot of time focusing on elements that didn’t seem that important to the overall plot, while skimming past descriptions and information that would have been useful to have. (Like, for instance, for a book about wars and territories and politics, it really needed but was sorely lacking a map.) Combine that with a seeming inability to properly use commas (seriously, what happened to his editor? I’m not talking about stylistic usage, either, but necessary grammatical commas.), and you’ve got a writing style that is clearly aiming for “gritty” but ends up landing on “unpolished”.
The Blade Itself is the first part of The First Law trilogy, which was originally supposed to be published as one novel (but at 1500+ pages, it’s clear to see why it was divided). The result is that this book reads like an extended introduction to the characters and to the world, which may have accounted for how slow I found it in parts. And, while the pace may pick up and the storylines may get more interesting in later books, this one didn’t pique my interest enough to make me want to go find out. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: There are plenty of people out there who really love this series, and if you like darker high fantasy that isn’t all glowy elves and sparkly magic, you might be one of them. However, it just wasn’t to my taste, despite how badly I wanted to like it.
Other Reviews: Adventures in Reading, BookCynic, A Dribble of Ink, Fantasy Book Critic, Grasping for the Wind, Medieval Bookworm, Neth Space, OF Blog of the Fallen, Rat’s Reading, The Wertzone
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Logen plunged through the trees, bare feet slipping and sliding on the wet earth, the slush, the wet pine needles, breath rasping in his chest, blood thumping in his head.
Cover Thoughts: Tattered, dirty, and blood-spattered does pretty effectively capture the tone of the book, so I’ll give it that.