The Blade Itself (World of the First Law, #1) (First Law Trilogy, #1)

by Joe Abercrombie

4.1 of 5 stars 15 ratings • 9 reviews • 37 shelved
Book cover for The Blade Itself

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The Blade Itself (World of the First Law, #1) (First Law Trilogy, #1)

by Joe Abercrombie

4.1 of 5 stars 15 ratings • 9 reviews • 37 shelved

Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body—not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.

Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men.

And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up in a hole in the snow with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all—ideally by running away from it. But as he's discovering, old habits die really, really hard indeed...

...especially when Bayaz gets involved. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glotka, Jezal and Logen a whole lot more difficult...

  • ISBN10 0575091088
  • ISBN13 9780575091085
  • Publish Date 1 October 2009 (first published 4 May 2006)
  • Publish Status Out of Print
  • Out of Print 18 November 2014
  • Publish Country GB
  • Imprint Gollancz
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 624
  • Language English

Reviews

Avatar for ashley

Stopped reading at 13%.

I might give this another shot at some point, but for now, it actually felt kind of… childish? In one chapter, a character described everyone's personalities like this:

“He sat back in his chair and hunched his brawny shoulders with a frown that said, ‘I am big and manly, and have a quick temper, so I should be treated with respect by everyone.’”

[Brint] licked his lips with an expression at once careful and slightly desperate, an expression which seemed to say, ‘I am not young or poor. I can afford to lose this money. I am every bit as important as the rest of you.’"

There were like four or five character descriptions like that. It seemed so… juvenile. It was just a whole bunch of telling me who every character was, what motivated them, etc.

I know I didn't give it much of a chance, so I might give it another shot. Or I might just jump straight to A Little Hatred. I know The Blade Itself was Abercrombie's first book, so it might not necessarily be his strongest. And if I'm honest, A Little Hatred is the one that really interested me; I just picked up this one for the back story.

Avatar for bumblingbookworm

DNFed at 84 pages. I can’t work out if I’m not in the mood for this, or if grimdark fantasy isn’t really my thing. Do I like some grimdark (eg Nevernight) but not others? I think it depends on how the violence is presented, and this is too graphic for me right now. 2020 is the year of not forcing myself to read books I’m not enjoying, so maybe another time.

Avatar for charlton

charlton 5 of 5 stars
Joe Abercrombie creates his characters so rich and full.His fight scenes are dark and gritty.This first book is a lot of posturing,getting the right people to the right places.It was really an enjoyable read for me and I'm to start the second book tonight.

Avatar for viking2917

viking2917 3 of 5 stars
Great, memorable characters. Wonderful black humor. So-so plot and world development. Good fun for a plane ride.

Avatar for sa090

sa090 2 of 5 stars
I started this with Every Heart A Doorway to get a little bit change of pace but it took way longer to read compared to the before mentioned, not because it was too long per say, I read Eon by Allison Goodman and read Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire in less time but because this was insanely difficult to get into.

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I don't know who actually green lit the publication of this book but tbh I think they need to wait a little bit and think before making hasty decisions. Not because it was a bad idea, don't get me wrong but because this book could've been a third of its length or less and still would've served the same purpose. I mean I have nothing against world building, sometimes the lack of it ruins everything but not like this. Joe Abercrombie doesn't even get to the point of the book until 90% of it is over, by that point I do admit that I know a lot about the characters involved so far and about the state of things in the series from politics, terms and the like if you will but does that make it worth it to sit through 500 pages of a setup book? I don't think so.

The only reason I stuck with it till the end is because I actually wanted to know where he's going with this because honestly by the first few pages it seemed like he's going nowhere and that was confirmed as I made my way through the chapters. Adding insult to injury would be that the characters aren't that interesting to read about, Logen is a barbarian with a tragic past and Jezal is a brat as expected of someone with his background, the only one worth reading about from the trio was Glokta and that's only because his monologues were amusing. Add in Ferro in the second part of the book and we have one more person who's interesting as well and that's just because she has a different perspective to things given her gender and what that brought upon her. Other than this I'm stuck reading about characters I don't give a damn about and things that make 80-90% of the book seem pointless.

Again I'm not against world building and familiarizing the reader with a totally made up new world but I want a PURPOSE to this. Having to read hundreds of pages before that's revealed isn't a good idea, not in the slightest. I'll bring in a comparison to The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson because I felt like he (Sanderson) stretched it out a bit longer than it should be with all the planning in the book; the first of the differences between my experiences lies in the fact that Mistborn was a ton more fun to read about than The Blade Itself could ever hope to be. Brandon Sanderson describes things a lot, he adds backstories, history and bits of world building when appropriate but ALL of that happened AFTER he told me why all of these people are gathering and what the hell he aims to do with them which never happened in Joe Abercrombie's book until the very end. Which again makes the majority of the pages in the book seem largely pointless to me, is building this world that important that it couldn't have waited till I actually cared about the plot? It better be.

I'm not asking for much, just have Beyaz mumble to himself in the beginning and hint at what needs to be done in two pages. I don't need 1000+ pages that details every rock they'll kick off the road, tree they'll encounter, people they'll be meeting, food they'll eat or which road they'll take for this quest. Just something that makes the hundreds of pages I'll read in the book about characters I don't care about have some form of meaning to make the journey with them worthwhile but that of course doesn't happen and while at first I didn't think it'll be difficult, by 30 pages I felt like I'm wasting my time. 300 pages later and nothing changed, still no idea why everything is happening, I'm getting world building bits and history concerning the Magi/other characters/terms/politics I'll give it that but nothing that even begins to resembles a collective plot or better yet an aim to all this.

It's not a bad book. Joe Abercrombie has an interesting style of writing each character as you'd expect from their upbringing/experiences, even their way of speech but the planning of these things just don't work out for me (40 chapter out of 45 before a plot starts forming isn't something I appreciate) and the reason for my immense disappointment with this book. After forcing myself to finish it, yes "forcing", it doesn't feel like my time was well spent albeit the book having some pluses to it which basically were his couple of interesting characters, Logen's secret and of course the immense amount of world building, might not have been that necessary for a first book, but it does earn some praise from me.

Will I ever read the sequels? Maybe not but who knows. The standalone books? Maybe, if the other two in the trilogy aren't needed for them.

Final rating: 2/5

Avatar for tellemonstar

tellemonstar 4 of 5 stars
An interesting adventure novel with a diverse cast of characters who pull you in as unlikely (and unwitting/unwilling) protagonists.

Avatar for rinn

Rinn 5 of 5 stars
Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

I have to say, after finally reading the first book in the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie, I now understand why he is ‘Lord Grimdark’. The Blade Itself felt like a whirlwind of a book, despite probably being the slower of the three as it builds things up. Of course I was expecting the book to be grisly, but it was definitely grimmer and darker than I thought it would be – and that’s no bad thing. There are several points of view within the story, and each felt unique.

I really loved the range of characters that Abercrombie has created to populate his world. Inquisitor Glokta is the crippled, vicious product of two years of torture, both despairing of what his life has turned into and using his disfigurement to his advantage. Occasionally, just very occasionally, I got small glimpses of what he was like before, or how he could have been, had he not been tortured, and I actually felt sorry for him. Jezal may have been, at first glance, the handsome young hero of the story, but actually as it progressed it was clear that he was an arrogant and spoiled young man, clinging to his heritage and wealth and using them as a stepping stone to make his way up, rather than pure talent.

And then there were others – Logen as this battle-scarred, grizzly warrior, whose misunderstanding of foreign cultures occasionally made him feel like a small child trapped in a hulking great body. It was really interesting to see him after reading one of Abercrombie’s other books, which is technically set after the events of The First Law series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he changes from one man to the other. Of course, I can’t forget Bayaz and Brother Longfoot who, for me, especially in Brother Longfoot’s case, provided the comic relief. It’s definitely going to be an interesting journey…

There is a medieval feel to the book, as you often find with fantasy – that sort of society, but with added magic which is always a bonus. One thing that would have been nice would be more female characters. There were only two, and the first didn’t appear until around halfway through the book, the second about three-quarters. More time for them over the next two books, please?

The Blade Itself is definitely not the book you want to read when you have to be up early the next day. It’s a page turner and a half, and will keep you reading well into the night if you’re not careful. Definitely HIGHLY recommended for all fantasy fans, especially if you’re looking for something a bit (or rather a lot) darker.

Avatar for layawaydragon

TL;DR:

Love the characters; very complex, intriguing and there's already character progression. I hate when characters, especially main characters, stay the same or take 6 books to learn a simple lesson. It's a nice change. No Knight in Shining Armor here. Everyone had many layers and are grey, instead of black/white. Flawed with few redeeming qualities with their own humor. The action scenes are indeed well written like everyone's said. They are not flat and contain things often seen in real fights but are not often included in fantasy books. The book contains "dark" subjects but I don't see it as a dark book. It feels more realistic and authentic to me. It's tone is often light or flippant, with much gallows humor and bitter sarcasm. It's a character driven story. This first book is a build up to the next book. I think plenty of things happen is this book, but then again I'm all about the characters in books anyways.

People have complained about the lack of world building in this book. I disagree with this assessment. We know what the characters know and with the addition of the Navigator we'll find more in the next books. It's not necessary in this book to need detailed maps and long repeating descriptions of the landscape to understand this world. There's no reason for us to know more about the world yet. There's plenty of information here. It's character driven, we only know what the characters know and that's part of the story. The reason I want to continue reading is because I want to find out more about this place and its people. I love that the author didn't do the very detailed out of place convenient flash backs to tell the story, build the world or inform about the characters.

It was disconcerting and disorientating when the passages on a character switch places and times without notice. The passage goes on fine about Jezel's match at the Contest and then the next paragraph he's talking with someone drunk at the celebration. With no notice or indication until several paragraphs later where you can make heads or tails where/when the character is. I see the image the words create in my mind and everything this switch happens, it stops the story. "Wait, What?" Then after another few paragraphs usually it tells me where/when the characters are and the story gets on tract.

Other authors switch up characters point of view and skip ahead in time with their characters yet I've never been this off kilter by those switches. I'm not sure what it is about the authors style but it takes some getting used to. It took me awhile to get into this book and become hooked. In the beginning it was easily put down, at the end not so much. It helped that the story started to come together and the ties between the character became more apparent. Some still remain to be revealed, which is all part of the fun.



The characters are fully fledged people. They don't seem static, there is already progression and more understanding. Their backgrounds aren't well known but what we do know makes sense as reason for how they act and motivations. I have no doubt that in the continuing books the characters will continue to grow, change, stay the same and more layers of grey added as we learn more about their history.They have faults and flaws with a few redeeming qualities, their own senses of humor and quirks. It really feels like the author got into the head of the characters. It reads like this is actually how people think instead of in other books where character's thoughts are lofty, complete and never random. Even the good guys have flaws in this book, beyond the "too good, their goodness is their only weakness" too often found in fantasy. The Good guys have issues and aren't a flat trope, as seen by West with the reveal of the relationship with his sister Ardee. The Bad guys aren't fully bad or just evil to be evil as seen with Glotka.


There are obviously a few people that just seem to be bad to be bad, like Arch Lector and Goyle. But is that just because we haven't had their point of view or any background information on them? Or maybe there are some secondary characters not given the attention the main characters have received. There are also other secondary characters that are given the full people treatment such as Ardee and Bethod, of course that might just be because it was relevant to the story. I do know we will continue to see the main characters grow, change, constrict and become more grey. The are other secondary characters I have a feeling we'll be getting to know much better like Practical Vitari.


The author does indeed do a great job of the fight scenes in the book just like everyone has said. The fights feel right. They contain the luck, fear, and mistakes in actual fights. The characters POV of the fight is very well done as well, with all the tunnel vision, pain, guessing, emptiness and randomness that goes on in one's mind.

So we have realistically grey characters in a violent setting with graphic detailed fights, pretty dark right? I actually don't think so. The content might often be dark but the tone isn't and characters do shine from time to time. Like Logan treatment of Quai when they meet, Luthar beginning to understand he's an asshole, and Glokta's interaction with West at the end. It's not written darkly, meaning the author keeps the tone light. Like with Glotka's sarcasm , Luthar's fumbling, Logan's description of civility and running into someone holding papers while running for his life. It's not so graphic to focus on the details of battle down to the last blood drop and doesn't relish in the gore. The characters all have their own sense of humor and their descriptions, and action are often comical as well. Like the switching between Luthor's actual performance and then when Bayaz was working his magic on him was very funny in its description. It runs more gallows humor and bitter sarcasm but within this world, it lightens the tone up quite a bit.

There's another review that brought up Terry Goodkind and I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought of it. This book definitely seems like an anti-goodkind book. I loved Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series but honestly the lecturing and political view of the author got in the way in the end. Droning on and on about libertarianism views and ideals really drew away from the story. This book, as dark and gritty as people say, pays attention to classim, sexism and tribalism. It's not lecturing or being direct about it. However, the author draws attention to it naturally as character deal with these things and says "well doesn't this shit suck!" It shows real suffering and inequality. I don't know what the author's political views or anything. But I'd expect people to feel sympathetic and not be okay with those things. It shouldn't be comfortable, life is full of terribly unfair shit (mostly human made admittedly) and why wouldn't someone want to change it to make the world better? There are some pretty awesome quotes on the subjects.

Classim:

Bayaz explaining Adua and the Union to Logan when they first arrive and Logan wants to help a poor beggar woman with an infant pg. 247

"Haven't you noticed? They're everywhere! The King needs money, so he squeezes the nobles. The nobles squeeze their tenants, the tenants squeeze the peasants. Some of them, the old, the weak, the extra sons and daughters, they get squeezed right out the bottom. Too many mouths to feed. The lucky ones make thieves or whores, the rest end up begging."


Pointing out Tribalism by Ferro, former Gurkish slave pg 271
"The Gurkish could take all the pinks in the world for slaves as far as she was concerned. If that meant they left the real people alone."


Privilege:

Ardee to Luthar when he's whining about having to work at fencing training pg 178
"Dead? Lucky her, at least she doesn't have to listen to your damn whining! You spoiled little rich boys are all the same. You get everything you could possibly want, then throw a tantrum because you have to pick it up yourself! You're pathetic! You make me fucking sick!"



Pointing out the sexist double standard for women in society, Glokta, the tortured disabled torturer, talking to Ardee pg. 495

"As far as I'm concerned you can fuck whomever you please, though my general observation has been that, as far as the reputations of young women are concerned, the less fucking the better. The reverse is true for young men of course. Hardly fair, but then life is unfair in so many ways, this one hardly seems worth commenting on."




For the majority of the book there was one woman that was brought out as a real character. All other women were background noise simply to illustrate their societal norms. Which is rather fitting if you think about it since that's all women are thought of in this world. Notice any parallels to our society? People have complained about this lack of strong female leads and how both women are abused. Is it really that surprising that most (if not all women) are abused? Is it really hard to believe that a lot of women's personality, lives and struggles are dominated by the fact society oppresses them? I think Ardee and Ferro had plenty of personality. I like how they break societal norms and I'm sure we will learn more of them in other books. There was a glimpse of Terez of Talins personality at the celebration feast of Jezel Luthar and of the Practical Vitari. I don't think Terez of Talins is or has been abused and I have a feeling we'll get more of what's its like to be forced to fit the gender role on the highest rung of society through her.

The only real hole I could find in the story is after Bayaz takes them into the House of the Maker, why isn't any of the witness to this event questioned? I know there were look outs but wouldn't the Arch Lector want to know the details from the inside? None of the questioning is brought up though at all. Like everyone conveniently let it go and moves on. Then the Arch Lector is pissed about their plan to discredit Bayaz failed since if he was authentic he'd have the key to the House of the Maker, proved he had it and got in, yet they still don't believe that Bayaz is who he says he is. This makes no sense to me. Why is nobody talking about finally opening up of the House of the Maker after it being closed for thousands of years? Bayaz keeps saying he can't do magic like he used to so I don't buy that Bayaz put a spell on every single person that was told there was going to be the opening of the House of the Maker the next day. If it's a spell from the House of the Maker itself, how did it reach and effect all those people? So there's no plausible explanation for why the questioning of the witness that went inside of the House of the Maker didn't happen, WTF? If the questioning had gone on it would have changed the story. Big hole right there and it annoyed the hell out of me for the remainder of the book.

But the other books will determine the trilogies fate. The first book is the lead in and I'm impressed so far. Often people complain about the first book dragging on and nothing happening (the Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb comes to mind) but I don't understand that critique. What's the point of jumping into the middle of the action when you don't give a damn about the people or places? I think this book jumps into the action as the latest point it could have started. Start the book any later on or move it any quicker and the reader has no sense of background, no history with characters to understand things. I care and am intrigued by the characters and story so I'm going to happily continue to the next book.