Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself audiobook cover artThe Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy) by [Abercrombie, Joe]
Genre: Fantasy/Grimdark
Publisher: Gollancz (2006); Orbit (2015)
Paperback: 517 pages
Audiobook: 22 hours and 15 minutes


4/5 Stars

The Blade Itself is pure entertainment from cover to cover. Don’t let all the grimdark talk fool you: this book has as many laughs as it does gut wounds.

Big thanks to Hachette Audio for my audiobook copy of The Blade Itself in exchange for an honest review.

The Blade Itself is Joe Abercrombie’s debut novel, first published back in 2006. It’s the first book of The First Law trilogy.

The Blade Itself follows the trials and trevails of three viewpoint characters:

“Blood gets you nothing but more blood. It follows me now, always, like my shadow, and like my shadow I can never be free of it. I should never be free of it. I’ve earned it. I’ve deserved it. I’ve sought it out. Such is my punishment.”

Logen Ninefingers is a barbarian from the frozen north. Logen has seen some shit in his time. Former leader of a band of barbarians, Logen wants nothing more to escape the war that’s brewing in the North. As much as Logen tries to hide from his violent past, it always seems to catch up with him at the most inopportune times.

“Every man has his excuses, and the more vile the man becomes, the more touching the story has to be. What is my story now, I wonder?”

San dan Glokta is a cripple. Mutilated and disfigured by years of torture in the Emperor’s dungeons, the once-dashing duelist has been reduced to a shuffling shadow of his former self. As an Inquisitor, Glokta roots out crime and corruption in the Union by torturing the accused for information. As the threads of conspiracy begin to unravel, Glokta suddenly finds himself uncertain of his place in the web of intrigue. Will Glokta be standing over the Inquisitor’s chair, or sitting in it?

He wiped his face, and then—his favourite part of the day—gazed at himself in the looking glass.

Jezal dan Luthar is obsessed with himself. The duelist-in-training would rather listen to admirers laud his talents and looks than do anything else. Jezal enters the biggest dueling competition of the year in the hopes that he’ll gain notoriety and fame. He’s got a long way to go before he can hold his own in the dueling ring. To make matters worse, Jezal is immensely distracted by Ardee West, the sister of his friend Collem. Ardee is seemingly the only person that isn’timpressed with Jezal. Can Jezal learn to fence, impress Ardee, and gain the admiration that his ego so desperately desires?

My Take
I don’t get all the bloody/grimdark talk surrounding this book. Yes, there are grim elements, but I found it just as hopeful and fun. The characters are immensely likable, despite their faults. Glokta in particular is the most entertaining character to read. Body found floating by the docks…

Abercrombie makes wonderful use of third person limited viewpoint, letting plenty of character voice through the narrative. Seriously, the closest comparison I can draw is Stephen King. The Blade Itself is witty and fun and scary, all at once.

The only drawback to The Blade Itself is that it feels a bit like setup for the next two novels. That’s not to say NOTHING happens in this book – a lot of stuff goes down. There are plenty of hints at things to come, which I think gives us enough to look forward to in the next books.

I have a thing for character-focused low fantasy, I reckon. I loved The Blade Itself and if your reading habits are similar, you probably will too.

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-Review by Griffin

6 Comments Add yours

  1. booksofb says:

    Great review and thank you. I read this many years ago along with many of Abercrombie’s other books. He’s always entertaining. Also agree that this isn’t as dark as commonly advertised but – if memory serves – the story takes a darker turn – particularly with Logen – in later installments. Cheers, Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fanfiaddict says:

      (Griffin) After finishing the book, I can definitely see how Logen might drift that direction. That final scene of his… just wow. I’m glad you liked my review!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hobbleit says:

    Great review. I loved the First Law trilogy. My dentist recommended it to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! The Blade Itself seems like a book that would make a dentist cringe. Glokta’s teeth!


  3. Tammy says:

    Your comparison to SK definitely makes me want to give this a try. I think I even have a copy somewhere!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I bought this book about 2 years ago, read the first chapter and moved on to something else. I’m super glad I came back to it!


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