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

Rating: 9/10

Synopsis

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. 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 Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

Review

“History is littered with dead good men.”

Thank you so much to Hachette Audio for my listening copy of The Blade Itself in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this listening copy did not affect my review.

I actually switched between the audiobook and physical book for this one and ended up more times than not wanting to listen to it because the narrator was just that dang good. Steven Pacey did an amazing job of capturing each character and I highly recommend the audiobook.

I had read Abercrombie’s other trilogy, the Shattered Seas, a while back and really enjoyed it. I had always planned on reading this series because I enjoyed Shattered Seas so much, but for some reason I am just getting to it. I am so glad I finally did.

The Blade Itself is not a fast paced novel. On the contrary, it is at times very slow paced. However, the things that do happen are meticulously planned out and integral to the story and the slower pace leaves a lot of room for some amazing character development work. Also, when there is action it was incredibly well done. The characters felt like they were in real danger of not making it out alive and the descriptions of each fight were vivid and engrossing.

Speaking of characters, I am officially in the Glokta fan club. I have been told many times that Glokta is the single best thing about the First Law Trilogy and now I see why. Glokta is an incredibly compelling character. We get a lot of his back story pretty quickly and are able to see and understand why he is the way he is. One of my favorite parts of the book was Glokta’s internal monologue. The contrast between what he thinks and what he ends up doing is part of what makes him such an enjoyable character to follow.

“So you can see how, despite my constant efforts to be a man of sunny temper, I find that I despise the world, and everything in it, and myself most of all. A regrettable state of affairs, for which there is no remedy.”

Logen Ninefingers (aka The Bloody-Nine) is also a character that I really enjoyed following. He is a warrior scarred by his past and trying to move forward in life, caught up in things that he doesn’t understand. Logen lives by a code of his own making and does his best to be a good man. Maybe this is just a trope that I really like personally, but I loved Logen’s internal monologues as well. I love when characters are not sure of themselves all the time. When they struggle through things from their past, indecision in the present, or whatever else it is. It makes the character much more relatable and helps them feel more “real.”

“There are few men with more blood on their hands than me. None, that I know of. The Bloody-Nine they call me, my enemies, and there’s a lot of ’em. Always more enemies, and fewer friends. 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.”

Jezal, Jezal, Jezal. Here’s the thing, I did not like Jezal at all in this book. He is arrogant, pompous, selfish, and narrow minded. The cool thing about that is, I don’t think you are supposed to like him in this book. Along with Glokta and Logen he is also a really compelling character because he is so dang full of himself and it makes sense. Abercrombie went with no half measures when writing Jezal and I loved that. However, there were glimpses of Jezal possibly trying to be a better guy and I hope that in the next two books that I can like him more than I did in this one.

After part 1 of this book we are introduced to Ferro’s POV. Ferro is a former slave that hates the Gurkish Empire and is solely focused on revenge. We haven’t gotten too much information about her yet, but I am excited to learn more of her past and see what part she has to play in the series.

I love the world that Abercrombie has built. Each country that is talked about has it’s own distinct culture, traditions, and way of looking at the world. Each country/empire that is integral to the story including “The North” and Angland(very close to and similar to The North), Midderland(the main country of The Union), and the Gurkish Empire have their own way of doing things and that made the story itself all the more interesting and immersive. The magic is also quite interesting and although not a huge part of the story up until this point, I think it will play a major role going forward.

I really, really enjoyed The Blade Itself. Joe Abercrombie is a master at creating characters that are at once compelling and relatable. With a world that is dark, gritty, and full of horrible people and an intriguing plot, I am all in to see where this story goes.

3 thoughts on “Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

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