Book Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Thisabercrombie-01-the-blade-itself is the first book in a tril­ogy called The First Lawand I should stress that it is not in itself a complete story. In fact, in many ways it reads more like a  prologue. A coming together of the cast and setting the stage before the story itself gets going.

That’s being a little harsh perhaps, but I didn’t find it a satis­fy­ing expe­ri­ence to read just this book so it’s worth noting. Be prepared to invest in all three books. And it is prob­a­bly worth your time read­ing all three because this one has a lot to recom­mend it.

Now right before read­ing The Blade Itself I had just finished a re-read of The Lord Of The Rings (my first in a while) and so I couldn’t help compar­ing the two books while I was read­ing this one. And it’s quite a contrast.

While The Lord Of The Rings deals in heroic figures who are larger than life and better than the aver­age man, The Blade Itself is popu­lated with mean, petty, broken people. Aragorn and Frodo are the sort of people we might aspire to be, while the char­ac­ters here are the sort we would look down on and judge want­ing.

And yet, through­out the book and despite the horri­ble things that some of the char­ac­ters do, there is a thread of hope of redemp­tion running through Joe Abercrombie’s story. The sugges­tion that regard­less of what they have done they can do some­thing good. A detail that I think actu­ally rings true in Tolkien’s work as well.

While unques­tion­ably modern fantasy with all itsgrim­dark trap­pings there are moments here where wondrous build­ings are described and events are narrated where it sounds like just the sort of thing we might see in Middle-Earth. So we have an inter­est­ing meld­ing of the clas­sic high fantasy with the new gritty real­ism.

And the char­ac­ters are very inter­est­ing and quite complex. You may well not like them very much and in some cases you may find that char­ac­ters you thought were like­able turn out to be very flawed indeed. But for all that I found myself capti­vated by their lives and wonder­ing how things were going to turn out for them.

Which is of course why it was so damn annoy­ing that the book just ends. It’s not even a cliffhanger, it just ends.

There are clearly bigger elements being set up here. Corrup­tion in the “Union”, Shanka (humanoid, apelike, goblin crea­tures) mass­ing on the borders of the north; The Empire restive in the south and Eaters (people who have eaten men’s flesh) caus­ing havoc for their own reasons.

None of this is resolved or even really clar­i­fied for us. It’s a big, epic, story and clearly you have to read the whole thing for it to make sense. But it’s a story I very much want to read all of now.

Amazon​.com — The Blade Itself http://​amzn​.to/​1​s​x​m​3KX

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?