Book Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie

The Basics

Sand dan Glokta is a torturer working for the Inquisition. Formerly a soldier and left a crippled husk after being captured by the enemy, he asks himself often why he’d turn to such grisly work. Logen Ninefingers is famous in the North for his savagery. He wishes now for a life not ruled by war and yet finds himself pulled into a mysterious quest by the First of the Magi, Bayaz, which will surely lead to more killing. Jezal dan Luthar is a smug, cocky, young soldier who has always had it easy. But things are about to change.

My Thoughts

I don’t know if I’ve ever written a “Basics” section that was quite so long, but I was determined to be thorough. And I still missed stuff! But it is “Basics”. I tell myself reassuringly.

This should give you an idea of how jam-packed this book is. Lots of characters are covered, and I even left out Ferro Maljinn, the vicious, revenge-fueled ex-slave. And Major Collem West, a commoner turned high-ranking officer. Every story here is deep and well-crafted. Each perspective is perfectly unique, even the writing style shifting subtly to accommodate the character. This book truly shines in the way it presents characters, their thoughts, their very essence.

I’m reminded quite a bit of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The comparison is obvious, but I will say that Abercrombie presents his tale with a lighter tone. The humor comes a lot easier, and even the dire or heavy nature of events that take place throughout the book doesn’t leave you feeling weighed down. He’s presenting an adventure story in many respects, and it reads with that same, speedy pace even with the page count.

Still, don’t expect your granddad’s fantasy here. Everything you might expect, everything the tropes tell us should be, is subverted or played with or turned inside out. Jezal, who would normally be the hero in a tale like this, is insufferable. Glokta, who would normally be the villain, is very relatable. My favorite character actually. None of these characters fits neatly into a fantasy mold, and many of them make it clear that Abercrombie went into this venture with subversion in mind.

I loved this book. I’ve already read the second one, a review of which is coming. Honestly, he had me when the first dialogue in the book was a character in peril saying “shit”. If that doesn’t appeal, don’t even bother.

Final Rating