April 6, 2020

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself  is the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy “The First Law” and is also Abercrombie’s amazing first novel. In April of this year, I came to have the third book in this trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, and I decided to read it as a standalone and not wait ’til I could acquire Book One.  It did stand alone…easily.  I had questions, however, and knowing that I’d started at the end, I went back to the beginning to see if there were answers.  When one starts at the beginning of a story, this is usually not an option, so I was happy to take the opportunity.

My curiosity was mostly about Glokta, the Inquisitor who’d once been a champion. Was he that champion in the first book?  Will we learn how he came to be who he is now?  Then, there’s the crew that went on the quest for ‘The Seed’.  How did their relationships develop and change?  What is behind the veiled references to past events in each of their lives?  How did these people all find each other?

I got answers.  Glokta is already his Inquisitor self in The Blade Itself, BUT there is considerably more back story on him.  The same is true of the other central characters.  Knowing already where they finish, I found it fascinating to see where everyone started in this story.  In many ways, there is a giant chess game played out over three volumes, and one could look at it in two ways.  Either everyone is a pawn….or no one is.  Well, that’s not entirely true, there is one person who is played from the beginning, and really, the reader is kind of happy to see it.  Even though all the characters are being played to some degree, each has his or her own self to put into play and that makes for somewhat unexpected outcomes.

Abercrombie’s visceral description of battle that I noted in Last Argument of Kings is no less so in The Blade Itself.  The entire story, despite the number of characters, flows easily and draws the reader from word to word.  The character development is wonderful; the story is dramatic; the details are relevant.  Abercrombie’s use of soliloquy offers insight that might otherwise not be offered.

I can easily recommend this trilogy to lovers of fantasy, as well as anyone who appreciates a good story written well. I was thinking to read this first volume and, having read the third, let it lie.  Now, I see I’m going to have to read Book Two, Before They are Hanged, as well… Such a sacrifice…