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The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (edition 2007)

by Joe Abercrombie

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3,0141041,882 (4.1)108
Member:imager
Title:The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Pyr (2007), Paperback, 531 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:2013, 2012 Aussie Readers Summer Challenge, Epic Fantasy, Favourites

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The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie (10) dark fantasy (29) ebook (35) epic (12) epic fantasy (28) fantasy (649) fiction (201) First Law (33) high fantasy (12) Joe Abercrombie (12) Kindle (24) magic (32) novel (21) own (9) paperback (11) read (40) read in 2009 (11) science fiction (17) series (38) sf (9) sff (27) signed (12) speculative fiction (12) sword and sorcery (10) The First Law (51) to-read (121) torture (17) unread (18) war (10) wishlist (11)
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    The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (elwen)
  3. 10
    Ships from the West by Paul Kearney (caimanjosh)
    caimanjosh: Both of these series feature great characterization, good writing, and a bare-knuckle, realistic approach to fantasy, as opposed to much of the high fantasy work out there.
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    majkia: an equally dark landscape with complex characters
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    Sedorner: While The Engineer Trilogy is nowhere near as bloody as The First Law trilogy, it's just as dark, deep and "realistic".
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Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

I started reading Joe Abercrombie's debut novel immediately after finishing a very popular old 1970s classic post-Tolkien fantasy that had left me -- quite frankly -- bored. I had the flu, my body ached, and I was feeling sorry for myself. But by the end of the first chapter of The Blade Itself, I was feeling much better. First, Mr. Abercrombie's writing was vivid, tense, action-packed, and droll -- just the way I like it. Second, I found myself thankful that I was merely bed-ridden with the flu, rather than in the situation that Logen Ninefingers was in.

The story is told from several character's points of view -- the bloody barbarian who's lost everything and just wants the fighting to end, the former champion turned crippled torturer who considers himself an artist, the lazy self-absorbed wastrel who wants to be a swordmaster, but didn't realize he had to work for it. I would not like any of these people if I knew them personally, but after being in their heads, learning their fears, histories, and motivations, and even sharing a few enlightening moments with them, I realized that I actually care what happens to them!

Mr. Abercrombie unfolded his story gradually -- the reader is not told everything at once or given pages of backstory and explanation of this world's history, culture, and geography. The plot just keeps moving and the reader picks up the details as he goes along. For example, we meet the Shanka on the first page of the novel, but we don't find out what they really are until page 435. There's plenty more we're not told, even by the end of the book. This mostly works because it keeps the the pace quick and leaves a little mystery, but I wanted a map ... I really wanted a map ... I can not remember what's south of where, which lands are part of the Union, etc., especially with two books to go, if I don't have a map. And I could not find one on Joe Abercrombie's website. I was disappointed with this. I need a map.

There was plenty of action in The Blade Itself. All of it was realistic, most of it was scary, and some of it was downright hilarious. Frequent doses of droll humor was a nice counterpoint to all of the violence. A few scenes read like a Monty Python skit and I found myself laughing often. For the most part, the writing was excellent. Tone changed between characters' point of view, and the use of characters' internal thoughts was effective. More than a few times, however, I was confused about the object of a pronoun and that should have been caught by the editor. Also, the profanity was a little excessive.

This book does not stand alone. The ending is not exactly a cliff-hanger, but it's not an ending. I'm glad I've already purchased Before They Are Hanged and I hope it's just as refreshing and fun as The Blade Itself.

Read more Joe Abercrombie book reviews at Fantasy Literature . ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
I’m trying to read a bit more fantasy after successfully dipping back into the genre with George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (and less successfully with Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun). Joe Abercrombie’s novels seem fairly popular as swashbuckling fantasy adventure yarns, and he gets extra points for writing a trilogy rather than an ever-extending ten-book “cycle” or whatever they call them these days.

The Blade Itself, first novel in the First Law trilogy, revolves around Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled torturer; Jezal dan Luthar, a spoilt young noble; and Logen Ninefingers, an infamous barbarian warrior. (I feel compelled to point out that if you want to “single-handedly redefine the fantasy genre,” as Abercrombie apparently did, you probably shouldn’t begin with a main character who is a barbarian warrior from “the North.”) Events draw them together in Adua, the capital city of the Union, where preparations for war are underway and magic is returning to the world.

There were two reasons I found this book difficult to get into. The first is the plot, which starts out fairly slow and obtuse, but picks up a bit towards the end (when it irritatingly ends just as it starts to get interesting). The second is Abercrombie’s writing style. I’m not expecting Peter Carey when I read a fantasy paperback, but what particularly drove me up the wall was Abercrombie’s dialogue attribution. Characters in The Blade Itself rarely ever “say” anything. Instead they shout, bellow, scream, thunder, hiss, yelp, mutter, mumble, murmur, snap, chuckle, grumble, blurt, snarl, whimper, bark, stutter, stammer, grunt, croak, wheeze, roar and even intone – fucking intone! I did not make a single one of those up. In one particularly ugly case (page 391) a character actually “froths” his dialogue, which must be very messy. In another (page 98) a peasant manages to mumble “in a broad accent” – quite a trick.

I shouldn’t have to point out why writing Tom Swifties is bad. One of Elmore Leonard’s cardinal rules of writing was: “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue.” (I’m also partial to Stephen King’s advice, which is simply: “Don’t do this. Please oh please.”) Personally I believe you can sometimes, sparingly, get away with shouted, yelled, whispered and maybe hissed. But Abercrombie’s use of these words isn’t just beyond the pale, it’s on the Dingle Peninsula. (And maybe I should have saved that obscure description for a time other than criticising someone else’s writing, but whatever.)

This might sound snobbish. This is, after all, a fantasy novel, and the genre is not renowned for the restraint of its prose style. The reason it bothered me so much – beyond the fact that I’m hard-pressed to remember a novel with so many Swifties – is that Abercrombie is certainly capable of better writing. The dialogue that his characters are huffing, crying and yelping their way through is not half bad. It’s not as witty or clever as something in a Martin novel, but it’s not far off, either. His editor should have seen this. As it stands, I was tripping over a bark or a roar or a bellow every other sentence and it was taking me right out of the story, along with his constant use of adverbs and excessive physical descriptions of people and locations.

All this junk hampers what is actually pretty decent writing. Abercrombie’s fight scenes play out with impressive clarity, with brutal clashes and smart manoeuvres and people fucking up and hitting the wrong thing. His characters are all realistic, unlikeable yet sympathetic, and well-balanced against each other – particularly the way that, through cycling chapter POVs, we see how they appear to each other. There is a refreshing lack of Mary Sues, which I didn’t expect from a writer who thinks it appropriate to have a character intone his dialogue. And although he has continued Martin’s modern “dark” fantasy tradition in which terrible things happen and the good guys don’t always win, there’s a strong undercurrent of wit and humour which prevents the novel from feeling bleak.

Despite strong flaws, The Blade Itself is a good novel and Abercrombie – while I would hesitate to call him a good writer yet – certainly shows promise. I’ll read the rest of the First Law trilogy at the very least. I just hope that he tightens up his writing style, or that his editor grows some balls and tells him to. ( )
  edgeworth | Feb 17, 2014 |
Recensione su: http://wp.me/p3X6aw-fe
Review at: http://wp.me/p3X6aw-fe ( )
  Saretta.L | Jan 28, 2014 |
Wonderful. Don't know how I missed this series for the past six years. Some really great writing in here, not just as fantasy, but as actual literature. That the most fascinating character is so utterly repulsive - a cynical world-weary torturer - just makes it all the better. The magic element in this is understated and, therefore, quite believable. Unlike most fantasy, this book doesn't portray the status-quo as either right or supportable, but as something horribly wrong and debased which needs to change. ( )
  dgold | Aug 10, 2013 |
Not much of a plot in this part of the series, but the characters and the world were very engaging. I'm hooked and can't read the second part fast enough. ( )
  VannaSmythe | Jun 30, 2013 |
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Epigraph
"The blade itself incites to deeds of violence" - Homer
Dedication
For the Four Readers

You know who you are
First words
Logen plunged through the trees, bare feet slipping and sliding on the wet earth, the slush, the wet pine needles, breath rasping in his chest, blood thumping in his head. He stumbled and sprawled onto his side, nearly cut his chest open with his own axe, lay there panting, peering through the shadowy forest.
Quotations
‘Has it ever occurred to you, Master Ninefingers, that a sword is different from other weapons? Axes and maces and so forth are lethal enough: but they hang on the belt like dumb brutes.' He ran an eye over the hilt, plain cold metal scored with faint grooves for a good grip, glinting in the torchlight. 'But a sword ... a sword has a voice.'


'Eh?'


'Sheathed it has little to say, to be sure, but you need only put your hand on the hilt and it begins to whisper in your enemy's ear.' He wrapped his fingers tightly round the grip. 'A gentle warning. A word of caution: Do you hear it?'


Logen nodded slowly. 'Now,' murmured Bayaz, 'compare it to the sword half drawn.' A foot length of metal hissed out of the sheath, a single silver letter shining near the hilt. The blade itself was dull, but its edge had a cold and frosty glint. 'It speaks louder, does it not? It hisses a dire threat. It makes a deadly promise. Do you hear it?'


Logen nodded again, his 'eye fastened on that glittering edge. ‘Now compare it to the sword full drawn.' Bayaz whipped the long blade from its sheath with a faint ringing sound, brought it up so that the point hovered inches from Logen's face. 'It shouts now, does it not? It screams defiance! It bellows a challenge! Do you hear it?’
'Mmm,' said Logen; leaning back and staring slightly cross-eyed at the shining point of the' sword.


Bayaz let it drop and slid it gently back into its scabbard, something to Logen's relief. 'Yes, a sword has a voice. Axes and maces and so forth are lethal enough, but a sword is a subtle weapon, and suited to a subtle man. …’ p. 144



Men don’t fence for their King, or for their families, of for the exercise either … They fence for the recognition, for the glory. They fence for their own advancement. They fence for themselves. p. 174
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159102594X, Paperback)

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, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar 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. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:37 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Longen 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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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