The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On the run from a king he once served, barbarian Logen Ninefingers finds himself in the Union's capital, aligned with Bayaz, a legendary wizard long thought dead. Meanwhile, nobleman Captain Jezal Luthar trains for The Contest, a fencing spectacle, while lusting after Ardee West, sister of one of his comrades. Inquistor Glokta, crippled former swordsman, skulks around in the darkness, torturing the answers he seeks while searching for treason at every turn. What is Bayaz planning? Will Jezal bed his best friend's sister? Will Glokta be able to outmaneuver the other inquistors?
After reading Red Country, I had to see how it all began. I was most pleased.
The Blade Itself reads like Terry Pratchett on the mother of all bad days. While there is a surprising amount of humor, there are also buckets of blood and gore. Abercrombie writes fantastic battle scenes and I suspect they will only get better as the series progresses.
Anyway, the strength of The Blade Itself is in the characters. While many of them fit standard fantasy archetypes, they also are far from typical. Logen Ninefingers is a barbarian that spends a lot of time thinking and being scared, guilty of a hundred atrocities. Bayaz is an ages-old wizard that looks like a blacksmith. Inquistor Glokta seems like a pretty reprehensible torturer and guardsman at first glance but there is a lot more to him than meets the eye. Jezal is a great swordsman but also a snobbish bastard. I'm also very interested in Yugei and Ferro and Logen's former band of not-so-merry men. I can't wait until they find out their old leader is still alive.
I'm going to sidestep going into too much of the plot. to avoid spoilage. Suffice to say, I'm intrigued of what I've seen so far, bringing me to my next point. The only gripe I have about this book is that it very much feels like the first book in a trilogy. Most of it feels like setup to me. Fortunately, I think Abercrombie is move than capable of delivering the goods in future volumes so it's barely a gripe.
- Logen Ninefingers is quickly climbing the ranks of my favorite characters in science fiction and fantasy.
- Also, Logen reminds me of a young version of Terry Pratchett's Cohen The Barbarian.
- I'm not sure if Abercrombie has ever read Hugh Cook's Chronicles of an Age of Darkness series but the writing and morally ambiguous characters make them spiritual brothers.
- I have a feeling Glokta will wind up being my second favorite character in the series.
- I love Abercrombie's magic system and the history of the Magi.
Four blood-dripping stars!
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