Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Blade Itself - by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself is the first installment in The First Law, a fantasy trilogy from new author Joe Abercrombie. Here's the gist of the story…
Logen Ninefingers, the infamous Northern barbarian, is on the run with his luck running out. He and his band have been banished from their homeland, the vile Shanka are coming down from the far North and now he's been separated from his men.

Captain Jezal dan Luthar is in training for the swordfencing Contest in Adua and that's all he cares about. Not that he'd care about anyone else but himself at any other time but he needs the glory of the win to keep his father sweet and still paying for his selfish lifestyle.

Inquisitor Glokta is a bitter man. Once the hero of the Contest and the brightest soldier in the army, he's now crippled and reduced to torturing confessions out of any unfortunate enough to come under his scrutiny. But even Glokta must watch his step as failure is not tolerated in the Inquisition.

Bayaz, First of the Magi, is again moving in the land and looking to take back the position that was once his on the inner council. This time he's looking for those who can aid him and, among others, Logen, Jezal and Glokta have stirred his interest.

For a first novel, this is an excellent tale; one of those hard to put down books that only comes around once in a while. The Blade Itself is a many-threaded tale, introducing the characters and the storyline and it does it really well. These are real people and not the standard fantasy novel characters who are usually way too good to be true. If anything, the primary characters here are anti-heroes. Logen has the blackest reputation, they don't call him The Bloody Nine for nothing, but he's just so likable; he swears, drinks, fancies a bit of the other and is ruthless when he has to be but he can be a big softie as well.

Logen's band are also a mean bunch but they have to be, living as they do as outlaws. Sand dan Glokta may be bitter but he was good once and there are glimmers in there that he may still be at heart but he's been dealt a very bad hand in life and is happy to see others suffer for a change. However, Jezal is thoroughly unlikeable but maybe he'll get more interesting in later books. Also introduced here is Ferro Maljinn and she hates just about everyone, happier to try and kill you rather than risk trusting you. On the whole, they're a pretty mixed bunch of characters but they all play off each other well.

Okay the plot so far is pretty formulaic. The middle kingdom is in trouble. Stuck between two fronts; the far North produces barbarians who are looking to come down and wage war on the weak kingdom and in the South, there's the wicked empire trying to conquer all as it expands. On top of that there's the political back-stabbing and manoeuverings of the nobility and a bit of love interest between Jezal and the sister of one of his colleagues.

Definitely worth reading this one and I'm off to get the sequel - Before They Are Hanged!

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
ISBN: 978-57507-979-3
My Rating: 9/10

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