Book review of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself
Joe Abercrombie is one of the hottest new authors in the fantasy genre, and The Blade Itself was his first published work, originally published in London in 2006, with the copy I read having been published by Pyr in 2007. He has since completed The First Law Trilogy, and written two standalone novels, Best Served Cold (June 2009), and The Heroes (forthcoming). I’ve seen countless reviews surrounding The Blade Itself series, garnering praise from other fast-paced fantasy authors such as one of my personal heroes, Scott Lynch. I have to give a shout out to author Sarah Darmody, who not only recommended The Blade Itself to me, but stated we have similar taste in fantasy novels – excellent taste, that is. Let’s just say that with The Blade Itself, I was ready for a smashing good romp.
And a smashing good romp does Abercrombie deliver. What stands out immediately with The Blade Itself is Abercrombie’s talent with pacing a story. The Blade Itself is as good, if not better, from a pacing perspective, than Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Cycle. When compared with fast-paced novel in other genres, like Dan Brown’s novels or maybe Daemon by Daniel Suarez, The Blade Itself holds its own.
Where The Blade Itself can’t quite keep up a Dan Brown novel in terms of sheer pacing, it more than makes up for it in hilarity. I found myself literally laughing out loud more at this novel than probably any other fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Abercrombie is just a downright funny guy. While there are definitely better examples in the novel, here’s one I noted while reading:
Hoff glared back at him for a very long while. “Seek it wherever you like,” he growled, “and with as much persistence as you please. But not here. Good…day!” If you could have stabbed someone in the face with the phrase “good day”, the head of the Guild of Mercers would have lain dead on the floor.
Its brutally honest statements like this, that appear when you least expect them, that had me rolling with laughter. Speaking of brutality, The Blade Itself has some fantastic bloody fight scenes. This is definitely not a novel for the faint of heart. Abercrombie has created a wonderfully crude, yet highly intelligent, barbarian character in Logen Ninefingers, a.k.a. The Bloody Nine. Couple him with an extremely powerful, yet smart-alecky wizard, The First of the Magi, Bayaz, and you’ve got a quality core duo of characters for the novel. The Blade Itself also follows two other main characters, Inquisitor Glokta, and Captain Jezal dan Luthar, whose stories I found myself equally engrossed in.
The Blade Itself is driven by its quality characters, its fast pace, and Abercrombie’s natural tendency to spice up a situation with comedy. I could easily recommend it for these qualities, or the strikingly realistic fight scenes. But The Blade Itself has more to offer yet. You’ll find sprinkled throughout this novel nuggets of truth, as I typically quantify in some of my favorite novels:
“If a man seeks to change the world, he should first understand it…the tree is only as strong as its root, and knowledge is the root of all power.”
Abercrombie even manages to work in a moment that reminds me of some of the Kerouac novels I’ve read:
South then, and become a wanderer. There was always work for a man with his skills. Hard work, and dark, but work all the same. There was an appeal in it, he had to admit. To have no one depending on him but himself, for his decisions to hold no importance, for no one’s life or death to be in his hands. He had enemies in the south, that was a fact. But the Bloody Nine had dealt with enemies before.”
Overall, The Blade Itself more than lived up to its expectations, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next novels in this series, and Abercrombie’s standalone works that follow. If you’re up for a a fast-paced action fantasy with a good sense of humor, they don’t come more highly recommended than The Blade Itself.
You can purchase The Blade Itself over at Amazon.com.