Book Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Thisabercrombie-01-the-blade-itself is the first book in a trilogy called The First Lawand I should stress that it is not in itself a complete story. In fact, in many ways it reads more like a  prologue. A coming together of the cast and setting the stage before the story itself gets going.

That’s being a little harsh perhaps, but I didn’t find it a satis­fying expe­ri­ence to read just this book so it’s worth noting. Be prepared to invest in all three books. And it is prob­ably worth your time reading all three because this one has a lot to recom­mend it.

Now right before reading The Blade Itself I had just finished a re-read of The Lord Of The Rings (my first in a while) and so I couldn’t help comparing the two books while I was reading this one. And it’s quite a contrast.

While The Lord Of The Rings deals in heroic figures who are larger than life and better than the average man, The Blade Itself is popu­lated with mean, petty, broken people. Aragorn and Frodo are the sort of people we might aspire to be, while the char­ac­ters here are the sort we would look down on and judge wanting.

And yet, throughout the book and despite the horrible things that some of the char­ac­ters do, there is a thread of hope of redemp­tion running through Joe Aber­crombie’s story. The sugges­tion that regard­less of what they have done they can do some­thing good. A detail that I think actu­ally rings true in Tolkien’s work as well.

While unques­tion­ably modern fantasy with all itsgrim­dark trap­pings there are moments here where wondrous build­ings are described and events are narrated where it sounds like just the sort of thing we might see in Middle-Earth. So we have an inter­esting melding of the classic high fantasy with the new gritty realism.

And the char­ac­ters are very inter­esting and quite complex. You may well not like them very much and in some cases you may find that char­ac­ters you thought were like­able turn out to be very flawed indeed. But for all that I found myself capti­vated by their lives and wondering how things were going to turn out for them.

Which is of course why it was so damn annoying that the book just ends. It’s not even a cliffhanger, it just ends.

There are clearly bigger elements being set up here. Corrup­tion in the “Union”, Shanka (humanoid, apelike, goblin crea­tures) massing on the borders of the north; The Empire restive in the south and Eaters (people who have eaten men’s flesh) causing havoc for their own reasons.

None of this is resolved or even really clar­i­fied for us. It’s a big, epic, story and clearly you have to read the whole thing for it to make sense. But it’s a story I very much want to read all of now.

Amazon​.comThe Blade Itself http://​amzn​.to/​1​s​x​m​3KX

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