Joe Abercrombie gets a lot of positive reviews for his writing. A while back I tried to read his ‘Best Served Cold’ novel, but I could not get into it. I read his short story ‘Tough Times All Over’ in Rogues and I thought it was a great read. Given that and his reputation, I decided to try The Blade Itself. I did enjoy this book, the characters and the writing. My biggest complaint is that there wasn’t enough plot movement. Even in epic fantasy that takes place over several books, there is normally a conflict and resolution in each book. This didn’t bring any resolution, it set the stage for (a hopefully) great story. I give this book 3 stars.
Here’s a breakdown…
My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers. Continue on at your own risk!
What is this book about?
In the beginning there are four sons of Euz. We don’t hear much about two of them (Glustrod, who I guess was strong, and I don’t have a name of the other). But we do hear about Juvens (who is wise) and Kanedias (who is cunning). Kanedias (also known as the Master Maker) and Juvens fight to death, and Kanedias wins, but Juvens apprentices hunt him down and Bayaz (the first apprentice- The First of the Magi) kills Kanedias. Bayaz appears several times through history, helping bind several quarrelling areas into a kingdom under Harod, always showing up in critical times guiding the country.
In this story we have Bayaz who has gathered a rag tag group, his apprentice Quai (who seems frail and weak), Logen Nine-fingers (aka The Bloody Nine- who is a great fighter, but becomes something else when he is about to lose), Jezal (a spoiled rich military commander, who can barely be bothered to train), a strange girl named Ferro (who doesn’t feel pain, heals quickly and is color blind) and a Navigator. Most of the book leads up to these people coming together in the capital, and at the end we see them about to begin their journey.
There seems to be unrest between several groups and each country faces battles on multiple fronts. While these ‘earthly’ battles are being fought, Bayaz heads out to deal with a greater evil. There are other characters: Glotka- a former rich military star who was captured by the Emperor and tortured, he can now barely walk up and down stairs, but serves as an Inquisitor (basically he tortures people). Ardee- the sister of Jezal’s commander- West, who is not of noble birth, but has captured Jezal’s heart. Bethod- the leader of the North who is looking to conquer the land.
What did I think about this book?
I enjoyed the characters, I want to read the next book and see how they develop. It’s clear that at this point Bayaz doesn’t have a team, but I hope by the end of the next book some camaraderie has developed. I think Jezal has the most room to grow, and I keep hoping somehow Glotka gets healed. But I don’t think these guys are in for that type of happy ending.
“Knowing your own ignorance is the first step to enlightenment”
I will read the second book, because I’m invested in the characters.