Backlist Burndown: The Blade Itself (First Law Trilogy #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Backlist Burndown is a monthly meme hosted by Lisa from Tenacious Reader where you put aside at least one book from your blacklist every month to read, and then post a review of it on the last Friday of that month. Luckily for me, I rarely read new releases 😛

The Blade Itself (The First Law Trilogy #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Publisher: Pyr

Publication Date: September 30, 2007 (first published May 4, 2006)

Edition: Paperback, 536 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Fantastic characters!!!


Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.

I had high expectations for this one! I didn’t know what to exactly expect, but this was highly recombined from everyone. Somethings met and exceeded those expectations (like character development!!!!!!), while other fell a tab bit short. Overall though, I would say this was a very good novel!

So summary of plot… well basically the chapters are mainly from three POVs –  Logen, Jezal, and Glokta – and then a couple others get introduced as the books goes on. Logen is a lone barbarian from the North. Jezel is a young, up and coming fencer from the nobel class. And Glokta is a crippled member of the Inquisition. Not sure what else to say… Those are our main characters who we are going to follow around, so enjoy the journey!

Without a doubt, the greatest strength of this novel is the character development. It was arguably the best of an author that I have ever read. Each character felt deeply flushed out, with their own unique and individual personality. With the exception of the phrases “Er…” and “Shit”, each thought, action, and word spoken was of that character and that character alone. There was no point where anything felt generic, or I could copy and paste with another character. We don’t just change POV, we also change voice. Each character, no matter how major or minor a role, was their own.

When reading I constantly found myself thinking, Glokta would totally be thinking that or Yep, that’s something that Jezel would do. It was like I had already known them from countless other stories! Never once did wonder why they did something, or think it was out of character. There are surprise decisions that characters make, but even it was more of the what!? I can’t believe they did that!? excitement, verses the No, that is wrong. That is totally out of character for such and such. The best part about all this with the main characters, was how I instantly got a grasp on who they were from the first chapters that they were introduced. Even if I liked or hated a specific character, the bond was felt immediately, and this connection I had for those characters was the main reason I keep reading this novel.

My favorite POV to read was Jezel. It wasn’t that Jezel was my favorite character (he wasn’t), but as I just said, Joe does an outstanding job with characters, and for me personally, that struck a chord with Jezel. (Plus, that fact that I have a MAJOR crush on Ardee 😍, really helped the chapters catch my attention).

When we first meet Jezel, I thought he was this funny, slightly arrogant, young nobleman, but then a page later I hate him, thinking he’s just the biggest a-hole and bully. Then a little later on, he’s checking out his righteously nobel jaw in the mirror, thinking he the greatest things alive (which I found funny, and made him like-able. Like young teens wearing those cute-offs… you can’t blame them, it’s just young ignorance), but then once again – a page later – I’m call him an egotistical a-hole hoping he gets stabbed. This was how I was the whole time, it was constant fencing duel with my emotions of whether or not to like him! Now that book 1 is done, I still don’t know what to do with him!

Glokta was the most exciting for me to read. Like the Jezel’s POV, I was constantly trying to figure out my emotions. With Glokta I couldn’t tell if I should feel sympathy and pity for the man, or maybe some anger and resentment. Should I be rooting for him to win or lose? What attracted me to Glotka though, was how intrigued I was with his personality.

One of the techniques that Joe uses to help build up these amazing characters, is the use of their inner monologue (the characters thoughts). This was perfected, and used the most with Glotka. The reason I found his chapters so exciting – even more than because he is an Inquisitor – was because I wanted to see what he thinking! He’s just got this with witty, snarky, f-you I don’t give a damn mentality, and Joe gives him some those most sarcastically funny lines! Despite how being unsure of how I should feel about him, I was always rooting for Glokta – no matter what he was doing…

These characters that Joe develops helped to propel the world-building as well. There are scenes when he describes the architectures and environments, but when I found most effective was how he did the describing . Describing how the people in different cities looked and interacted with their surroundings, their mannerisms when talking and walking around, different dialects… it wasn’t how the man in the town-squared describes, it was who was doing the describing. It all depended on whose POV we were in. There are instances where some of the characters cross paths, or go to the same locations. During these moments we get different perspective of the same (for example) building, with each character noticing different things about it. Depending on the characters POV we are in, we get more details about the people, or setting, or what ever tickles that character’s fancy. These multiple POVs, with each character being so distinct from each other, where what helped to create the world so efficiently.

I was struck by Joe’s writing in all ways, actually. I didn’t find his prose too fancy and elegant or anything, but that way he writes, everything seemed so vividly clear in my mind – from the characters and their dialogs, to the fighting scenes. The best I can think to describe it is I found his writing very descriptive (not with waves of adjective), but short and to the point, and constantly moving on. Despite the action, gruesomeness, and amount of havoc going on, the battle scene were so smooth, and easy to follow. I was picturing the whole field of war when I read them. Not just these two guys fighting, but each and every mini fight on the field at the same time.

Also, his dialogues are amazing!!!

My biggest dislike of this novel – no map! I love maps… I want maps… I need maps when I read! I want to see the world I’m in, drawn out on paper, with all the rivers, roads, and mountains. When you say town X and Y, I like to go and just gaze at the map, at the town, and pretend I was see all of the buildings, and trees and such. But honestly, do we need a map for this story? Not really. Did I have any difficulty figuring out where towns were or where we currently were in correlation to each other? At the beginning, but I adjusted. Thus, do we, the readers, actually need a map at all? I guess not.. but it would have helped. I just love maps though, and tend to get sad and complain when my fantasy books don’t have a map inside when I open the cover 😦

On a serious note, my one downfall of this novel – I found the story to a be bit lacking. There is plenty of action, gruesome fights, great dialog, amazing characters, and intense/suspenseful events throughout out the book –  but what kept me reading, was the characters. The story didn’t actually hook me in, until the last hundred pages or so. Those last 100-ish pages are GOOD, but before that, it felt like I was just going with flow, waiting for something to happen. I caught myself on several occasion wanting any main character to die – to spice things up a bit. However, the way this ended, and how highly recommended this trilogy comes, I feel very confident that the rest of the story will that match the level of his characters. There was definitely a glimpse of that at the end.

I really enjoyed this book. Even if the story had been absolute crap (which it was not!), I would still recommend reading this based on the character’s alone! I cannot emphasize enough the characters and dialog. This is not a bad story by any means, but this really has that first book feeling of laying a foundation for what is going to come.

If you’re looking for a novel with top-of-the-line character development, bloody fightings with gruesome gore and torture! Then look no further. This is the book for you.


4/5 Rating


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6 thoughts on “Backlist Burndown: The Blade Itself (First Law Trilogy #1) by Joe Abercrombie

  1. I have to admit it took me a bit longer to get into than I expected (but much quicker than you), but it paid off. I have seen similar complaints about the lack of story in this one. I didn’t notice, but I read the trilogy back to back (and it was before I started writing reviews, so I don’t think I even stopped to think about the first one much).


    • I’ve finished the series now (read is straight through), but I write reviews right after I finished each book. Now that I’ve finished it, I think my error was that I looking for a reason behind things, and almost trying to force there to be some type of goal.


  2. This is one where the subsequent books actually got better and better for me. I remember thinking The Blade Itself was good, but I wasn’t wowed until the third book. Of course, then there was Red Country…so amazing. Not sure if you read this yet, ot’s not part of this trilogy but it can be seen as a follow up, and if you already finished all the First Law books you must hit up RC. Glad you enjoyed this, looking forward to seeing your reviews for the next two books.


  3. […] Leona’s Blog of Shadows                         MYLIFEMYBOOKSMYESCAPE […]


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