Jevon Knights is a sci-fi/fantasy writer and blogger who wants to entertain with amazing stories and enlighten with great content. He posts science fiction fantasy topics on his blog, Knights Writes, and invites you to download his collection of short stories “the Knights Scroll” for free.
The Blade Itself (The First Law book 1) Review
The Blade Itself is British writer Joe Abercrombie’s debut novel, the first in The First Law trilogy originally published in 2006.
When I first saw the name, looked at the cover, and read the blurb, it didn’t interest me at all. Everything about it looked dull and unimaginative.
But as it came highly recommended, I went ahead and dove right in, and I have to say that I’m glad I read it.
The Story and World
The Union governs the Circle of the World and prospers through trade and taxes, but some believe that their land has been stolen from them. In Angland, a land far to the north, Bethod has crowned himself King, something that Northmen know nothing about. In Gurkhul, a land far to the south, emperor Uthman-ul-Dosht rises and wants his land back from the Union. When Kings and Emperors and Governors clash, there is only one result: war.
The story follows six characters: the Northman Logen Ninefingers, the Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, the Major Collem West, the Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, the Southerner Ferro Maljinn, and the Dogman.
They all have their own agendas. Logen is tired of fighting and just wants to live peacefully. Jezal wants to drink and chase women. West tries his best to be a respectable soldier. Glokta tortures whoever he’s told to get confessions of treason. Ferro wants revenge on all who enslaved her. And the Dogman and his band of tough-guys want their land free of war.
Everyone is trudging through life until Bayaz, First of the Magi, appears. He seems to know the root cause of the war and how to stop it.
Logen, Jezal, West, Glokta, and the Dogman think the Northman King Bethod is the problem. Ferro thinks the Gurkish Emperor Uthman-ul-Dosht is the problem. But Bayaz knows what’s really going on and he’s determined to resolve everything by gathering a group of unique individuals to journey to the edge of the World to break the First Law.
As the first book in a trilogy, The Blade Itself really sets the stage for something epic while not revealing too much. By the end, I wanted to know more about the major plot-points revealed. Who are the Eaters? Who is the prophet Khalul? How will the First Law be broken?
Some scenes occur in the woods of Angland, and a few in the desert of Gurkhul, but most of this story takes places in Adua, a massive city by the sea, split in half by the Kingsway, and looming high over all in the center like a dark mountain is the mysterious House of the Maker. I love how Joe brings the city to life. From the Agriont fortress, the University, the Square of Marshals, the Lords’ Round, the House of Question, the statues of the Kingsway, to the towering House of the Maker, you really feel as if you’ve been there and visited all the sites.
Without even a map, you also get a feel for the Circle of the World, as Joe calls it. You know that Angland lies to the north of Midderland, the nation where Adua is located, and Gurkhul lies to the south. And you also hear about other cities like Ospria and Talins, and faraway places like Stariksa and the Thousand Isles.
The writing is tight and the descriptions are great, although I did find the style a bit too passive, and I’m not a big fan of all the “arghs” and “ows” and “urghs”. Note that some characters use lots of expletives, which I don’t mind but this may filter out younger readers.
All characters fall into either a hate em or love em category. Each has their own voice so you can tell by the writing style whose point of view you’re in.
Logen is logical but see’s the world from a more primitive view. Jezal is young and selfish. West seems humble and out of place among nobles. Glokta is very thoughtful and cynical. Ferro hates everyone and everything. And the Dogman is brutish and barbaric.
Logen is definitely my favorite character, and the voice of his alternative the Bloody-Nine is a thrill to read, but I love the writing style for Glokta the most. A crippled outcome of the war with the Gurkish years ago, always in pain, his mortal enemy being a flight of stairs, his thoughts are depressing, yet funny. The way Joe describes everything about him, even the rhythmic walk of click, tap, pain, really keeps you hooked.
The only thing I didn’t like about these characters is that no one actually grows. Jezal did change from a selfish arrogant Nobleman who just wants to drink and hang with friends to a selfish arrogant Nobleman who just wants to win a contest, but the change was hardly even noticeable.
This left the plot feeling like it dragged out. Starting a story early in the life of a character can have the advantage of getting a reader to care, but sometimes it backfires with unnecessary details, which is what happens here when Joe focuses on Jezal’s training to fight in a contest instead of the impeding war and the journey to the edge of the World.
The resulting story arc isn’t very steep and the only great truth uncovered is entering the House of the Maker. The action is light, and the magic is even lighter, although when a spell occurs it’s nothing short of awesome.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. While I found it unnecessarily long, and too low on action, the mysteries introduced and promises of epic story kept me reading well into the second book . I can’t wait to see where all this goes.
Joe does a great job of getting readers revved up for a captivating story and I highly recommend it for fans of epic fantasy.
◊ ◊ ◊
I loved that book and especially Glokta, Logen and Ferro, I think we will see the character growth throughout the series. Can’t wait to read the rest of the books 🙂
Abercrombie’s characters are all very different and special and unique, but you’re right, they never seem to see much growth. I can’t even decide whether I like that or not! Logen for one pretty much stays his Logen-y self through this entire trilogy. But…that’s also why I love him.
Good review, Jevon. Thanks for sharing. 🙂