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305 of 318 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I read the blurb from the back and nearly turned away after reading only half of the summary. But something made me open it up and try the first few pages--and I was hooked. It starts with an action scene--like most fantasy novels--and it is described so well. It is realistic without splattering gore in your face. I can't...
Published on July 5, 2006 by Red Moose

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271 of 340 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfocused, hard-boiled, sword-and-sorcery debut
Logen Ninefingers is a homeless, battle-scarred barbarian, hoping to live one more day. Jezal dan Luthar is a conceited rake with the vague ambition of winning an annual fencing contest. Sand dan Glotka, who won such a contest years ago, is a torture-crippled torturer in the Union's Inquisition, rooting out whatever truths or half-truths will please his superiors (if...
Published on December 28, 2007 by the_smoking_quill


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305 of 318 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, July 5, 2006
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I read the blurb from the back and nearly turned away after reading only half of the summary. But something made me open it up and try the first few pages--and I was hooked. It starts with an action scene--like most fantasy novels--and it is described so well. It is realistic without splattering gore in your face. I can't think of any other author who treads that line so well as Joe Abercrombie does in The Blade Itself.

I didn't find this a funny book, overall. It's not a comedy at all. But there are several moments where I did laugh out loud as I read some clever description or a reaction of one of the characters. In fact I think I found more to smile at in this book than most other novels that are specifically tagged as being funny or humourous. The humour here isn't forced. I didn't feel like the author was trying to be funny. It was more like the humour you might find in casual conversation with a friend.

This book moves along at a good pace. It is one of those books where you want to keep reading to find out what happens, but, unlike many other page-turners, things actually happen in this one! I hate books that promise action or resolution just over the next page, just another page, one more page, and before you know it you've read half the book and still nothing's happened. This is definitely not a one-trick pony of a book. Each character is well developed and the plots intertwine naturally.

What this book doesn't contain are tired old writing techniques. Well, it's not perfect, but it's as close as I've come across in 15 years. Anyway, there are no stereotypical cliched fantasy characters. The author doesn't end each chapter on a contrived cliff-hanger and then talk about another character's life for ten chapters before returning to the cliff-hanger. He doesn't especially dwell on the gruesome details of battle, but he writes it as realistically as you'd want. Perhaps not super-realistic--this is a fantasy, after all--but it's not nearly as predictable as many.

Something else I noticed about the writing style is that Joe will change his writing a little to suit each character. So each time he changes the perspective to a new character, the way he describes the scenes changes, too. It's like he's letting us look through each of their eyes, rather than just giving us a homogenous narration throughout. They're not jarring transitions by any means, though. For me they really added to the story and made it all the more absorbing.

This is by far the most absorbing novel I have read for many years. And this is the most glowing review I have given any book on Amazon!
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107 of 115 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A series and author worth reading, September 25, 2007
By 
newyork2dallas (Dallas, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
Long on intrigue, stark and direct, from a quality standpoint Abercrombie's debut fits well within the upper reaches of the fantasy genre and produces a number of decent mysteries for books two and three of the trilogy. Abercrombie has put a new spin on the typical medieval fantasy fare.

First, his main characters are both archetypal, and not. There are six primary ones: Collem West, the low-born, capable, hardworking warrior who has accomplished a great deal in the caste-bound military system of the main setting for the novel, the empire known as the Union; Ferro Maljinn, a warrior woman from the south who has seen war, death, and an existential threat to all mankind but knows only hate; Jezal Luthar the gifted swordsman who typifies the courtier-set until his mindset is changed by a no-nonsense love interest; the Dogman, a Norse-type warrior from the North who fights with a perpetually feuding band of brothers that wishes to save the world from two horrible dangers; Logen Ninefingers, a barbarian warrior who has far more human frailties than Conan; and Sand dan Glokta, the Inquisitor.

Glokta is Abercrombie's best character -- a hero of the Union, champion swordsman, he was captured during a previous war and physically shattered such that as a 35-year old man, his appearance and motor skills are closer to someone three times his age. But his mind works well -- he is sharp, biting, cruel, courteous, and bitter by turns.

This volume has some action (fights, duels, small battles, some magic), and hints at the overall plot (the plot points are really a bunch of dots on paper, without a lot of connecting lines yes), but primarily sustains its momentum with intrigue and detail to set up the remaining books. Abercrombie's writing is direct, coarse (lots of epithets), frequently funny, and often dark.

All told, a fine beginning.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Debut, December 31, 2010
By 
SBK479 (Maryland, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
Every year one of my old college buddies sends me one or two sci-fi/fantasy novels for my birthday. Knowing my disdain for pop-fiction writers like John Grisham (What, a lawyer at the heart of a conspiracy? Amazing!)or self-important fantasy blowhards like George RR Martin (it's 2011 and ADWD is STILL nearly finished... or maybe that was his career? Oh well, let's watch some Jets and Giants and forget about it), my friend always tries to show me authors that care more about characters and story than making money, movies and miniseries. Sometimes he has succeeded (John Scalzi, and yes, A Game of Thrones too) and sometimes his suggestions were a little too far off the beaten path (Accelerando, Perdido Street Station).

This year it was "Spin" by Robert Charles Wilson and "The Blade Itself" by Joe Abercrombie. This review covers The Blade Itself.

Fantasy novels are, quite frankly, extremely easy to do poorly. Barbarian. Wizard. Brave knight. Cowardly knave. Occasional she-devil, be she Nubian warrior or redhead with a big sword. All these characters are well-known to fans of the genre, as are their exploits. Quest to end of the earth to get/destroy magical item/treasure/water fowl, which will save the world from darkness/destruction/enslavement/Ryan Secrest. I've seen and enjoyed all this (except the RS-free world, but a man can dream), so a fantasy writer had better make it fun for me.

Joe Abercrombie succeeds for two reasons, the first being the characters he designed for this story. You have Logen Ninefingers (Lo-gen, of the NINE fingers...), aka the Bloody Nine, barbarian from the North who trades in Conan's utter lack of humanity for world-weariness and a palpable sense of impending damnation for his many sins. You have arrogant Jezal Luthar, who you want to hate so much that by the end of the book you are actually angry that he's part of the quest and not a stain on the rug. You have Ferro the aforementioned she-devil, who comes across as a female Kratos - not very deep, but oh so awesome. Finally, you have my favorite fantasy character of the last decade, Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, the torturer with a heart of gold.

Second, since every chapter is entirely from one character's point-of-view (at least until the forming of the quest)you get to see each character first from their inner thoughts, until another POV character actually "sees" what they look like. The first time you "meet" Logen from another character's POV is one of the great moments of the book, and the multiple POVs make the dynamics of the quest interesting enough to wonder what they will be doing when they leave on the quest.

Unfortunately, this event happens at the end of the novel, leaving us with very little in the way of actual events. War is brewing but not yet started. Glokta finds out a conspiracy just in time to be sent on his next one. And the quest leaves for... somewhere, to find... something. I forgive this abrupt end because 1) it's a trilogy, and 2) Abercrombie actually finished said trilogy, probably because he spent his time writing books instead of writing about how he has no time to write books. Just sayin'.

I finished this 530-pager in a few nights and immediately got my hands on Before They Are Hanged. Fantastic book that entertained me and left me wanting more. Highly recommended.
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271 of 340 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfocused, hard-boiled, sword-and-sorcery debut, December 28, 2007
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This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
Logen Ninefingers is a homeless, battle-scarred barbarian, hoping to live one more day. Jezal dan Luthar is a conceited rake with the vague ambition of winning an annual fencing contest. Sand dan Glotka, who won such a contest years ago, is a torture-crippled torturer in the Union's Inquisition, rooting out whatever truths or half-truths will please his superiors (if not the Union's senile king). Ferro Maljinn is an escaped slave, lean and feral, seeking vengeance against the empire that destroyed her people.

Against the backdrop of the mysterious agenda of the wizard Bayaz and an invasion by a new barbarian king, first-time author Joe Abercrombie slowly weaves together the violent lives of these four to open his First Law trilogy. It's difficult to elaborate further without providing spoilers, but suffice it to say that so much of the story remains in the shadows that readers seeking closure may wish to wait until the trilogy is completed.

The Blade Itself--its title taken from a quotation attributed to Homer--is reminiscent of two other recent debuts by young authors: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. All three are lengthy, unfinished tales with competent writing and world-building, as well as displays of intelligence by the authors in striving to avoid, or at least execute freshly, fantasy cliches. That said, even taking into account Mr. Abercrombie's hard-boiling of his prose to evoke the grit of his characters and their surroundings, TBI is distinctly the least well-written and -imagined of the three. (With regard to world-building, a map would have helped.) Mr. Abercrombie shows a knack for portraying hard-edged, brutally realistic characters scarred by their pasts--Logen, Glotka, Ferro--but his portrayal of the naive Jezal pales by comparison. On the other hand, a few displays of humanity throughout the tale are surprising and well-executed, as are some instances of dialogue and the repetition of certain phrases. As a final note, this reader found the liberal use of real-world profanities and grammatical errors distracting.

If it were a restaurant, TBI would never be mistaken for a fine-dining establishment, but it stands up well as a bar and grill welcoming to guys and gals with the time to overlook slow service and who enjoy peanut shells on the worn, wooden floor and plenty of red meat. Recommended as a library loan for everyone else. 3-1/2 blood-and-mud-crusted stars.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Debut, January 10, 2008
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This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie is the first book in the First Law trilogy. The second book being Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) which is scheduled for release in the United States in late March, 2008. This novel represents Mr. Abercrombie's first novel. I originally came across this book based on a recommendation from a fellow fan of the fantasy genre. I looked into it and it sounded some what interesting, so I made the decision to go ahead and try it.

The plot of this book, at least in my experience with the novel, was hard to discern. I was literally halfway through the novel before the actual plot of the novel began to emerge. This is mainly due to the fact that Mr. Abercrombie tried so hard to introduce new characters and set the stage for future scenes. Once I completed reading the novel, I believe the plot of this volume is merely a set up for the second and third books in the trilogy. There is a large political underpinning as well as a few personality conflicts. One aspect of the plot I found distracting was the sub-plot of the `Contest'. It is mentioned several times early in the book and centers around one character in particular. However, when taken into context of the overall story and concept, it seems misplaced and unwarranted. It really serves no real purpose and it was an aspect I could have cared less about. This seems to be a book that is large on characters and character development and flat on the actual story.

The characters in this novel are, for the most part, interesting and diverse. Characters such as Logen, Glokta, Bayaz, and Ferro are all complex and interesting. They all have their unique voices and act in decidedly different manners. They all have their individual flaws and strength which is nice to see. However, there are several characters, such as Jezal that come across, at least to me, as really forced and almost as an added afterthought. Which seems odd, because the grittiness and realism involved in the first list of characters is so well done. Additionally, while I have read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and have seen, and read, cursing and swearing in a novel it almost seemed like a distraction in this novel. The majority of the character dialogue is well constructed and thoughtfully done. Yet, much like the characters, some of it seems contrived and involves too much `showing' to the reader.

I understand that this is Mr. Abercrombie's first novel and as such there is some inherent growing pains associated with that. Here are a couple criticisms I have about this novel.

First is the lack of a solid, central, plot line. As a reader, I should not be expected to expend copious amounts of energy trying to determine just what the book is about. There seemed to be little initial structure in regards to the plot and I think that hurts the overall enjoyment of this novel.

Secondly, inconsistent characters. Mr. Abercrombie is very good at writing the gritty, tough, characters. However, when the character shifts to a less sure, more naïve character it becomes quite clear this is an area for improvement.

Lastly, there are times when it is quite easy to breeze through fifty plus pages. However, there are times when this book becomes severely bogged down and almost seems like a chore to read. I believe this is a combination of the lack of plot and inconsistent characters.

There are some positives with this novel.

Mr. Abercrombie does show a knack for writing a solid tale. I think once he hones his craft and is able to correct some of this deficiencies he will truly be a name to watch in the fantasy genre.

He ahs created a very good world. It's interesting, has variety, and flows well. I would have liked a map to be included to give reference points, but that is a minor thing in comparison.

The majority of Mr. Abercrombie's prose and pace is well done and held my interest. The few bumps that were present can easily be corrected with more practice.

Overall, this is a decent debut novel. While I do not hold it in high of praise as some others, I still think it's a solid novel. While I would hesitate to recommend this book to the casual fantasy fan. I think seasoned veterans of the fantasy genre would find many things to enjoy within the pages of this one. This is a very hard book for me to rate overall. In the end I will give it a 3 out of 5, because I truly believe Mr. Abercrombie can do better and has a bright future. I will surely check out the second book when it is published.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book--Kindle format could be better, February 7, 2011
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Just to be clear, this review is specifically for the Kindle edition. Thus, while I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I'm going to concentrate in this review on how it was adapted to the Kindle format.

This is one of the first books I bought for my Kindle, several months ago, and thus it took some time for me to compare it with other Kindle editions and realize how poorly it was adapted to the Kindle format. Every paragraph skips several lines between them, something entirely unnecessary when the first line of each paragraph is indented. Since the chapters are split into sub-chapters by skipping an extra line between paragraphs, it is quite difficult to tell when a new sub-chapter begins, as adding a single line more is nearly impossible to notice when each paragraph already has such wide gaps between them. Sometimes there is an asterisk in these gaps to indicate a new sub-chapter; usually there isn't. The first line of the new sub-chapter isn't indented, but this often evades notice, and thus the reader is left confused by a sudden shift in scene or point-of-view.

In addition, there are numerous typos in the Kindle edition, usually in the form of random characters inserted in the middle of sentences or even words, such as a > mark from out of nowhere, or a capital T in the middle of a word. I doubt very much that these are present in the print editions.

The good news is that the publisher could fix these problems and reissue the Kindle file, allowing those of us who purchased the book to redownload it. I hope they will do so. The second book in the series, Before They Are Hanged, suffers from the same problems. This is too good a series to be adapted to Kindle in such a slipshod manner. Publishers, you can't just take a file, run it through a converter, and send it to Amazon. Adapting a book to the Kindle takes some attention and proofreading at the very least.

So, to sum up:
Story: 5 stars
Kindle adaptation: 2 stars
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The thinking reader's barbarian..., January 11, 2010
By 
MsPolitix (Melbourne, Australia / Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
...that's how Joe Abercrombie describes Logen Ninefingers, one of the central characters to this first book in 'The First Law' series. I'm inclined to agree.

'The Blade Itself' was a refreshing read for this jaded speculative fiction fan. Fantasy is my first love in terms of genres and it's hard to find something that piques your interest in the Mass Market Sea on which long-term genre readers often find themselves hopelessly adrift.

Why do I like it?

1. Complex characters. None are perfect. A few you will find yourself relating to. Some will make you cringe. Others you will want to slap (or impale on the pointy end of a suitably sharp object). All of them are credible.
2. Good world building. Yes, it's another place that's reminiscent of Medieval Europe. Yes, some will call it ye olde sword and sorcery teritory. The only problem is, the magic and spirits in the world are dying, so this isn't a book where every problem is solved from within the sleeve of an all-powerful wizard's robe. Prepare for far more sword than sorcery. If that's your thing, you'll have no problems with Abercrombie's world.
3. Dialogue. Hallelujah! You will believe what is coming out of Abercrombie's characters mouths. And whilst `The First Law' series is shaping up to be gritty, rather than fluffy (like a lot of the offerings out there these days), it's not without humour. If you don't end up laughing out loud here and there you'll at least be wearing a wry smile at some stage.
4. Intriguing plot that balances just enough action with character building, backstory and political machinations to keep the story rumbling along amidst the intricacies.

So why not five stars?

I wouldn't say 'The Blade Itself' is self-contained perfection. In terms of style, it's very well written but there is just a hint here and there (small instances of repetition, for example) that remind you this is Abercrombie's first book and he will continue to mature as he masters his voice (and it should be a great, booming one - I already love that Abercrombie doesn't have an adjective addiction).

Also, five star books for me are clear standouts in their own right, even if they're part of a series. Think Stephen King's `The Gunslinger' or George R. R. Martin's `A Game of Thrones'. Instead, `The Blade Itself' feels like a book concerned with fleshing out the characters and laying the foundations for future adventures. But I like that kind of stuff, so if the rating system allowed, I still would have given it more than four, though not quite the holy grail of five stars.

By the end of The First Law series, that may change, though I'm certainly looking forward to the ride!

My 'where it's at' rating: 4.2 / 5

@@@@ Plot
@@@@ Pace
@@@@ World
@@@@@ Characters
@@@@ Style
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Noir Fantasy, September 1, 2007
This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
Described by many as "noir fantasy," I was at a loss as to what The Blade Itself could be - but my curiosity was piqued. Although, the answer couldn't be more simple - it's a fantasy novel with strong noir elements, in a combination as refreshing as it is entertaining.

Admittedly, it's not for everyone: there are no damsels in distress or knights in shining armor. Yet that's what grants Abercrombie's story its appeal - the characters are painstakingly real, even if they're not "heroes" by strict definition.

The very fact that one of the main characters is crippled demonstrates something that much fantasy seems to lack: this is a world with consequences - a wave of a magic wand won't heal every body and soul. The characters aren't questing to save the world or defeat evil; they're struggling to live their own lives amidst fascinating plot and conflict.

Above all, though, Abercrombie's characterization is his strength. The reader feels the pain and sees the world through the jaded eyes of Glokta, or is right alongside Ninefingers in his struggle for survival. While the characters may have unlikable moments, the reader can always sympathize and can identify with them as real people.

I, for one, can't wait to get ahold of the next installment.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Bit Of Everything, October 12, 2007
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This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
Action? Check. Violence? Check. Magic? Check. Politics? Check. Romance? Well you get the idea. The Blade Itself has everything I look for these days in a fantasy novel. Joe Abercrombie's debut , the first of a planned trilogy -2nd book is already out in the UK, packs a lot of action in a refreshingly (for fantasy readers) short space. Fight scenes occur often and are brilliantly written. I tend to skip over fight scenes in many fantasy novels as the writing is often boring. Not so here. The action sequences are both cinematic in scope and exciting to read.

The heart of this story, however, is its characters. It's rare to find such a fast-paced novel that is so character driven. Unlike much fantasy writing, the characters act both intelligently and consistently, so we are able to witness believable growth over the course of the novel. Each character has very human, very real flaws that impact events in the story. Many (Logen Ninefingers, Bayaz, and Glokta all spring to mind) are stock fantasy characters turned on their head and given depth.

The writing itself it superb. The dialog is witty and revealing of character. There is just enough description. And there is an energy and fun feeling of adventure that I can best compare to classic swashbuckling tales.

My one complaint, and the reason this review is 4 stars instead of 5, is the plot. Though the story moves quickly from scene to scene and lots of "stuff" happens, I feel like I worked towards an ending that was a big set-up for the rest of the series. That being said, I had a lot of fun getting to that ending and eagerly await the future entires. In fact, I'm so excited a may just try to get a UK version of Book 2: Before They Are Hanged. Highly recommended for fans of smart fantasy.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Random action, unlikeable characters, never gets to the point..., December 11, 2008
By 
Robert Gamble (Falmouth, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) (Paperback)
The biggest fault I had with this book was that it took almost the entire 500+ pages to truly (I think) start the story. The rest is about the meanderings (well ok, battle filled meanderings) of characters from a wide variety of areas. Probably the best comparison I can make is with "Fellowship of the Ring" by Tolkien. Both books involve a quest that is a major turning point in the characters' lives and the world (I assume so anyhow for "The First Law" series, not having read the latter two books). But whereas "The Fellowship of the Ring" places the start of the quest relatively early but after a buildup which makes the necessity and gravity of the quest apparent, "The Blade Itself" waits til the end and the quest appears to come out of nowhere with no indication as to why it's important.

The rest of the book comes across as a weak "Song of Fire and Ice" clone, with sections focusing on different characters from different political entities but none of these sections really grabbed me or made me care about what might happen to the characters. One is a bitter, crippled torturer. One is a pampered, spoiled, lovesick noble. One is a barbarian well known for his abilities in battle (I'll admit, this character did provide a rather well done plot twist at one point). One is a wizard who has an ulterior motive. Etc... The different political factions fight against each other, but I rarely got a sense as to why certain things were done. Battle scenes were thrown in pretty much at any opportunity. One of the characters is training for a contest, and those scenes seem nothing more than some medieval version of "Rocky".

The upshot is that for me, this novel was a slow read, punctuated by somewhat random (if reasonably well written) battle sequences, peopled by characters I couldn't empathize with, in a world with somewhat simplistic connections between the different factions, and left me just as confused as to where things were going at the end than at the beginning.

To be clear, I don't need to be hand-held when reading. I don't mind a bit of mystery, or surprising changes of direction. But for a change of direction to be surprising, there has to have been another solid seeming direction beforehand, and I never got this impression when reading.

I also didn't feel like I'd wasted my time after reading it, but it failed at its task of getting me interested enough to buy the next novel.
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The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One)
The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) by Joe Abercrombie (Paperback - September 6, 2007)
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