Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A life of debauchery for the nobleman.

A life of pain for the torturer.

A life of blood for the barbarian.

Not much of a heroes hall, is it? Heroes are needed to defend against the growing threat from the Northmen and their alliance with the feral Shanka. Heroes are needed to root out the evil lurking in the heart of Adua, the Union’s Capital. Captain Jezal Dan Luthar, noble swordsman and promising officer, might just be the hero that the hour calls for – if only he can keep his breakfast down on his morning run. Inquisitor Glotka, ex-soldier of esteem and renown turned upholder of justice, might be able to uncover the dark secrets amongst the shadow of conspiracy – if his crippled body will let him mount the stairs without falling flat on his face. And Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian of the North, might just stand a second chance…if his bloodied past would just leave him be.

Each has a part to play, whether they know or like it.

Sometimes it’s not about turning the other cheek, nor is it about hitting first or hardest – its about sliding the knife in at the right moment and giving it a good, hard twist.

Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The Blade Itself’ is his debut novel, and the opening novel to his ‘The First Law’ series. ‘The Blade Itself’ is a bloody and bloodied tale of high hopes and stakes, dashed dreams and brains, and more knives than a battalion of butchers.

In ‘The Blade Itself’, everyone seems to in over their heads. Logen Ninefingers is somehow roped into accompanying a returned-from-the-ancient-past Arch Magi to the capital of civilisation. Inquisitor Glokta is chasing at shadows, marking smugglers and scriveners as traitors and conspirators. And Jezal Dan Luthar, who wants nothing more than to get drunk and wile away the nights in a buxom bosom, but has somehow ended up training for the grand tournament. The plot itself is twisted on itself, but its characters’ interactions that make the story.

A barbarian, a torturer and a nobleman walk into a bar…sounds like the start to a bad joke? Wrong. It’s the start of a really good story. In ‘The Blade Itself’, the veritable menagerie of characters are led into the depths of plot twists and turns, played like puppets at their own game. Other members of the cast are just as colourful, particularly the ‘Named Men’ from the North.

Abercrombie writes with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. His prose is refreshing, different, conversational even. At times it’s like being sat across the fireside from the writer at a campout, at others it’s as if you’re behind the eyes of each character. He dips into the darker side of humanity – or inhumanity in some cases – not afraid to pull the punches on just how low that some are willing to sink to. And the fight scenes…! Bloodied and bloody, if the printers ran out of ink, they could squeeze the pages and use the red stuff instead.

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he’s a dab hand with a blade as well as a pen. You’ll be sure to read ‘The Blade Itself’ as fast as if a knife was hovering at your neck.

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