Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he is a master of modern fantasy. I will be honest I have not had the chance to read a great deal of new fantasy. I am still working my way through piles of the classics. But having read ‘The Blade Itself’, I now realise I need to pay more attention to the new wave of fantasy authors.
Abercrombie’s writing is absolutely stand out. It is fluid and gripping, with a terrific use of both modern and old vernacular to truly paint a picture in your mind. Often I took a moment to re-read one of his metaphors or quirky descriptive phrases because they were that good! I found myself thinking, ‘God what a brilliant way to describe that.’, something I don’t do that often when I’m reading. The book is full of curse words you rarely see in fantasy writing and I sincerely believe that if used properly they really add to the story. They provide a gritty realism to the world often missed by traditional fantasy authors. So hat’s off to Joe for changing the way I think about my own writing.
The true strength in ‘The Blade Itself’ is the diversity and sincerity in its characters. Few books have twisted and uncouth characters as the main protagonists. Sure there are some great examples, but this has got to be up there as one of them now. Every POV character is flawed. But not flawed simply to have a flawed character, flawed in a real sense. Each character is utterly believable, which in a fantasy setting is not always possible.
They are selfish, frightened, mean, arrogant, and deplorable at times, loveable at others. From start to finish you are wondering whether you should be cheering for a character or hoping they plunge into an endless chasm. If Tolkien had his Fellowship of the Ring, Abercrombie has his Band of Merry Misfits.
And that is what the book seems to boil down to. I haven’t started the rest of the First Law trilogy, and do not want to give away big spoilers, but this book is a tale of gatherings. Whilst most first books in a trilogy culminate in a disaster or reveal a large looming catastrophe, this one only hints at a larger issue, but really focusses on getting the characters together. I found it unusual to flick over the last page and think to myself, ‘I don’t really know where this is going, and don’t know whose side I should be one.’ But damn, I can’t wait to read more.
There were no particular scenes that jumped out to me. If you ask me what was your favourite bit? I find it hard to pinpoint any particular event. Yet the whole thing kept me turning page after page. And there is no truer sign of a good book. If you like hard edged fantasy, go buy this book!