The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
If nothing else this book was definitely a thrill the whole way, bloody and explicit and dark. And all of that was great! It definitely fits in with the grimdark subgenre, which I recently discovered and love.
I think my favorite aspect of it though was how focused it was on characters. For a book with so much bloody action there was still a distinct focus on the individual characters, fleshing all of them out and in an interesting way making the entire novel a character study, despite how it may seem at first glance to be a novel without much substance, or simply about the action itself–at least, that’s what I expected going into it, but was soon proven wrong.
And also it was fascinating in that it had a sort of dichotomy to how it was written. The writing style was equally verbose (in terms of its feel, not the actual diction) and laconic, sort of–the plot itself was very slow and drawn out, but usually written with short, quick sentences. At the beginning, it seemed to not mesh together well, and is my main negative for the book as it took me a little while to get in to; the first chapter was fantastic, but as the story started expanding the writing style started to stand out. Once I got used to it, though, I became fully immersed and it didn’t bother me.
But to get back to the characters, as I said they were definitely the best part of the novel. Part of me wished we could’ve just stayed with Logen the entire time, just following his journey before the characters started meeting. I think part of that comes from me not liking Jezal as much, though to Abercrombie’s credit I did end up liking him far more at the end than I did at the beginning.
But Logen was just an incredibly compelling character, along with his group of comrades, and I definitely wouldn’t mind a book on just them. Bayaz, too, who Logen meets quickly, is interesting and I enjoyed what he brought to the world as a whole, and how the world was expanded partially through his character–I really enjoyed that the expansion happened through the characters themselves, and not necessarily the plot.
Glotka, perhaps the most fascinating character, lent a compelling side to the world, who at first simply seemed like just an interrogator with a few interesting qualities, but once again becomes more than that thanks to Abercrombie’s characterization. He has different sides to him, and he quickly became one of my favorite characters because of his unique point of view.
And on that note I just liked how things unfolded overall. Like I said a part of me wishes we could’ve stayed more focused on Logen and just that beginning storyline, but as things came together—after I got over my initial reluctance—I did indeed get wrapped up in the world and then wanted to know more. In fact, at the end of the book the story is now what makes me want to keep reading, instead of just being connected to the characters. I need to know what happens next, and learn more about the world, particularly the magic system, as everything we did learn about it was awesome.
Ultimately, I think my favorite part of the book has to be Ferro. Her character was the most compelling, and she’s particularly whose storyline I can’t wait to follow, more than all the others.
I don’t want to say more in lieu of spoilers, but overall I really enjoyed this, and look forward to reading the next two.
4.5/5 bloody fingers, or the Bloody-Nine if you will. ;)