Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The First Law: Book One
The Blade Itself
by Joe Abercrombie

432 pages
Gollancz (May 06, UK)

Joe Abercrombie’s debut into fantasy is nothing new into the mediocrity that has become modern fantasy, or is it? Logen Ninefingers is your run of the mill barbarian with a notched sword brute. Jezal dan Luthar is the high society, inferior-to-none fencing champion. Sand dan Glokta is the handicapped, missing teeth, epigrammatic thinker. Finally, Bayaz is the enigmatic, riddle speaking wizard. The beginnings of a fun-filled, grueling journey to the other side of the world. All the ingredients needed for Robert Jordan’s next NY Times bestselling Wheel of Time book. Eh? No.

The Blade Itself may sound like every other chart topper from the likes of Jordan, Goodkind, and Weis/Hickman, and maybe after the opening ‘The End’ chapter, you may cringe and think in your head, not another one of these. Keep reading though, The further you delve into the aforementioned characters, the more you like them and notice and like their subtleties and personalities. Each character is likeable in their own way, and borderline believable. They’re not accommodated with the deep thought of maybe Robin Hobbs first person Fitzchivalry Farseer, but they are easily read and for lack of a better word, fun.

Logen Ninefingers, minus a finger, reluctantly carries his sword with him through his native country running from ‘flatheads’ and becomes separated from his four comrades. After narrowly escaping death, Ninefingers smokes a pipe and talks with the spirits who tell him of a powerful magus looking for him. Malacus Quai soon stumbles upon Ninefingers, just what he was looking for, and collects Logen to accompany him back to the Great Northern Library where the First of the Magi, Bayaz, awaits him. Logen accepts the request of the knocking on door of death Malacus, and the two trek to the Library where Bayaz awaits to make use of Logen.

Jezal dan Luthar is of rich blood, and high ranking in the military sect of Adua. He prepares himself mentally and physically for the upcoming fencing Contest. Arrogant and haughty, he finds himself more infatuated than in love with a woman of lesser status. He finds himself witness to a subtly climactic opening of a cryptic fortress that has been sealed for hundreds of years. A war is brewing in the North and he is excited to spill some blood alongside his comrades with the upcoming battle.

Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta, war veteran, captive of the enemy for nearly two years, lacks most of his teeth and a fully working leg. Victim of torture, he is now the torturer and roots out non tax payers, and finds himself getting deeper into deceit than he’d rather be in. Glokta too bears witness to the unsealing of the ancient fortress.

The First of the Magi-Bayaz, with Malacus, Logen, Jezel and outlandish Ferro, the prideful female warrior, in tow, ignite the flame of the beginnings of a journey by unlocking the sealed door of the fortress. All that the group knows is that Bethod the Great is stirring up a war that would crush Adua and leave flatheads ravaging the land, and of course, they can’t let that happen.

This sounds pretty much, just like every other round about fantasy novel out there. A mage, a warrior, a knight, and the token fair, but somehow beautiful woman setting out on a journey to save the world. Although the premise is nothing new, the storytelling is fresh. Exciting characterizations littered with witty, laughable moments. Colonel Glokta rivals Tyrion Lannister as being the never tire of reading good/bad guy. Jezel shows promise as turning out to be a character that one would soon admire in later books. Logen is of course the battle smart but street dumb warrior that wouldn’t lose a fight if he had to. His inner turmoil’s are engaging and leave you wanting more of his history and future. Bayaz is nothing new in terms of being a wizard, but his magic is gruesome and explosive, which is always fun to read about. Bayaz himself is also amusing with his infinite knowledge and almost prophetic vision.

The Blade Itself may not do anything new for the genre but it is educated and mature. The characters are mildly complex and the paths they take are adventurous and well worth the time taken to read through them. The book ends with the characters silently thinking to themselves that they would rather be anywhere else in the world than about to go on this journey with these other, unknown people.

The main character, Logen Ninefingers, feels like he could put his sword down for good at any moment, and he would love to, but not just yet. Fate has pulled him into something unforeseen and something that he can’t get away from. With his sword at his side he seems to be the only one of the group to willingly accept his fate that’s been bestowed upon him. "The blade itself incites to deeds of violence." -Homer [3.5/5]


I think I'm gonna try and review books here, kinda like bears eat peoples blog.