Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers.
Nobleman, dashing officer and would-be fencing champion Captain Jezal dan Luthar is living a life of ease by cheating his friends at cards. Vain and shallow, the biggest blot on his horizon is having to get out of bed in the morning to train with obsessive and boring old men. And Logen Ninefingers, an infamous warrior with a bloody past, is about to wake up with plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the new King of the Northmen, once and for all - ideally by running away from it.
But as he's discovering, old habits die hard....especially when Bayaz gets involved. An old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Glokta, Jezal, and Logen a whole lot more difficult....
©2010 Joe Abercrombie (P)2010 Orion Publishing Group
I've probably listened to 150 audiobooks and this one is one of the very best. Like others have said, this is fantasy in the same league as George RR Martin, both in quality and in terms of real-world building and gray characters. The writing is great and the last couple of hours of the book are just spellbinding. The Bloody Nine is just one of the best fantasy characters ever devised.
I have to also spare a comment for the narrator, whom I had never listened to before this book. He. Is. Outstanding. He does a range of characters and does them all very well. Pacey adds so much to the novel.
Say one thing about this series, say it's a buzz-kill.
I feel that I should put this review here, before the series begins, as a bit of a warning. I fairly enjoyed the first two books in this series. I think the comparisons to Jim Butcher and G.R.R.Martin are a bit over blown... Butcher is much funnier and more clever with his words, and Martin's characters are much better rounded. Even his "bad guys" are likable. (you either like them, or love to hate them, that is)
I found Abercrombie's characters here to be somewhat flat, but with good potential. His plot was interesting and you get a good idea where he's leading you. (Life is hell, and not all heroes are nice guys) His settings... meh. Unbelievable and bland.
That said, I really was enjoying this series. It wasn't a favorite, but the plot and a few of the characters, Logen and Glokta in particular, I found very intriguing. They really carried the first two books. I wanted to read more about them and couldn't wait to get to the third.
Oh, how I wish I had left off at the first two. All of the development and growth in his characters, all of the plot lines, they all collapse in on themselves. And before you think it was a failing on the author's ability, let me assure you, he did it deliberately. By the end of the series you wonder what, exactly, was the point to all of it?
As with the other reviewers here I found this an excellent value and even though it is almost 25hours long I was left wanting more. Buying the other two books now. If you like George R.R. Martin or other gritty Fantasy series then this is definately for you. Wonderful fight descriptions and the world is well imagined.
I loved this book. The 1st 6 hours of book one was slow and at times it really droned on for me but after that I couldn't stop listening until the end of book 3. Loved the characters and the fact that when you thought you knew them something would happen and change your perspective again and again.
I feel compelled to express how impressed I am with Abercrombie. He is a great author and I intend to hear/read all he offers. However, I feel it even more important to give props to Mr. Pacey, the narrator.
I have attempted to listen to books that I know are good or even great, only to stop in frustration at bad narration. I will only put myself through so much of that. The narration hear is truly amazing. Character voices distinct and unique without going over the top. Inflection and pacing is perfect. Best example is his rendering of the character Glokta. It almost makes the novel. I could be wrong, but I don't remember in the text of the book that Glokta had a lisp. Missing teeth, yes, but I don't remember the mention of a lisp. The narrator decided to add/include this to the character. Brilliant.
Don't get me wrong. The author is incredible too. Just hear the books. Do yourself a favor.
I am a long time customer of Audible This is the first book where, after listening to the first part, I can not tell you what the plot of the book is.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I was in the mood for some "gritty" fantasy after finishing Season 2 of A Game of Thrones, and Abercrombie seems to have made a name for himself in that department, so I thought I'd check him out. Yes, this is definitely a book that borrows from writers like George R.R. Martin and Glen Cook, eschewing traditional heroic archetypes for flawed anti-heroes. In fact, one of the central characters is a torturer, a man who serves the crown in this role after himself having been crippled by torture in an enemy prison.
Unfortunately, Inquisitor Glokta, whose dark complexity I found delightful, might have been Abercrombie's only really good idea. Everything else in the novel is pretty lightweight, a collection of well-worn fantasy tropes, clichéd characters, predictable plot turns, and forced drama. Luckily, the author doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, so the mediocrity was bearable for a while.
Still, I'm not impressed. Where George R.R. Martin (mostly) made his characters feel like real people, however decent, despicable, or in between, Abercrombie's portrayal of human psychology is unconvincing and shallow. A warrior accepts a mission from a wizard without bothering to ask why, simply because (we're told) he's tired of having to think for himself. The same wizard sends a demonstrably incompetent apprentice on a risky solo journey that nearly gets the kid killed. We're supposed to be surprised when a "barbarian" character reveals the prejudice of stuck-up city folk and everybody learns a valuable lesson. A primary female character is supposed to be "interesting" simply because she's a plainspoken commoner who’s stuck with the boring nobility and whinges about how nobody seems to notice her (which seems understandable, given her lack of any other compelling features). And, as for the story itself, I lost interest around the 2/3 mark, when it became clear that the plot was mostly setup for future books.
I'm usually not this negative, but I've read too many good books to put up with one that's the literary equivalent of a bland Taco Bell burrito. I've heard that the series gets better. I've also heard that it gets worse. Either way, I didn’t finish this one, and am not going further.
The audiobook narrator wasn't bad, but I thought his plummy voice was better suited to different kind of book (e.g. Harry Potter).
I've really been trying. I'm just soooooooo bored. I don't get the glowing reviews. I see reviews by a few that felt the first 5-6 hours were a snooze, and I whole heartedly agree. I just don't think I can hang in there to get past the dribble. It's hard to believe there could be anything very exciting in the future. A good writer MUST bait and pull a reader along in a story. Abercrombie is certainly not doing that for me!
I've so wanted to read something by Joe Abercrombie since I'm a big fan of GRRM, Rothfuss and Lynch but try as I might I cannot get into this one. I've gone through 12 chapters and still I don't know what's going on or even who the main protagonist is. Plus the narrator's voice inflections are grating on me. I will try another of his, but I'm giving up on this one.
I'm about halfway through this book and am finding it disappointing. I listen to a LOT of books, of all genres, but I especially enjoy fantasy and sc-fi that's well-written. I just can't get interested in this book - it's incredibly slow and there is a lot of descriptions of political debate that don't seem connected to the main story. It's funny at times and some of it is entertaining, but as a whole it doesn't seem to have much depth. I'm halfway through as I said, and I couldn't really tell you what the point of the story is.
I'm giving it three stars because the narrator is great. If I was reading this in paper format, I would have given up ages ago.
"The Blade Itself."
the first instalment in Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy is a dark and cynical tale with a varied host of morally ambiguous and deep characters. Despite them doing things many would consider abhorrent I found myself warming and even relating to most of them. As both a reader and listener I couldnt wait to see in which direction the plot would turn next.
i love all the characters in the Blade Itself, but my favourite would have to be Sand Dan Glokta. A character to at first seems completely despicable but actually seems to be one of the more morally decent characters in the book despite cruel and pragmatic means. He also is a genius and working through the various mysteries and intrigues throughout the series from Gloktas point of view is a genuine delight.
In terms of performance my favourite character would be Logen Nine fingers as Steven Pacey in my mind manages to capture both the fatherly and dependable side of Logen along with his brutal and barbaric tendency.
There are elements of humour in the book but a large part of that is Joe Abercrombies ability to point at our own lives and society and make us relate to his First Law world which in itself can be at times depressing and refreshing.
One of the best fantasy series I have both read and listened to highly recconended for fans of the likes of George R.R. Martin and the 'grimdark' movement in today's fantasy!!
"The only audiobook I have listened to three times"
Note - this is a review of the whole First Law trilogy not just "The Blade Itself"
As a voracious listener to audiobooks I tend to move rapidly on to the next thing that has piqued my interest rather than revisit old downloads once I have finished them. The First Law trilogy (and indeed Joe Abercrombie's works in general) are the exception to this and I recently listened to this trilogy for the third time and thoroughly enjoyed it yet again.
I won't recap the whole plot for fear of spoilers but in brief the three books cover the event in the fictional realms centered on The Union (a fictionalized state similar to a Late Medieval/Early Modern Western European state) and it's interactions with the Gurkish Empire (a clear equivalent to Islamic Caliphates) and the Northmen (basically Norsemen of the Early Middle Ages). While these wider political interactions are part of the story, however, they are very much background to the heart of the story which is very much focused on the human elements.
I have read that the reason Joe Abercrombie doesn't include maps in his books (a moot point for an audiobook) is that he doesn't want to tell his stories in wide angle as so much epic fantasy does but to focus on close ups. This results in the most richly and deeply realized characters I have ever come across in fantasy literature. Characters who mostly would be simplistically represented as "bad" in the hands of a lesser writer - the vain, spoilt rich kid; the crippled, bitter torturer; the murderous savage - yet who are rendered sympathetic by the revelation of their deeper concerns, insecurities and motivations.
The great pleasure I derive from the series is being treated like an adult which is a rarity in fantasy writing. The world is complex and detailed but Abercrombie doesn't feel the need to show this off by explaining every last element. It is simply the World that these characters reside in and they no more think about it than you or I do about the Earth on a daily basis. Similarly he doesn't lead us along by the hand into concluding about a character, or at least when he does you can't trust that he isn't simply allowing you to form misconceptions.
The focus on thorough character development and the complexity of the stories has lead some to criticize the stories with comments like "nothing happens". This is unfair, however, the pace can be slow but the books include an epic quest (a nice variant on a fantasy staple), two separate full blown wars with a whole series of battles ranging from small skirmishes to confrontations between whole armies, at least two separate political conspiracies fully explored and at least one love story. Surely that is enough to keep most people's attention occupied.
Finally a word on the narration. How often does a good book get let down by poor narration? In my experience, far too often and very rarely does a great book get the narration it deserves to lift it even higher. Steven Pacey does just that for these books. His performances both in character and as narrator breathe even more life into the books and I now look out for other works he has done.
In summary, these are the best books I have listened to on Audible and I would recommend to even those skeptical of fantasy as a genre.
"A superb story narrated by a superb voice"
A most excellent story, now hooked and downloaded the next audible in the series.
"A trilogy of the best kind"
From start to finish this first book was a joy to listen to. The story was complex without being muddled. The characters were inspired and the humour and sadness were just right. The narration was of the best kind. All in all a really great listen.
"Great book, best ever narrator!"
The book is wealth your time, interesting but also humorous to the point where you just laugh out loud with you earphones on and everyone around is staring at you. I'm reading the 2nd one in series at the moment and it gets even better. Narrator is amazing to the point that I'm actually going to choose my next book from the ones he narrated, wow!
"A slow start."
I'm a little disappointed with this book. Given the stream of 5 star reviews, many of which draw comparisons with Sanderson and Rothfuss, i expected more.
The good points: This is very well written, the characters are superb. Wonderfully fleshed out especially in their dialog which i found fantastically gritty and fitting to the characters. I even quite liked the use of harsh language. I felt it appropriate when it was used.
The narration is outstanding! Honestly i think its the best performed novel I've purchased on Audible. Pacey's character acting is utterly superb, especially Gloktar with his wet mouth lisp.
The reason i can only give this book 3 stars is the fact that the majority of it is just too slow. It's as though the only purpose of the book is to build the characters and set the scene for the next 2 books in the trilogy. It is very character focused and unfortunately the plot takes a back seat. It does improve towards the end when the characters story lines begin to come together but for the first 18 or so hours the lack of story line meant i wasn't incline to pick the book back up when i put it down. I had to really push myself to finish.
This hasn't put me off reading the trilogy though! As I said this book sets the scene and the trilogy as a whole looks to be very good. It just takes a while to get going.
Yes because there were lots of storylines being told simultaneously with a large number of characters, so I would listen again to ensure I hadn't missed any key parts.
He correctly pronounces people and place names that I might struggle with if I were to read the book.
Brilliant listen, some interesting storylines, can't wait to listen to the next book in the series.
"The best narration of a great story, great writer"
I am gripped by these books, I have listened to these 3 books - one after another - what a great trilogy. The narrator is superb every character is distinct and consistent. I usually listen to crime fiction but sometimes a good dose of fantasy is just what's needed. I would urge anyone who likes a good story to give these a go.
Glokta - crippled inquisitor- just love the asides and the lisp
Too many to pick
"Predictable but exciting"
I started listening to this shortly after The King Killer Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss and i went in anticipating a book of equal awesomeness and unfortunately this is not the case. Nonetheless, despite starting off slow, this developed into a really exciting story and the action sequences really grip you, particularly towards the end. Steven Pacey does a good job of conveying the atmosphere and action in his narration, my only criticism is the choice of accents for some of the characters, e.g. distinguishing better between northern and southern characters.
On the whole this was good to listen to and i look forward to the rest of the series to see how the story develops as this book seems to set the starting point of the story.
"Abercrombie + Pacey = Excellence"
Brutal Brilliant Enjoyable
Steven Pacey's characterisation and performance of each member of the illustrious cast is just amazing. Having the good works of Joe to start with then having Steven bring them to life was a joy to listen too.
Whenever a character started to speak you knew instantly who it was. There was no blandness in his portrayal, simply brilliance.
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