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 listened to many audio books and in my opinion Steven Pacey is in a league of his own. The characters come to life in his voice. But even a good narrator must have something with which to work. The Blade Itself lends a wonderful story to a magnificient voice. If one loves fantasy one must own this title.
I have listened to a ton of Fantasy based novels from George RR Martian to Jim Butcher. This author in this series is as good as any of them. You will not be disappointed with this book! The reader is great and the story line is well thought out. I have to say that I am especially impressed with the characters as each one of them has there positive as well as negative attributes.
Joe Abercrombie has created a cast of characters that just ooze personality and Steven Pacey has brought them to life with a wide array of engaging voices. This is the first book I have listened to involving either Joe or Steven but it certainly won't be the last!
There are 3 main point-of-view characters in the Blade Itself:
The first is Logen Ninefingers, a Northman known as "The Bloody-Nine." The nickname comes from the wake of corpses he has left in his past as well as the fact that he is missing one of his fingers. Logen has a surprisingly easy going personality for someone with his bloody history and is often surprised by the fact that he is "still alive" whenever he survives yet another life threatening encounter.
Inquisitor Glokta is a bitter, crippled torturer who would like nothing more than to torture whoever it was that invented stairs, which are the bane of his existence. He learned how to torture and break people first hand when he was a prisoner of war and it was done to him. He bears many permanent handicaps including the fact that half his teeth were removed in such a way that his remaining upper and lower teeth never overlap and he cannot chew solid food.
And finally, Jezal dan Luthar, is an arrogant, self-centered nobleman who has every advantage in life and takes it all for granted. He is a promising swordsman who really doesn't want to work hard to realize his true potential. His father's wealth has provided him an entry into the Contest, the most prestigious fencing tournament in the Union, and he seems determined to embarrass his family name and throw this opportunity away.
What really amazed me about the book is none of these 3 main characters is all that likeable and their stereotypes are somewhat cliché in the fantasy genre. They have many undesirable traits, they act in unethical ways, and there is really no reason to like any of them, but I loved them all! It was the perfect combination of Joe Abercrombie's writing with Steven Pacey's reading that made we want to spend more time with each of them, learn more about their pasts, and find out what happens to them in the future.
Once Bayaz, the First of the Magi, entered into the picture things were building up to something special. Bayaz acts as a catalyst that turns everyone else's life upside down and he assembles many of the characters into an incompatible group of personalities for a purpose only he knows. I found myself ready to go on a grand adventure with this unlikely collection of individuals and then the book was over. This is the only reason I do not give this book a 5 star rating overall. It set the stage nicely, but then it just ended.
If you are looking for a single book experience then I must caution you against this book; however, if you want to be entertained and you are willing to commit to more than one book, then this is a credit well spent.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself (2006), swords, knives, axes, maces, spears, staves, bows, crossbows, tongs, chisels, lumber, fists, feet, arms, legs, teeth, and magical force all are put to bloody use during scenes of cinematic graphic violence ranging in scale from arrests and interrogations to ambushes and skirmishes (full scale battles are sure to come in the second or third novels in Abercrombie's epic fantasy noir First Law trilogy). But good as Abercrombie is with a blade, he really excels at character development, irony, and humor.
The Blade Itself focuses on the troubles of the Union: the king is senile, his callow sons are unfit to lead after him, squabbling factions weaken the government, the over-taxed peasants are restive, the Northmen have invaded from the north, and the Gurkhul Empire is preparing to attack from the south. Into this situation Joe Abercrombie introduces three main point of view characters, each of whom is darkly delightful to follow.
--Logen Ninefingers, the most feared warrior of the North, is a killer who has come to regret his bloodthirsty youthful exploits. Surprisingly for a "barbarian," he is philosophical and open-minded--but look out if his Mr. Hyde berserker alter-ego the Bloody Nine surfaces! Acting on advice from spirits, Logen heads south to meet a mage who's seeking him. What will he make of civilization and it of him?
--Sand dan Glokta sourly remembers his glory days as the champion swordsman and star noble of the Union, which ended during the last war against the Gurkhul Empire when he was captured and tortured for two years. Now thirty-five, he is an ostracized, cynical cripple, limping around in constant pain as an Inquisitor for the Inquisition. Glokta regularly asks himself why he's doing what he does, even as he tortures confessions out of small fry "traitors" like plump merchants. Will he ever uncover the true enemies of the state?
--And Captain Jezal dan Luthar is a vain, snobbish, and lazily ambitious nobleman, expert in winning his fellow officers' money in cards and leading them in drunken debauchery. Does he have the desire required to train seriously enough to win the Union's annual swordsmanship competition? Will he ever fall in love or mature?
Abercrombie writes interesting supporting characters, too, among them Major Callem West, a farmer's son who rose through the ranks by dint of hard work and courage; Ardee West, Callem's intelligent and frustrated sister, who chafes at being limited to a woman's role; the Dogman, the scout for a band of Northern outlaws who believe their chief, Logen, is dead; Ferro, a black-skinned, yellow-eyed, snarling female ex-slave criminal warrior who lives for revenge; and Bayaz, the centuries-old, legendary First of the Magi who thinks that world affairs could use a little wizardly aid again. The Blade Itself is great fun when its characters--each with different cultures, backgrounds, personalities, prejudices, and agendas--spend time together.
With rich irony, Luthar and Glokta see the powerful mage Bayaz as an "old lunatic" or an "old fraud." The caustic thoughts of Luthar and Glokta often hilariously contradict what they say, especially when kowtowing to superiors. Logen has some great lines, too, as when Bayaz explains to him that civilized people enjoy the theater, and he says, "Stories? Some people have too much time on their hands." There are plenty of funny similes, as when Bayaz sends an obnoxious Northern prince packing with "a face as red as a slapped arse." There are plenty of pointedly comical situations, too, as when Bayaz leads his gormless apprentice and Logen into a theatrical supply shop to buy gaudy costumes with which to convincingly play their real roles. Even the action scenes have funny touches, as when Ferro and Logen are being chased over city roof tops by persistent Inquisition "Practicals," and they crash through a roof and land in a bed in a room and Logen thinks, "In bed with a woman again, at last."
Stephen Pacey reads the novel masterfully, turning a four star work into a five star one through his use of different voices and accents for the characters from different cultures and backgrounds. He gives Glokta a gap-toothed lisp, Bayaz a John Geilgud-esque sly grandeur, Logen a Northern England accent, Ferro a feral attitude, and so on, each choice entertainingly enhancing Abercrombie's characterizations.
The Blade Itself does have plenty of typical features of the epic fantasy genre, such as the identity-less, Orc-like Shanka overrunning the far north, the evil Prophet sending evil cannibal mages on evil missions, and the varied group of people preparing to go on a vital and dangerous quest led by an old wizard. But Abercrombie gives the genre a fresh spin with his anti-hero heroes, unpredictable plot developments, irony, and entertaining imagination.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.
Abercrombie uses this book to assemble his cast of characters, and a fascinating and irresistible crew they are. Flawed, idiosyncratic, dangerous and often quite funny when they least mean to be, they have been dragged kicking and screaming into his tale and, by the end of the book, he has them all moving reluctantly in the same direction. The wonder is that, while we know the "real" story has not even begun yet, he has already ushered us through a harrowing and thrilling ordeal filled with brilliant detail. Simultaneously, along the way, he has introduced us to a fully imagined world which is remarkably convincing. And as several other reviewers have remarked, not the least of the attraction is that the characters we meet are complex and unlikely heroes.
I bought this audiobook because I so enjoyed "Best Served Cold," by the same author. I was slightly apprehensive because a part of the attraction of that book was the narrator, Michael Page, who did a superb job. I was a bit sad that he was not the narrator for this one as well. To my amazement I found that Steven Pacey was at least Page's equal and perhaps even a demi-shade better. This is a wonderful marriage of great writing and great reading.
I am going to have to delay reading the second and third books in this series because I am loathe to have the whole thing end. Anticipation will heighten the experience, I think. In any event, Abercrombie is now among my very favorite authors of this genre.
What a Great book!. The Story is very smooth. The Characters are well developed and likable. Its got all you want in a fantasy book. Blood, guts, magic, heroes and villains. its got alot of action and some good humor blended in. The narrator does a great job. cant wait to listen to the next two books. And im sure if your a Geaorge RR Martain fan..you will enjoy this too.
I have purchased and borrowed a great many fantasy titles over the years. The majority, either
spoken or written, were rubbish...trite plots, one dimensional characterization, often, near copies of older, far better originals. In spoken versions, all too frequently, the reader(s) overdramatize, never varying the pace,and/or go well beyond their range and abilities to vocalize, perhaps to make up
for the trash they have to read, and make a bad thing worse. This seems the case with so
many "series" fantasy novels, that I mostly stay away from them. This one is an honest to goodness
I like long books. The price Audible put on "The Blade Itself" and its over 20 hour length convinced
me to get it, all other factors included i.e. good reviews, decent preview. The book was everything
good fantasy should be...original plot, characters who act and think like real people, violence, sex, action, intrigue all in reasonable doses and with excellent pacing and a very liberal sprinkling of
genuine humor...a bit "black", I'll admit...throughout. I have not actually read the author before
listening to this, so I really can't assign a percentage of credit for how well this work was done to
the narrator, Steven Pacey. But his reading of "The Blade Itself" was pure delight...right up there
with Jim Dale and John Lee (at his best). If the rest of the series is as good, well... one can only hope.
This is just a great book and an excellent begining to a promising triology. All the elements are here...excellently written, superb narration, multidimensional characters, a large world, magic, violence, romance, war, and politics. Sometimes funny, always engaging and thoroughly enjoyable…sucks you in and pins you there as you ride along with the story. Easily on par with Mistborn, A Song of Fire and Ice and The Wheel of Time. Can't wait to hear books 2 and 3.
Book one is well written, has interesting characters and is very well read. It serves to build the characters, twine them together and set the stage for a great epic resolution. Just as the reader is prepared for great battles and great twists of fate that will surely bring all the characters together again - book one ends leaving only questions and no resolutions.
This book is not a waste of your time or your credit, but you'll be disappointed if you don't have book two and possibly book three to step into.
A fan of epic fantasy...the darker the better!
I cannot say enough about this series...except I want more! I am a big fan of Robert Jordan and GRRM and was beginning to despair that the rest were all for "young adults." Joe Abercrombie doesn't hold back. I was swept up in a world that was realistic and fantastic at the same time. Some people complain about the language but the use of "foul language" keeps you rooted in the world. This is a dark and gritty tale meant for adults. This is a must read for GRRM fans! You'll find yourself loving and hating characters at the same time much like you do in A Song of Ice and Fire! Narration was excellent!
The book is great, that goes without saying, but it's the narrator I wish to praise here. He is by far the best narrator I have ever listened too, every character is given a distinct and unique voice, so much so that it is sometimes hard to believe it is all the same man speaking. He understands the tone and humour of the books perfectly and delivers each line exactly as the author intended. Inquisitor Glokta is delivered near perfectly, talking with a lisp but thinking in his old voice, brilliant.
"A story well told"
Very engaging story with good characters. It was hard to put down. I had become bored with the standard tripe doled out in the Fantasy genre and this was like a breath of fresh air. I have downloaded all his other books due to the impression this book had on me. Waiting with anticipation on this next offering and few authors make me feel like that anymore.
"If you like Game of Thrones..."
Wow, hadn’t heard of Joe Abercrombie much before purchasing this book, but he has quickly become my new favorite author
Story – 5/5
Some may say this story is a little slow going, as it takes it’s time developing the characters rather than moving through the over-arcing story. Personally I preferred this approach as JA’s writing is far superior to most fantasy authors, and he can pull it off. I actually prefer this to Game of Thrones.
JA’s writing is very clever; he somehow develops a likeable torturer and a barbarian champion killer who doesn’t like killing people, and makes them believable. His whit is also as sharp as a knife. Very dark comedy that had me laughing out loud at times (which rarely happens with books)
For those who like the action though, there is still plenty of it, along with some quite gruesome scenes – much like other gritty fantasy books. JA has taken the standard epic fantasy structure and put his own spin on it. A very solid debut
Performance – 5/5
When I listened to the sample, I wasn’t too sure about Steven Pacey, I didn’t like how he described an action scenes. I realised after purchasing the audio book though that he is in fact one of the very best narrators out there – I just wasn’t used to him.
His character acting was flawless, each having a distinctive and believable voice. His narration enhanced the dark comedy and whit that Joe Abercrombie was clearly trying to portray
Music/sound effects between scenes/chapters was a nice touch as well
Overall – 5/5
"Disappointing despite reviews"
I was really disappointed in this, I don't buy a-books often so when I do I try to make sure that they have good reviews and a decent length to them. The narrator was fine and I can't fault the style of reading - just the material.
I listened to the first 5 or so hours of this then just gave up because I found myself loosing interest to the extent that I'd pause and not be able to remember a single thing that happened in the last few minutes. This wasn't because of the actual content of the story (although some parts didn't make sense, a man does not starve to death in 4 days) but rather the simple style of writing and over-reliance on cursing to make a point rather than any attempt to actually give a decent description, direct or otherwise.
I've seen other reviews refer to this as "Sharp, pacey prose" and other similar descriptions but to me it just seems emotionless and dead With Steven Pacey desperately trying to force some life into it. The only solace comes from the fact that it doesn't last long before Abercrombie moves onto the next mundane line of speech punctuated by " 'S***' Said Loagn.". The only Things that stopped me giving this a minimum rating review were the characters. While I found I couldn't care less about a good few of them, one or two had the spark of potential to become interesting, Glokta springs to mind.
I'm sorry Audible but I shall be returning this one and trying to find something better written.
"Say one thing for Abercrombie; say he can write"
For a sword and sorcery book, this story is remarkably engaging. The world Abercrombie created is intriguing, filled with half answered questions and mysteries that make you want to read on. Further to that, the characters he created are truly sublime. Each one is riveting. One constantly feels a medley of emotions, all out of place with the characters to which they belong and all weaving amongst each other chapter to chapter, forcing you to read and be thoroughly entertained. The world is interesting, multi-faceted and deep enough to pin the characters and their various struggles. Nothing in this book feels out of place. Crafted with true mastery.
A stellar read, unconventionally brilliant.
great accents, and character variation. have not previously read the books, but very much enjoying the audio so far.
"Great Part 1 to a trilogy expertly narrated"
I have nearly 24 audio books under my belt and thought nothing would surpass Rob Inglis' version of Lord of The Rings until I listened to a sample of this book by Steven Pacey.
Wow, Steven really has put his all into character customisation excellently narrated with characters that seem to come alive. This combined with what is a clever character driven plot makes for one of my top listens so far on Audible. I'm nearly at the end of Part 1 and already have Part 2 and 3 waiting to be heard. I can't wait! I've noticed that Pacey has also done Joe's other works and will be downloading them as well as soon as I get the credits. Top story top narrator and a worthy listen.
With rich characters and an in depth story, this book is an instant classic. Joe Abercrombie manages to bring the real life kind of substance and flavour to his characters that is sadly lacking in a lot of other formulaic novels of this genre. There is no black or white, the main protagonists have both flaws and humour that make them jump from the page or speaker. You may find yourself looking for excuses to spend time alone just to listen some more.
"A fantastic first book of the series"
This book combines a great story, excellent characterisation and some genuinely black humour reminiscent of Mervyn Peakes 'Gormenghast' trilogy. It is intelligently written with believable characters and dry humour and I will definitely be reading the remaining two in the series. As other reviewers have pointed out, the narration by Stephen Pacey is truly excellent.
"The Good, The Bad and The Nasty!"
I'm sure I would relisten to The Blade Itself somewhere down the line. Its a great start to a great trilogy (I listened to the others on CD) Its an epic story with great characters. A great first fantasy novel!
The obvious comparison would be to George R R Martin's Game of Thrones. A huge sprawling cast, different lands and also it deals with political and commercial shenanigans as well as military ones. Like Martin's GoT, The Blade Itself is filled with anti heroes coloured varying shades of gray. After finishing the trilogy I just longed for a noble character like Aragorn or Druss and not these conflicted twisted sociopaths! You know when one of your "heroes" is a torturer, and member of an inquisition you know what you're in for!
Logen Nine Finger was my favourite character. A man forged through the horrors of war. He seems to be a laconic everyman who seems just to be getting by in the world, however he can. A fantasy Han Solo or Mal Reynolds. Until events later in the book reveal another side to him. Stephen Pacey is a fine narrator who makes a huge cast of both male and female characters stand out, however I have one quibble he pronounces grimace with a Mace not a Miss and it kept snapping me out of the story. With a character like Glokta there is an awful lot of griMACEing going on!
A great fantasy novel from an English author. He fills a gap left by David Gemmell for visceral, action packed fantasy.
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