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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
This very well-written book was exhausting to listen to. I kept expecting a ray of hope or goodness, a character I could like, or a little contrast to the constant, sometimes egregious violence and cynicism. I never found any, except maybe in the excellence of the narrator.
I think it is a long lead-in for the next book, rather than a stand-alone novel. Unfortunately, I won't be participating in the next one. It's a little like Chinese food, where one chops, slices, dices and crushes ingredients for an hour, only to fast-fry them in 5 minutes. I've had too much of the chopping, slicing, dicing and crushing, and am no longer interested in the meal.
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!
"Excellent book, superbly narrated"
I very much enjoyed this book.
I dont read such Mediaeval fantasy series as a rule. I would guess that the fantasy backdrop, the structure of the plot and the nature of the characters are not that original.
But this book has three splendid things going for it. First it is very well written - sharp, pacy prose, very well drawn characters, and clever and interesting dialogue, all spiced with plenty of sardonic humour; second, although there is some pretty good action the narrative is very much plot and character driven, - lots of threads to a satisfyingly complicated plot, and you want to know what happens to the people in the story, both goodies and baddies; and third and most important is the narrator Stephen Pacey. I listened to the (free) Audible podcast where he explained that he liked reading audiobooks as he got to play all the characters! Well, he certainly earns his money on this book; expertly paced and varied narration and the huge range of characters is brilliantly drawn and brought to convincing life. He turns what is already a very good book into a great one. If there was an Oscar for narrators he should definitely be on the short list.
This is part 1 of a trilogy and I am looking forward to parts 2 and 3 - also narrated by Stephen Pacey.
A five star listen without a doubt.
"A well writen, gritty piece of Fantasy fiction."
Great piece of fiction that is strongly focused around the characters and their stories.
The Fantasy element of this story is not the focus, but does creep into the story as you progress.
I like the way the characters flaws are displayed and the internal conflicts that the main characters experience.
There is also not just one main character, but many, with interwove stories and plots. (Thus the trilogy)
This Fantasy Fiction story is also written from a fresh perspective that feels more real than fantasy, and all the violence, colourful language and intertwining plots make for an Gritty entertaining adventure....and there are 2 more books to follow! Can't wait to start the next book.
PS. The Narrator Steven Pacey is Brilliant. He really does a fantastic job with accents, and dramatization.
The reason I listen to fiction books, (apart from the hands free experience) is because of such narrators that add so much more to an great story.
"Be warned... herein lies addiction..."
and the purchasing of all three books in quick succession.
I was browsing round for something new to listen to and I was intrigued by the glowing reviews.
One download and 30 minutes later I was hooked. Two weeks later I'm downloading book three.
An excellent story, well written and superbly narrated. I cannot fault Steven Pacey in his work. A fantastic job of bringing the characters to life.
"Possibly My Favourite Listen So Far..."
After "Name of the Wind" and "Wise Man's Fear" I thought I'd possibly heard the best I could in the Fantasy genre (so towards the end of WMF I started to get a little sad about what would come next.)
Having since listened to a lot of other good audiobooks - this trilogy (I am nearly at the end of the third book) is brilliant. The story (stories really) are involved and detailed, the characters flawed but engaging - and often very funny. It's such a pleasure to read (listen) to books where I don't find myself questioning the things that happen ("how would he manage that?" "she'd never say that" "how could that work") - the story just unfolds, the characters stay true to their short comings - even as they grow in places. Events are portrayed effortlessly.
All of this is made twice as good by a fantastic performance from Steven Pacey. His reading is such a pleasure to listen to. A large cast, each with distinctive (and similar where appropriate) voices that completely bring the characters to life.
As I come towards the end of the third book (Last Argument of Kings) I am starting to wonder what comes next in my "audiobook life"...
This is an exciting story with many twists. The characters are beautifully written and totally engrossing.
The reading is perfect.
I bought this one in a sale on the site since I'd run out of audiobooks and it was a while until my next credit came through. I was not in the least disappointed and will definitely be getting the other books in the trilogy. Abercrombie's interesting and well-characterised world is vividly brought to life by Steven Pacey's fantastic narration. With one exception (Captain Luthar, who I disliked strongly throughout the entire book) the protagonists are all interesting, well-formed and sympathetic, and it's a skilled author indeed who can make a torturer into a complex and likeable character. If you like fantasy, check this out. You're unlikely to regret it.
Superbly written and superbly narrated. A far more intelligent and witty fantasy story than the standard fare; those seeking dwarves, elves or magic rings might be wise to look elsewhere (though there is a smattering of sorcery). I can't recommend it highly enough. Great stuff.
"I am still alive!"
Imagine Dumas and Stendhal were thrown into a dungeon and told to knock out something post-Tolkien with beefed-up sordid realism and judicious dashes of cheek and swearing. Their jailers, Robert E Howard and Raymond Chandler, may add a few bon mots should they feel inclined; and, while they're at it, they should also reanimate Arthur C Clarke for a wonderfully strange segment in the middle. Fortunately we have Joe Abercrombie, so you don't have to.
To describe the plot may make it seem like many other fantasy fictions out there, but it isn't. It's not the stuff of doom and gloom either. Bayaz the affable wide boy magus, but woe betide you if you disrupt his bath time, has a cunning plan, the ramifications of which presumably play out over the trilogy. To this end he draws in diverse characters to the capital city of the Union (itself about to enter a war on two fronts). Our adventurers are already on the hop before they are drawn in, and, in some cases, beset by hazards both human and somewhat beyond. And it's the somewhat beyond that interests Bayaz. There are numerous intertwining threads beyond this though that reach out across Abercrombie's world. The characters are skillfully drawn---so much so, that the novel could be regarded as fantasy's The Wire.
Mr Abercrombie, perhaps tapping into his skills as a film editor, brings a seemingly effortless pace to proceedings. There is a sense of reality too: the protagonists seldom leave confrontations unscathed, and even use of magic has a price.
Which brings us to Steven Pacey. His narration is extraordinarily good. The book has a huge cast, and Mr Pacey imbues each and every one of it, including female characters, with a recognisable and believable voice (so much so, I began to wonder if he had smuggled Sean Locke and Pete Postlethwaite, and many more, into the recording sessions). Yes, Mr Pacey deserves an audio-Oscar (and a proper one too).
"A slow start, but it gets better...."
I need to review this trilogy in a oner....
Initially, I found the first book too slow. Too much scene setting and character building for me - I needed more action and kept waiting for it all to come together. However, having completed the trilogy, I now understand why the first book was like it was - and it certainly has its place.
Great second book - all good action and great pace.
Third book, I think, is the best of the trilogy - plenty of pace and the story peaks, as expected, BUT, it ends with too many loose ends. Whilst I get why it ended like it did, I needed more.....I was left feeling as though there needs to be a 4th book where the wrongs can be righted and the bad get their come-uppance.
I'm a massive fan of epic fantasies, and this is just that. It's got loads of action, lots of battle scenes, and plenty of blood and swearing. Not really a "girlie" book (although I have to caveat that with an "I'm a girl and thoroughly enjoyed it" statement). All the characters are well developed, and fairly complex. Interesting how my feelings towards each of them changed as the story progressed and I got to know them better. Is it bizarre that my favourite characters turned out be a torturer and a schizophrenic killer???
If you're a fan of epics, and have a reasonably strong stomach, then this is highly recommended.
But if you start with book one, be prepared to go through all three, and then still feel like you haven't got to the end...
After looking at these books in countless shops in audio and print and reading about them on many to read lists and not picking them up despite all of this. I finally bit the bullet and bought the audiobooks to listen to at work, this was not a mistake! These have made it onto my top 10 favorite books list along with the song of ice and fire series and the Wheel of Time they really are that good.
The book is a story of grit and intriguetold from the point of view of the strangest characters ever. Just wait until you meet Inquisitor Glokta!
The audiobook is well read by Stephen Pacey with a lot of emotion and very recognisable characters just by tone and voice alone.
Overall a very worthwhile buy!
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