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Publisher's Summary

The first novel in the First Law Trilogy and the debut novel from New York Times best seller Joe Abercrombie.

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he's on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian - leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: Cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald 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 Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.

©2015 Joe Abercrombie (P)2015 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

Exhilarating.... Abercrombie's knack for wit and grit holds your attention throughout, and his eye for character means that there's heart as well as muscle." [ SFX (UK)]

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Characters drive the story. The Narrator rocks!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Blade Itself to be better than the print version?

I've not read the print version. Steven Pacey (the narrator) does a fantastic job making these characters come to life. Abercrombie writes incredibly interesting heroes with both dark and light sides to them. They drive a story that is good but just not important compared to the dynamics of the POV and secondary characters.

What other book might you compare The Blade Itself to and why?

Potentially Game of Thrones due to the grey morality and at times very brutal and bleak world. It's very realistic as one of the characters will remind you often. It is certainly smaller in scope than SOIAF though with less winding plot and more emphasis on the stories of the chosen "heroes" then the ever growing cast of GoT.

Have you listened to any of Steven Pacey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I've been listening to audiobooks for over 15 years and this might be the best voice acting I've heard. Abercrombie's ability to build unique ticks and traits of characters certainly helped but Pacey just made them REAL. I laughed and felt bad for it and just felt invested in the loving or hating the characters as they went through the story. (I'm speaking somewhat to the whole trilogy here which is well worth it)

Any additional comments?

I'm a Sanderson guy who loves intricate plots and world building. Abercrombie does the opposite in my opinion with more grey heroes, less emphasis on story and much more on how events affect the characters he's crafted. Different but I absolutely loved it. The characters, while frustrating and heartbreaking at times don't make decisions that I couldn't have predicted. Abercrombie establishes who they are so well that even if you disagree sometimes with how they act or are disappointed you understand why. And when they surprise you it's marvelous but still somehow always true to them. Highly recommend these books and the audio version.

55 of 68 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY KNIVES

I RECKON ONE MAN'S THOUGHTS ARE WORTH AS BOUT AS MUCH AS ANOTHER'S
You can trust the 4.6 rating on this book and the glowing reviews. This is a character driven story full of wisdom, blood and gore, pain (physical and emotional), LOL moments, sarcasm, sword and sorcery, cold vivid landscape, magic, twists and turns and lots of characters which are well developed. Like George RR, these characters are fleshed out and you spend enough time with them, that you don't have to worry about being confused. This was my second time with this book and I enjoyed it as much the second time through.

IF YOU SAY ONE THING ABOUT LOGEN NINEFINGERS AND YOU SAY ONLY ONE THING, SAY;HE'S A KILLER
The book starts with the action straight off. Logen is a NAMED MAN, who is almost killed by a FLATHEAD. THE MAN WHO STRIKES FIRST USUALLY STIKES LAST. Logen has been fighting all his life and he is also considered a NORTH MAN. He is tired of fighting, but still willing to do what it takes. I HAVE SETTLED A FEW SCORES IN MY LIFE, BUT IT ONLY LED TO MORE.

CLICK, TAP, PAIN
Inquisitor Glokta, was my favorite character. He was once a dashing young noble and winner of the sword fighting champion of the land. In a war, he was captured and tortured for two years. He is now 35 years old, but looks much older. He is a cripple, missing most of his teeth and with several other painful maladies, caused by surviving two years of torture. Just climbing or going down stairs is a challenge for him. IF GLOKTA HAD BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO TORTURE ANYONE MAN, ANYONE AT ALL, HE WOULD SURELY HAVE CHOSEN THE INVENTOR OF STEPS. He now gets no respect and he is an Inquisitor, which means he is a torturer. His snarky, sarcastic humor, had me going throughout the book. BROKEN HEARTS EVENTUALLY HEAL, BUT BROKEN TEETH NEVER DO.

CAPTAIN JEZEL DAN LUTHAR is a noble, who knows he is handsome and of noble birth, far superior to most others, especially of common birth. First you like the guy, than you hate the guy, than you think maybe he is okay and finally? JEZAL COULD'T AFFORD TO BE SEEN WALKING ABOUT THE AGRIONT WITH A FAT GIRL ON HIS ARM. IT COULD RUIN HIS REPUTATION.

ONCE YOU GOT A TASK TO DO, IT IS BETTER TO DO IT THAN LIVE WITH THE FEAR OF IT.
If I have a complaint, it would be the length of the novel, yet I could not tell you what to cut. Sometimes I wondered where the story was going, but I was so invested in the characters and their everyday lives, that I was not as bothered by that as I usually am.

THE SEEDS OF THE PAST BEAR FRUIT IN THE PRESENT
I have mentioned only a few of the starring characters, there are a couple of other major characters, such as Major West and his curvy sister Ardee. Jezel seems to be following in love with her, but she is a commoner. Bayaz is FIRST OF THE MAGI. Then their are some more minor characters, but not less colorful, such as Practical Frost, the Albino, Ferro, Dogman, Grim, Black Dow, threetrees and the Navigator who has remarkable talents.

KNOWLEDGE IS THE ROOT OF POWER
Pacey the narrator is excellent

UNFAIRNESS IS NOT AN ADMIRABLE QUALITY
The following is a SPOILER for the Reviewer Assassins and has nothing to do with the review of this book. So listen up CHUCKLES AND YOUR BUTT BUDDY FROM ATLANTA AND THE TEACHER FROM CALIFORNIA.

I AM STILL ALIVE



118 of 160 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Hear me out

I didn't like this book at first. I found it hard to care about any of the characters, and figuring out the purpose of the story at all was a bit difficult.

Then I realized that this book is essentially a prequel. It's like the back story for characters in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and their subsequent teaming up. Once I realized that, it was a much better listen.

That said, by the end I was rather excited for the next book in the series, and looking forward to seeing how these characters and their roles develop.

Also, in my opinion, the narrator is excellent. Wide range of accents, distinct voices, and he allows the listener to forget he's reading you a story.

54 of 78 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Surprised

I did not expect a lot from this book. I was looking for something to tide me over until the next season of Game of Thrones comes out. I didn't expect much from this book but I was surprised. There is a sly dark humor that seeps through the entire narrative. I can remember on several occasions actually laughing out loud as I listened to it while jogging. The story is compelling, the characters are very tangible and the narrator uses a great range of voices and accents, without going over the top. Well worth it!

27 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Effing fantastic

Grit, humor, blood, wit, originality, excellent characters, hints of sexy romance, believable pain both physical and emotional. Can't wait for 2 and 3!

28 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Hope it goes somewhere by the 2nd book,,,,,

This entire book seemed to just be a setup for the coming books.The truth is this whole series is not really about the world the characters inhabit, but is more about the characters the author has elected to talk about. They were interesting enough to get me to the end of the book, but personally, I care as much if not more about the fantasy worlds as the characters in them. If you're like me, you will probably have to push yourself to get through The First Law series of books.

The narrators performance kept me listening even when the story seemed to drag. The whole thing seemed to be just a bunch of individual threads that didn't really seem to come together until almost the end and even then they still feel like separate stories working towards something that doesn't come here. I'm looking forward to the next two books to see where things go as I see a lot of potential in where things ended here.

The story had a few angles that eventually tied together nicely. I almost felt like there were two styles of book going for a while. Wild, hack slash, barbarian adventure. Then more civilized where sword play is an art, and the city is more gentrified. The definition between the people split into upper class and lower. Then the author tied the two story lines together.

biggest complaint-
The magic has NO explanation, or almost none. I got use in some of my favorite books like The storm-light archive by Brandond Sanderson or The name of the wind by Patrick Rothfus, that magic gets explained. In the Blade itself, a general reason for magic is explained, but thats it, no details. For me, the details help it feel real, and not just arbitrary. If a point to a rock and it explodes, that is great. But if I explain what I am doing to the rock, that I am trying to convince it to explode, or that I put energy inside, or something, that is much more exiting.


(I saw few reviews intone they had already heard this story with different characters, but this was NOT a Fellowship of the Ring, and the characters were nowhere near as squeaky clean)

15 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Doesn't hold together

First, the narrator is terrific. Will definitely keep an eye out for more, especially in this genre.

The story initially was engaging and had some interesting, creative elements that had me looking forward to a new prolific author in the trampled ground of high fantasy. Unfortunately, it did not hold together and slipped fairly rapidly into cliché and characters behaving at the level of a comic book. There also are unnecessarily prolonged and repetitive descriptions of particular character traits and certain scenes. Many torture scenes become increasingly implausible. Entirely too much telling exactly what characters are thinking at every moment and not enough showing. I couldn't make it past about the one-third mark.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Eric
  • East Stroudsburg, PA, United States
  • 01-03-17

Say one thing for The Blade itself, say it's fun.

One of my favorite performances since taking up audio-booking. Well-written, deep, and engaging at most times. There's a little bit of slow down here and there, but I assume it's only an investment in character that will pay dividends in future installments.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Characters are full, Story is building

This book is compelling primarily due to the complex nature of the characters within it. It is a book full of anti-heroes, which makes it feel modern. My favorite is San Dan Glokta an ex-star fencer who was tortured into being a cripple by war. The cynicism and sadness weaved into his character is expertly done. However this book's range of characters forgets women protagonists. With 1/2 being in the book and not being the central characters. In this sense the book lacks the modern need to find compelling female characters. The female character Pharoah might become more prominent in further books, so fingers crossed.

In relation to story, each event within it is enjoyable. However at quite a few points I was like but where is this book going? In the end you realize the plot is simply building into a greater scheme that I'm sure will play out in the next two book.

In conclusion, read this book for the characters, as they are probably some of the most carefully crafted in epic fantasy.

24 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Long, bleak, brutal slog.

I made it through all three books mostly because I was curious how Abercrombie would tie everything up, and because Steven Pacey did such a good job with the voices. My frustration with the trilogy is that Abercrombie creates some likable characters but doesn't really do anything with their personal development. Few villains are held accountable, good behavior is rarely rewarded, and several characters are simply trivialized over the course of the books. Survival is the best you can hope for here - not redemption - and we aren't always even sure about survival since some characters just sort of slip out of the narrative without any real explanation.

The vision in these books is bleak and the brutality ubiquitous. Most of the adventures lead to dead-ends and few problems are actually resolved. Although there is a "big picture" here, it far too cynical to be a satisfying one. The action just sort of explodes and then peters out in uneven spurts. In the final book the most interesting protagonists simply go off in separate directions with no real closure or even a promise of closure to their story-line. The final chapter is called "Loose ends" which is appropriate since there are quite a few of them left dangling.

Abercrombie's world building is not complex, though I think he believed he was developing a more complex world than it actually comes across. It feels more like a video game - the world just a backdrop for ongoing fight scenes. These are highly descriptive, so it can feel exciting; but ultimately it seemed an endless and pointless exercise. I don't think he knew how to end this trilogy, so he just sort of let go of the narrative at the end with one final splash and a big question mark. Personally I don't mind question marks at the end of books, because the "reader" can make the decision of what will happen next to suit oneself, but this book has too many of them in too many directions.

Still, if you like medieval-type fighting, struggles for power, and computer games that are mostly fighting through tough situations, you will probably find the books exciting. Steven Pacey does an excellent job of keeping the action going and the voices distinct. Just don't expect an epic with something to say about the human condition.

40 of 65 people found this review helpful