The Blade Itself: The First Law by Joe Abercrombie is a bit of a mixed bag that favors the positive side. The beginning of the book starts out a little slow, but the book is filled with fantastic characters, excellent action sequences, and plenty of intrigue within the story. There are some examples of poor writing in the book as well: poorly constructed sentences, incorrect punctuation, and overused words. Regardless of the occasional bit of poor writing, I loved this book and would not hesitate to suggest it to anyone who enjoys gritty fantasy.
1. I’m not sure if they were stylistic choices, or just really horrible editing, but there are a few issues with the writing in the book. Mr. Abercrombie liberally sprinkled commas where periods should have been and frequently used incomplete thoughts and sentences with no clauses. I also read the same word regularly. For example, I remember reading tottering twice over the course of 3 sentences.
2. There are no clear breaks in the book and this can make for some very jarring changes in location and character actions. For example, at the end of one paragraph we’re reading about how a character is going to be late for his fencing lessons, and watch as he frantically runs around. In the next paragraph he’s arrived at his fencing lessons and his instructor is shouting “Jab, jab.” It (and the many other examples) wouldn’t have been confusing or jarring to read if a simple break had been placed between them.
1. Abercrombie’s characters are fantastic and jump off the page at you. I loved to hate Glokta, but at the same time he really intrigued me. Jezal struck me as one of the most selfish and childish bastards I’ve ever read about, but then he would turn around and impress me with his growth and observations. And I really enjoyed Logen Ninefingers; he was a very conflicted pragmatist. As soon as you meet him you can tell that Logen has been through some serious stuff. Even many of the supporting characters have interesting characteristics and mannerisms that provoke the mind, making you want to learn more about them.
2. I found the story itself to be quite interesting. Even through the slower parts of the novel, I remained interested and wanting to know more.
3. Mr. Abercrombie does a fantastic job of building his world. Rather than assailing the reader with difficult-to-digest info dumps he just throws you directly into his world and slowly feeds you bits of information. This allows to reader to gain a solid understanding of the world, and keeps the reader engaged as they continue to learn about the world.
4. The book doesn’t strike me as standard fantasy. The characters in the book aren’t shiny paragons of humanity off to save the world from the forces of evil. They are regular, damaged people simply struggling to live their lives as plots and war swirl turbulently around them. I found this to be very compelling.
1.The use of single quotation marks rather than double quotation marks did bother me, but I can’t really ding him for it because (as far as I know) that is proper for British English.
2. Show, don’t tell. The beginning of the book has several characters that are involved in a game of cards similar to poker. From one character’s point of view, we visit every other character playing in the game and read something similar to “He smiled as if to say, I may not be a nobleman, but I am a commoner who has gained a commission from the king himself. This makes me a superior to you all.” (I’ve placed this in the Meh section because I don’t recall any more violations of show don’t tell, but this one bothered me enough that I felt it warranted mention.)
Bethod, the new King of the North, threatens Midderland with war. His armies of battle hardened warriors could easily sweep the already taxed forces of Midderland from the face of the world. To make matters worse, self-concerned forces seem to be politically rending Midderland asunder. We follow Logen Ninefingers, Ferro, Jezal, Bayaz, and Sand dan Glokta as they do their best to simply continue living in this tumultuous storm of political positioning and events that threaten to change the entire world.