Kathryn Fulton's Reviews > The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
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's review
May 03, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy
Read from August 08 to 29, 2012

It took me nearly half the book to figure out what The Blade Itself was about. Not that it is some Tolkien-esque epic where people take 30 pages to explain that they want to go to war, or that it's some artsy thing where the bicycle is actually his relationship with his mother and until you get that you are missing the point entirely. Actually, it was the simplicity of the book (well, that and probably the fact that I never read the publisher's description, being leery of spoilers) that had me confused. It introduces some interesting, delightfully flawed characters who immediately get into what they're doing without stopping for long-winded explanations of the political climate or of problems that they already know about but must explain to a convenient country cousin for the benefit of the reader. And so I spent the first half of the book wrapped up in the characters and their situations but not really sure where it all was going--is this a war story? a magic quest? political intrigue?

That confusion, and the fact that the story is made up of a lot of characters with only tenuous connections to each other, make it difficult for me to relate, even in a review, what the plot of the book is about. Suffice it to say, it is mostly a political novel from the point of view of people who aren't in the center of the politics and don't entirely understand everything that goes on; additionally, there is some warfare, a few grains of romance, and some magic which is even less understood by the principal characters than the politics.

What I can tell about is the characters. Oh, the characters. There is a huge range of them, and not a one is a eager young farm boy or a rebellious princess. Most importantly, there is Logen Ninefingers, a (most unfortunately named) warrior from the north who has fallen out with his former allies and is now drifting through countries and circles totally foreign to him. There is Inquisitor Sand Dan Glokta, once the flower of knighthood and the champion the kingdom's swordfighting Contest, now--after a year of torture as a prisoner of war--a broken, miserable, bitter old man at 30. And finally, there is Jezal, a handsome, vain, and oblivious young guard who is a favorite to win this year's Contest. When the king in the North prepares for war against the South and a magician from the country's distant past reappears in the capital city, these three--and the scores of equally flawed and interesting minor characters swarming around them--are drawn into places they don't understand and find profoundly uncomfortable.

Actually, I'm still not really sure what all is going on here. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

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