The Blade Itself

By Joe Abercrombie,

Book cover of The Blade Itself

Book description

Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, 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…

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Why read it?

10 authors picked The Blade Itself as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Here is yet another book where at first it seems as though there are no heroes.

Abercrombie writes a masterful world filled with magic, politics, swordfights, and bleak attitudes. One of the main POV characters is a torturer—I mean a full-on break your toes and laugh about it torturer—but even still, I found myself wanting more of his story. He’s certainly not a hero, but he was at one point, and that’s even more intriguing.

The characters drive this fantasy series, but the world is also a gorgeous setting that Abercrombie clearly spent many long nights thinking through. Every detail…

From Ashton's list on heroes you love to hate.

In my opinion, any discussion of morally gray books and morally gray heroes is incomplete without the Lord of Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie.

The Blade Itself is the first book in the First Law trilogy. The story follows several points of view, including a murderous north man, a pompous soldier, and, my personal favorite, a snarky torturer. If you’re looking for a story where knights in shining armor win the day and the bad guy gets his just desserts, this isn’t the series for you.

But if you want characters so real they feel like they could walk right out…

From M. J.'s list on where no one is 'the good guy'.

No one is perfect.

We have a man of the law who keeps asking himself why does he interrogate people, why so harshly. Then there’s a fighter who’s too invested in his looks. And a wizard who may seem good, but he uses his magic in brutal, stomach-turning ways.

All of this is fascinating to follow. Each character like this comes with a lot of room to grow, and we see them learn and adapt, while also sometimes doing what needs to be done. There’s good and bad in all of them, like all of us. 

Also, Abercrombie’s prose is…

From Uri's list on morally grey characters.

I stumbled into The First Law as I was returning to write after years away from the craft, and fell in love with the doomed cast of miserables. I love characters who can’t get out of their own way, and Abercrombie writes those better than any. Even better, he fluidly portrays a world I want to take a bus tour through: ancient, steeped in complicated, bloody history, and filled with legends not quite dead. The masterful way he intersects character and plot keeps me turning pages, chasing the characters from one chapter into the next. I readily recommend it to…

Not many writers pick a crippled torturer for a protagonist, let alone a privileged, cowardly, and selfish minor noble. Abercrombie doesn’t just start with these two, he also adds a sometimes psychopathic barbarian and a misanthropic, racist woman as his characters. Don’t even get me started on the old wizard. He’s the worst of all. Not only do these characters seem unheroic, but they also act as if they might just kill each other rather than move the plot of the novel along. Never a burden, always delightful, The Blade Itself will mesmerize you as these murderers and narcissists try…

From Lee's list on fantasy with unlikely heroes.

I've always been impressed and fascinated by fantasy that feels realistic and down to Earth. That's why I was sucked into (and was blown away by) Joe Abercrombie's world. It is grittier than Game of Thrones; his characters are brutal and realistically flawed; and his writing is by turns vivid and hilarious. This first book in The First Law trilogy pulls you into a harsh world filled with likable barbarians and sympathetic torturers. Against the backdrop of war and its atrocities, Abercrombie brings fantasy archetypes into a realistic (if very dark) world – and it's an unforgettable journey.

Most of the protagonists of The Blade Itself have had an entire series worth of adventure, violence, and strife befall them before the story even begins. They are broken people, caught in the shadow of all the things they’ve done before, and the book and series ask if they can ever escape those shadows—spoilers, they can’t, but their best efforts make for a compelling read.

From Elijah's list on heroes haunted by their adventures.

I’ve saved my all-time favourite for last. The First Law trilogy blew my mind. It shattered my preconceptions about what fantasy could or should be. I was hooked, glued, nailed to each character and scenario and battle, and felt like I was right there in the circle holding a shield. The First Law has everything. It’s gritty, it’s raw, it’s comical, it’s in your face where you can feel the greasiness of the blood, smell the sour breath and taste the dirt on your tongue. There are nasty little fights tooth and nail in the mud. There is heroic single…

Aside from the Jekyll and Hyde (or should I say Banner-Hulk, Angel-Angelus) protagonist, the oft-times berserk Logan Ninefingers, Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy stands out in terms of the author’s use of extremely close point of view throughout, and his strong sense of dialect, perhaps best shown in the character of the Dogman.

All the usual heroic fantasy tropes are present, albeit with many subtle and not-so-subtle subversions. The book starts at a breakneck pace and never gets bogged down in inconsequential detail. The action is visceral, in your face (in a Bernard Cornwell sort of way). The world-building is very…

From Derek's list on conflicted protagonists in fantasy.

No one creates a character like Joe Abercrombie. He doesn’t write about heroes and villains, just real people with different perspectives. The Bloody Nine must be the greatest creation I’ve ever read. You come to know Joe’s characters like the back of your hand, you can anticipate their actions and find joy when you are right and outrage when you are wrong. This novel, and the subsequent two, taught me that strength of character far out weighs what you are trying to do with your plot. Some times it’s not all about the destination, it’s about the journey. And in…

From Adam's list on inspired me to start writing.

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