Classics Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Review by Jeremy Szal

It’s been quite a number of years since Joe Abercrombie first published what would be the start of The First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself. Every time he approached a literary agent, they raised their shields, quaking in their boots. Abercrombie then found a home for his novel over at Gollancz. Looking back all these years later, does The Blade Itself still hold water as a fantastic debut? Is it worth picking up?

Simply put: yes.

The Blade Itself by Joe AbercrombieA brilliant, complex world with morally grey characters and ever on going wars, The Blade Itself truly reminds me of what a joy it is to read a gritty, dark fantasy. We’ve been so stuffed with dark lords, unimaginable evil, stereotypes and bland worlds, that this is a fresh start to what would later become one of the grandest fantasy trilogies in recent memory. Switching back and forth from multiple perspectives, each with their own voice, The Blade Itself is filled with rip-roaring action, hilariously dark moments, complex characters, and an unpredictable plot. The book goes so far as to subtly mock the typical stereotypes in fantasy that we’ve seen over and over again until they become navel-gazing cliches. For something that was written almost a decade before Game of Thrones first aired and helped soar gritty fantasy into the mainstream, this is a mean feat. And it’s a fantastic one.

What I liked best what that each and every character feels unique and very credible. Logen is smart and quiet. Jezal is foolish, arrogant and judgmental. Glokta (my favourite) is bitter, brutal, and hilariously dark when he wants to be. There are more characters, but I’ll let you meet them yourself. You might not survive the encounter, though.

Even if you haven’t ventured into Abercrombie’s world, now’s the perfect time to do so. I only first picked up The Blade Itself in December last year, and I instantly knew I was on to a winner. You really can’t go wrong with this classic.

We need more fantasy like this. We truly, truly do. Buy it, read it, finish it, and do it all again.

Editor’s Note: It seems a bit ridiculous to put Joe’s work onto the Lord Grimdark Scale, so we’ll just assume a 5 without plastering his melon all over a review about his own work.

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.