The Blade Itself is book one of The First Law Trilogy and serves as the beginning of what should be considered a single story told in three parts. The reader is introduced to the central players – the aging and surprisingly contemplative warrior from the barbaric north with his mantra of ‘I’m still alive’, the spoiled-rotten nobleman with a purchased commission in the army training for a contest, the crippled, formerly spoiled-rotten nobleman and survivor of indescribable torture turned torturer of the King’s Inquisition, and the ancient magi with unknown goals, a wicked sense of humor and a biting temper.
This book is about characters first, and Abercrombie skillfully portrays them with near-perfect internal and external dialogue set at an ideal pace. These seem like real people from history rather than some over-done cliché or archetype. I simply loved the part where the magi, his apprentice, and the barbarian from the north must purchase clothes from a costume shop to look the way they should. This clever, verging on satirical, humor and wit infuses Abercrombie’s writing as he plays with many of the common fantasy tropes, makes them his own and shows us how things can be done in capable, yet irreverent, hands.
The closest I can come to a criticism of The Blade Itself isn’t really a criticism at all, just the realization that this isn’t a complete story. This is only the beginning – the players emerging, meeting and just embarking on the real adventure. Only hints of the underlying political struggles as well as re-emerging ancient battles are given with answers presumably forthcoming in the remainder of the trilogy – Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. And I’m looking forward to finding out just where Abercrombie takes us from here.
The Blade Itself is the beginning of one of the most promising epic fantasies that I’ve read in years. Abercrombie had me laughing with his guile as he stops just short of spitting in the face of genre and set my heart racing through some the best written fight scenes of any genre. This one is not just for fans of epic fantasy. 8.5/10