The First Law 01 - The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The First Law 01 - The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  108,979 Ratings  ·  5,602 Reviews
The First Law 01 The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie download for free or read online
The First Law 01 - The Blade Itself
by Joe Abercrombie
Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.
This story is a trilogy, so if you haven't read one, this are the links to the other books:


I’m going to do something that's a little disrespectful and start this review by talking about another fantasy series that I’ve enjoyed: A Song of Ice and Fire. That series rules. It has everything I’ve wanted in a series since Tolkien but there’s one thing to be said about it, neither good or bad, that is a big part of its impact: it is dark, very very dark. The darkness comes, as it should in all quality fiction, not necessarily from the actual bad things that happen to good people, but from the depth of the characterizations themselves. Bad things happen to very real, very well-characterized, and truly understandable people, and so those bad things are made all the more upsetting, all the more hard to read.

So that’s where The Blade Itself comes in. It is a funny thing for me, reading the reviews. Everyone goes on about how bloody it is, how graphic and hardcore, etc etc. How it is a part of the “George R.R. Martin tradition”. Of course there is truth to that: much blood is spilled, incredibly tragic things happen, and hell, one of its central characters (in fact, its best character) is a torturer with an awfully painful past. But what I rarely see mentioned is the wonderful lightness of tone that makes the novel such a pleasure to read. For all its tragedies and darkness, the tone is amusing, light-hearted, comic, and never in awe of the various mysteries depicted. I laughed out loud many times. It is also a surprisingly tender novel. That comment may be hard for lovers of this book to read. But The Blade does not demonize any of its characters, it allows all of them (even Black Dow!) their moments of decency and kindness, it views all of them in such a cheerful, upbeat way, that never did I feel a sense of bleak heaviness at the tragedies displayed. Those tragedies are shown to be a part of life, for some, and although they are impactful, the characters are not beaten completely down by their pasts. It is not a sentimental novel, but it is a very sweet-tempered one. The down side to this is that, at times, the characters and situations have a vibe to them that is almost close to being a sitcom. The upside is that it is wall-to-wall pleasure and at the end of the novel, I felt uplifted, rather than weighted down. It is a wonderful antidote to the compelling but grueling Song of Ice and Fire. A kind of tonic. The novel is a breezy delight and I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.

Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention: the author knows how to write action sequences. They were truly exciting, even cinematic in the clarity of what was happening. Often fights are confusing affairs in fantasy, but that is not the case here. The whole novel had a brisk yet cinematic feel to it. I choose Matthew MacFayden to play Inquisitor Glotka!

Anton Chekhov famously said that if an author mentions a gun, it had better go off at some point, a point often attributed to Raymond Chandler (who at least practiced this rule). The same goes for fantasy writers. Fantasy doesn't need to be all blood and whirling blades, but if a fantasy writer straps a broadsword to a character's side, it had better be drawn in anger, at some point.

This was one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a while, especially impressive as it's a first novel. It has a fair amount of the aforementioned blood and swordplay, but it is much more than that. The characters are finely drawn and the story is both complex and well-paced.

For me, the most interesting character was the Inquisitor Glotka, who is deliciously cynical. A formerly dashing officer, he was taken as a prisoner of war and tortured. Having subsequently become a professional torturer himself, he can't help but admire the skill and creativity his captors put into breaking him. He harbors a great deal of hatred for his former comrades, who he feels forgot about him in captivity and would like to forget him still.

Glotka serves the Union, a civilization confident of its superiority, centered on the decadent city of Adua. War is brewing in the barbarian North and in the Gurkish south. Into this setting comes the wizard Bayaz, accompanied by the barabarian warrior Logen Ninefingers. Logen is famed in the North as a master of violence, but it is a reputation he wishes he could put behind him. Bayaz won't let him get away that easily, however, needing the barbarian's skills for his own purposes.

Bayaz has interests of his own in Adua, tied to the distant past and the vanquishing of a dark magus who was the founder of the city. Bayaz spends a good deal of his time acting un-wizardly (in Logen's opinion), more like a balding, fat, lazy peasant. It is an assessment others make, to the point that they risk underestimating the cranky, old man.

Abercrombie's accounts of fighting are incredibly well-done, fast paced and capturing the fear and confusion, along with the rage and bloody-minded delight of mastering an opponent. Yet, the violence in this book takes an emotional toll on those involved. Also, his accounts of magic are very good, not flashy but weird and disturbing.

A lot of fantasy writers make the mistake of giving the reader too much information about the world they've created. Abercrombie gives enough background to keep the plot going, leaving the rest as tantalizing clues that give the sense of a real world. The only part of the book where I thought he was giving us too much was in regard to the fencing tournament that the nobleman Jezal dan Luthar takes part in. It did help display the arrogant, selfish character of Captain Luthar, but I felt there was a bit too much detail expended on it. Still, this is the first book of a trilogy, so perhaps the event of the tournament will figure later in the story.

All in all, this was a great read. I've read too much fantasy in recent years that seemed too much like feminist theory or post-Marxian cultural critique with dragons, often written with a faux-epic wordiness. (I really think this is why the Potter books were so popular with adults; they were looking for something story-driven.) This book by Joe Abercrombie is an antidote for a lot that has been wrong in fantasy literature.

I was up until half five yesterday morning reading intensely to finish off this story. I didn't write the review then as it would have been a tired, mumbled mess with little to no eloquence and it wouldn't have included any cool sounding words. 
Let's see how I get on now after a good nights sleep. Prior to reading this, I had completed Abercrombie's Shattered Sea trilogy and enjoyed it a lot. Where that was classic story focused fantasy with twists aplenty, this is best described as a macabre, dark and twisted character study of morally questionable individuals. This narrative takes place in a world that seems to be brimming with a blood-splattered past, interesting races and a heightened amount of warmongering aggression between the countries and factions. There is a lot going on in Abercrombie's world yet, it is a shame that the two versions of this book that I have didn't include any cartographed maps. I did get a little confused trying to compose a mental map of the world and distinguish where the action was taking place.

The greatest accomplishment achieved by Abercrombie here is the characters he has created.

The four main individuals are:
Jezal: A vain, selfish nobleman and talented fencer.
Logan: An infamous warrior.
Glokta: A tortured and crippled torturer.
Bayaz: A mage whose motives are mystical.

I will not go into any real details about them, how they intertwine, their opinions shared in monologues regarding the others (if they meet that is) but it is a pleasure to read about these characters that are, on paper at least, completely unlikeable. There are times that these characters surprised me with their thoughts. Glokta's internal opinions are darkly humorous yet tortuous when relating to his past, and the womaniser and dashing swordsman Jezal actually having some weird emotions for only one lady are two fine examples. The players' interactions had a Tarantino-like quality.

This book was a slow burner for me. It has many great qualities but whilst reading I occasionally had an internal dilemma about whether I should put it down and pick up something with more action. Two or three amazing setpieces excluded (such as a fencing contest and Logan's old gangs' antics), it doesn't really include many all out adrenaline fueling segments. Towards the end, however; reading this was quite intense hence why I was up until stupid o'clock to finish the story. I reflect that this books main agenda was probably for the reader to get to know the characters because this is done extremely well. At the finale, the seams are brimming with reported conflicts and a bizarre proposed mission that the characters find out are their fates and destinies moving forward. To conclude, I have to admit that Before they are Hanged is set up phenomenally well and I am looking forward to shortly jump back into Abercrombie's world.

4.5/5 Stars
I started reading this because a lot of my friends recommend me if I wanted something like Song of Ice & Fire series, this is the closest one, and imo they're right. 
This book follows the perspective of 3 main anti-hero (yes they're not entirely good), believe me you'll root for them when you read it. Logen Ninefinger, the Schizophrenia barbarian, Sand dan Glokta, once the best swordsman turned crippled and torturer and Jezal dan Luthar, the narcissistic fencer who wanted nothing more than fame.

The book starts really slow but it really builds up a lot of story to be resolved in the next book (or maybe the last I don't know yet), not in this book no, there's way too many things unfinished so if you're going into this, please know that you're in it for the whole trilogy. Going to starts the next book soon after writing this and my recommendation is if you're looking for dark fantasy (it's bloody, believe me), with great characterization, dark humor and great action scenes, you can't go wrong with this one.

I can certainly say that this book is gritty. So, you start reading it and it pushes your face in mud, sweat and blood. If someone just falls somewhere or rolls down the stairs, you can be sure, it will be shown with all the glory of sticky stuff running down the face with an agonizing squirm. It reminds me of Tolkien or Sapowski in some episodes.
But this book is not just a merciless hole covered in darkness and blood. You can find a lot of fun, humor (slight or hard)and that just makes the book so outstanding and unforgettable.
Now about the main characters. Here limps the Inquisitor Glokta (so lovely and charmingly bad and funny)- he was horribly tortured in the previous war only to become a torturer himself, when he returned, smashing out traitors for an organization which is in a need to gain political pover, forgetting about the safety of country and other people. Glokta clearly shows the true, complicated and fascinating nature of Abercrombie’s skills to write. I think Glokta is the most stunning character in the book, with a charming sarcastic monologue with his inner self and the potential to really reveal the truly amazing character as he struggles to overcome the pain and suffering every day. And to make it more complicated, he’s also showing no regrets and is a really evil sociopath.
And of course, Logen Ninefingers, “the infamous barbarian”. His situation, confused as a fish out of water nature throws most of the best jokes in the book, but he’s not so interesting as Glokta. Logen's favourite activity through all the book is fighting, hope it will change in the sequels.
The book reveals its story in multiple layers that blend and ravel skillfully, with the taste of blood, humour, political machinations, threat of war, ancient supernatural forces. This heads for something big.
I REALLY enjoyed the book, it showed the fascinating world of badass likable characters and enlarged my database of quotes.

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