Book Review – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (spoiler free)

I first read this for the first time in 2014 – about a year after I had my second baby. A year of sleep deprivation ensued. My oldest son didn’t like to go to sleep and my youngest had night terrors almost every night.

Being able to read The Blade Itself became a fantasy in its own right. I would open the pages only to set it down immediately. I think it took over a year to get through (a combination of reading – and then re-reading the same pages because I couldn’t remember where I was, followed by weeks of reading nothing because I was so exhausted). By the end, I knew it was a great book, but the details slipped away, which was entirely circumstance rather than the book.

As the series gained MASSIVE popularity in the years that followed, I knew that I wanted to continue the series – but alas, what I had read hadn’t quite stayed with me. And so, a re-read had to happen first… and that’s what I’ve just done!

And yeah, what a great book! And how amazing to read it whilst in the realm of the fully awake!

I missed so much on my first read-through that quite a lot surprised me. The interweaving of stories was so well done as is the characterisation and political intrigue.

My favourite scene was the fencing contest.

What a stroke of genius this was. After an entire book of separate POV chapters, suddenly we have a chapter where the main POV characters intertwine. One of them knows exactly what is going on (magic 😏), one suspects, the other is completely clueless. This was the true master stroke of the novel. The meticulous character building that preceded it all came together and made this chapter hilarious.

I found a lot of the book funny, the last third in particular. But there are moments of violence and darkness.

My favourite scene with Logan Nine-Fingers is when he fights an old foe, Blacktoe, who now fights for the self proclaimed King of the Northmen. There was something very poignant about the fact they were so similar but had always fought on different sides.

The dark scenes with Glokta are so very dark. Not because of what he does (much of that happens off page) but because of how utterly destroyed he his by his imprisonment in a previous war. His outwardly demeanour of a proud man who is above the mob isn’t true. That is a facade. One that crumbles during a very touching conversation with West at the end of the novel.

I’ve heard a lot of people call this a ‘set-up’ novel because the plot doesn’t move forward significantly, rather it focused on moving the characters together. I would agree with that assessment, however, I loved how this was done. I connected with all the POV characters and found something very likeable in all of them. I’m looking forward to delving further into the magical system. Bayaz has a lot of explaining to do…

The story ends with most of our characters forced together. How will they fare? Will Jezal keep his word to Ardee? Will Glotka find any success in his new mission? Will Malacus Quai receive a word of praise from Bayaz? Will Ferro manage not to kill her companions?

I’d like to think yes to all those things, but this is grimdark – so I suspect not.

You have to be realistic about these things.

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