by Joe Abercrombie
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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 Glotka 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.
Back when I was in college and had to read a tons of French classics, I considered my dearly fantasy books as my escape, and I used to devour them all, good or bad, whenever I had the opportunity. Sadly, what had to happen finally happened : I grew tired of them, and spent years avoiding them, until a little bastard named Jorg came along in February, and then I thought : FUCK YEAH. There are still fantasy books I can enjoy. The Blade Itself is one of them.
If I can’t deny that this book contains a few great action scenes which were grandly appreciated (really), yet it’s by no means a full action-packed book, far from it, and I’m okay with it. Why? Because there’s more to it, and that’s why it could hold my interest. Indeed there’s just something in political and murder subplots in fantasy that appeals to me and never fails to captivate me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that long, boring ass wanderings we sometimes find
*cough* The Well of Ascension *cough*. Not at all. In the contrary, in my opinion Abercrombie does a great job at both introducing a detailed world-building and an interesting cast of characters without never falling on the boring side. This may have something to do with his compelling writing, you know? Moreover there’s nothing better than gritty, witty and hilarious dialogues in my book, and The Blade Itself is filled with them.
Once again, my growing interest in the story can be linked to the blurred lines between good and evil or you know, right and wrong. That’s fucking fantastic, because although I used to read a lot of fantasy books when I was younger, I grew tired of the great knights in shining armors many series promote. Because that’s boring as fuck. Because that’s predictable. Therefore you can guess how ecstatic I am when I come across a book where these stereotypes are torn to pieces. I don’t need fairytales endings and super bright heroes. Because you know, I don’t really like them most of the time.
Why don’t I give 5 stars to the plot then? Because in my opinion it stays quite unoriginal for a fantasy book, and sometimes the fact that it’s a setup for the second book is obvious. Anyway, I find myself wildly eager to learn what will happen in the sequel, now that the die has been cast.
The characters, though. Guys! The characters! These little bastards made my day.
As you might have understood, none of them is likeable. Of course I love them all, what do you think? As Logen would say, let’s be a little realistic here : I wouldn’t want to meet them in a millions years – but the truth is, it’s almost never the case with my favorite characters, because I have the bad habit of falling in love with characters who share a questionable sense of morality.
Lately I realized that the only multi-POV I can handle are fantasy ones, and I really think that’s because the characterization is amazing in these cases : from Robin Hobb to Abercrombie, every character is fleshed-out and above that, has a different voice.
▩ Logen. Meet this disillusioned warrior. Hey, you have to be realistic about these things. Give him a knife and watch. Isn’t he amazing?
“Blood gets you nothing but more blood. It follows me now, always, like my shadow, and like my shadow I can never be free of it. I should never be free of it. I’ve earned it. I’ve deserved it.”
Well, now, I said he was disillusioned, didn’t I?
▩ Jezal. Talk about a selfish witty brat. Okay, he’s quite the little whining shit. Slap him hard because he deserves it, but loves him anyway, because… Erm…. he’s kind of brave
and made me smile so big … Erm … I think? Oh, come on, look at this beautiful declaration :
“Look, (…), I know you think I’m an ass and, well, I daresay I am, but I don’t plan always to be one.”
Are you impressed yet? No? Okay. Sigh. You’ve got work to do, little Jezal.
▩ Bayaz, The powerful wizard. God, how I enjoyed his sarcasm!
“My help?” interrupted Bayaz. “You presume too much.”
“But you – ”
“Oh, that.” The Magus shrugged. “I am a liar.”
▩ Glokta. Last but not least, tremble before him, here comes… Body found floating by the docks… the great torturer! I’m not gonna lie, I feel like I’m supposed to hate him somehow… I mean, the guy cuts fingers for a living for crying out loud! But I adored his cynicism, and in the end, he’s probably my favorite so far, because he’s maybe the most complex of all, and I love me some multi-layered characters.
“What poet was it who wrote there’s no pain worse than the pain of a broken heart? Sentimental shit. He should have spent more time in the Emperor’s prisons.”
Yes, he’s my favorite for sure. Or is it Jezal? Or Logen? Damn. I wouldn’t be able to make a choice between them to save my life.
Finally, in addition to their own awesomeness, the character dynamic is impressive : Astounding dialogues! Complex relationship! Trust issues!
► Me. Watch this huge smile spreading on my lips. That’s happiness for you.
PS : I need to say something about the kiss scene. Her tongue lapped at his teeth? Eww, just eww. Please, don’t do this. It’s disgusting.