In Brief: Joe Abercrombie introduces a cast of realistic characters with a harsh and sometimes humorous Sword and Sorcery bent. There are quests and vendettas and backroom deals. The plot and world will no doubt seem familiar; the execution of the story, however, places this book above that fantasy norm.
Pros: The characters are flawed, human, and extremely well-conceived. You may not always like their actions or motives, but you damn sure know where they’re coming from. The author hits enough plot marks to keep it moving, introducing his world, history, and system of magic. Very well-written in a gritty realistic fashion.
Cons: The late Medieval European-style setting is awfully familiar, which may be off-putting to some. If you like your prose flowery and full of high Fantasy virtue, you may want to look elsewhere. Abercrombie plays in the mud (full disclosure – not a con for me).
Review: Author Joe Abercrombie has been so lauded and praised since he hit the scene a few years back, I think I subconsciously resisted reading his books. No good reason – other than having been less than impress before with writers getting that kind of pub. But I continued to read and hear about his Sword and Sorcery roots, his two-fisted action pieces, and the interesting, realistic characters he’s created. The final straw was listening to an SF Signal podcast on Sword and Sorcery, in which pretty much all the other writers and editors on the panel recommend the First Law trilogy and Abercrombie’s newest book.
So I picked up The Blade Itself, and I’m very glad I did. One book in, and I can already tell it’s likely to be one of my favorite series in years. I will probably end up recommending it highly to my friends who read fantasy and science fiction on a consistent, borderline annoying basis. And here’s why: Characters.