Monday, May 31, 2010

Epic Review - The Blade Itself (First Law, Book 1) by Joe Abercrombie (2.5/5 stars)

I love epic fantasies.  So when I heard what a great series Abercrombie's First Law series was I am eager to read it.  Overall it was not one of the best epic fantasies I have read: I much prefer any of Brandon Sanderson's books, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, or Scott Lynch's works.

This book follows the actions of a number of different characters.  Logen Ninefingers is an infamous barbarian that is looking for a path away from killing.  Captain Jezal dan Luthar is a fop that is trying to win a fencing tournament to make his life more comfortable.  Inquisitor Glokta is a crippled torturer who takes care of the realms confessions.  Bayaz is a mysterious mage.  They each have their own agenda but are being drawn into a war between the Northmen and the Union.

Let me start by saying that Abercrombie has a writing style that is very easy to read and engaging.  His action scenes are well done.  That is about all I can say positive about this book.

The characters are unlikable down to the smallest side character.  They are all selfish, irritating, and just...well...very unlikable.  They aren't really all that fun to read about and many aspects of their personalities are overdone.  For example as a reader I understood right off the bat that Jezal was a selfish, spoiled, idiot.  I kept waiting for his character to gain some depth outside of this stereotype and it never really did.  The whole book I kept hoping the characters would break their mold, do something interesting or surprising, but that never happened.  They all acted as stereotypically and predictably as they possible could.

The plot itself tries to be an intricate web of political maneuvering, but in reality nothing much happens in this book.  All the characters are moved from place to place with not a lot happening, basically this book just gets all the characters in the right places and sets things up to send them off some place else in the next book.  The only interesting characters in the whole book are Logan (who may actually have some depth beyond a strict barbarian) and Bayaz (who is mostly a mystery).

I will say I am not big on books that totally involve only political machinations.  So that is probably why this book was a bit of a bore to me.  I usually like some adventuring, questing, war (up front, not at a distance), and even the occasional relationship.  I should mention that this book is also into giving you the gory reality of everything, not much is held back...there is also a ton of swearing (which doesn't bother me one way or the other).

On a side note being a woman who reads epic fantasies I have really enjoyed that writers such as Sanderson and Butcher create interesting woman characters that have a sizable and important role int their books.  This book reminded more of epic fantasies I read in the 80's and early 90's where it is all about the guys.  There are two woman characters in this book: one is a manipulating flirt, the other is a crazy ex-slave.  Neither of them are interesting and neither of them have a lot of pull in the plot of this book.

Overall I didn't like the characters and I thought the plot was boring.  I did like the style of Abercrombie's writing and I did like the action scenes.  When all was said and done; I put down the book and thought "Thank God I am done with this, I never want to read about these people ever again!"  If you like political novels with unlikable characters and revel in the awful gritty goriness of fight scenes this is the book for you.  I personally like my novels a bit more interesting with characters with greater depth.  I would recommend any of Brandon Sanderson's books, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series, or Scott Lynch's works over this one.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- 1st in a Series Reading Challenge

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) 

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