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The Blade Itself (First Law Series #1)

The Blade Itself (First Law Series #1)

4.5 123
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, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his


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, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar 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. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.

Editorial Reviews

Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself is sure to delight readers tired of the predictable machinations of standard fantasies. Its cast of characters resembles a rogue's gallery: a cripple turned torturer; a misanthropic old wizard; a self-absorbed nobleman; and a contentious barbarian. An author to watch.
You'd never guess that The Blade Itself is Joe Abercrombie's debut novel. He writes like a natural. There are great characters, sparky dialogue, an action-packed plot, and from the very first words ('The End') and an opening scene that is literally a cliffhanger, you know you are in for a cheeky, vivid, exhilarating ride. (5 star review)
Blood Blade & Thruster Magazine
. . . is a fantasy novel full of enough ironic and slightly self-deprecating humor and Scorcese-esque violence to make the average hipper than thou non-fantasy reader want to learn more about the genre (my favorite kind to convert), yet filled with enough touchstones to make your average Tolkien weaned fantasy reader quite happy indeed . . . just one of the great characters in a rogues gallery of fantasy archetypes with a twist, Inquisitor Glokta is one of the finest examples of a sympathetically drawn antagonist I have seen in a very long time, in a book of any genre, and some of his inner dialogue is absolutely quote-worthy . . . if the rest of the series is as much fun as the first bit, Pyr can gladly have my $10 . . . .This book is highly recommended by BBT Magazine!
[A] highly readable fantasy that isn't going to scare off mainstream readers or newcomers to the genre . . . .a whole banquet of violent action and intrigue.

Publishers Weekly

British newcomer Abercrombie fills his muddled sword-and-sorcery series opener with black humor and reluctant heroes. Logen Ninefingers, a barbarian on the run from an ex-employer who's now king of the North, finds his loyalties complicated when he switches sides and becomes a valuable source of intel to the beleaguered Union. Glokta, a torture victim turned torturer, gets roped into securing the Union's position against both the invading Northmen and the incompetent Union king and council, and ruthlessly wields his skills in attempts to weed out traitors. Foppish Jezal, a preternaturally excellent swordsman, manages to win the contest to become the Union champion, thanks to a little help from Bayaz, a mage with his own agenda. The workmanlike plot, marred by repetitive writing and an excess of torture and pain, is given over to introducing the mostly unlikable characters, only to send them off on separate paths in preparation for the next volume's adventures. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
"Pointed, driven, and sharp."—Locus on Red Country"

Magnificent, richly entertaining"—Time on The Heroes"

Imagine The Lord of the Rings as directed by Kurosawa."—Lev Grossman, Wall Street Journal on The Heroes"

[Abercrombie has] begun breaking his own rules. And succeeding wildly at it. ... [R]arely has Abercrombie had so much fun while rollicking through his colorful cast's foibles and witty dialogue - and rarely has he dished out so much straight-for-the-heart poignancy."—The A.V. Club"

New, fresh, and exciting."—The Independent (UK)"

Exhilarating... Abercrombie's knack for wit and grit holds your attention throughout, and his eye for character means that there's heart as well as muscle."—SFX (UK)"

Abercrombie writes fantasy like no one else."—Guardian (UK)

Product Details

Prometheus Books
Publication date:
First Law Series , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.98(w) x 10.88(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Joe Abercrombie
Prometheus Books
Copyright © 2007

Joe Abercrombie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59102-594-8

Chapter One THE END

Logen plunged through the trees, bare feet slipping and sliding on the wet earth, the slush, the wet pine needles, breath rasping in his chest, blood thumping in his head. He stumbled and sprawled onto his side, nearly cut his chest open with his own axe, lay there panting, peering through the shadowy forest.

The Dogman had been with him until a moment before, he was sure, but there wasn't any sign of him now. As for the others, there was no telling. Some leader, getting split up from his boys like that. He should've been trying to get back, but the Shanka were all around. He could feel them moving between the trees, his nose was full of the smell of them. Sounded as if there was some shouting somewhere on his left, fighting maybe. Logen crept slowly to his feet, trying to stay quiet. A twig snapped and he whipped round.

There was a spear coming at him. A cruel-looking spear, coming at him fast with a Shanka on the other end of it.

"Shit," said Logen. He threw himself to one side, slipped and fell on his face, rolled away thrashing through the brush, expecting the spear through his back at any moment. He scrambled up, breathing hard. He saw the bright point poking at him again, dodged out of the way, slithered behind a big tree trunk. He peered out and the Flathead hissed and stabbed at him. He showed himself on the other side, just for a moment, then ducked away, jumped round the tree and swung the axe down, roaring loud as he could. There was a loud crack as the blade buried itself deep in the Shanka's skull. Lucky that, but then Logen reckoned he was due a little luck.

The Flathead stood there, blinking at him. Then it started to sway from side to side, blood dribbling down its face. Then it dropped like a stone, dragging the axe from Logen's fingers, thrashing around on the ground at his feet. He tried to grab hold of his axe-handle but the Shanka still somehow had a grip on its spear and the point was flailing around in the air.

"Gah!" squawked Logen as the spear cut a nick in his arm. He felt a shadow fall across his face. Another Flathead. A damn big one. Already in the air, arms outstretched. No time to get the axe. No time to get out of the way. Logen's mouth opened, but there was no time to say anything. What do you say at a time like that?

They crashed to the wet ground together, rolled together through the dirt and the thorns and the broken branches, tearing and punching and growling at each other. A tree root hit Logen in the head, hard, and made his ears ring. He had a knife somewhere, but he couldn't remember where. They rolled on, and on, downhill, the world flipping and flipping around, Logen trying to shake the fuzz out of his head and throttle the big Flathead at the same time. There was no stopping.

It had seemed a clever notion to pitch camp near the gorge. No chance of anyone sneaking up behind. Now, as Logen slid over the edge of the cliff on his belly, the idea lost much of its appeal. His hands scrabbled at the wet earth. Only dirt and brown pine needles. His fingers clutched, clutched at nothing. He was beginning to fall. He let go a little whimper.

His hands closed around something. A tree root, sticking out from the earth at the very edge of the gorge. He swung in space, gasping, but his grip was firm.

"Hah!" he shouted. "Hah!" He was still alive. It would take more than a few Flatheads to put an end to Logen Ninefingers. He started to pull himself up onto the bank but couldn't manage it. There was some great weight around his legs. He peered down.

The gorge was deep. Very deep with sheer, rocky sides. Here and there a tree clung to a crack, growing out into the empty air and spreading its leaves into space. The river hissed away far below, fast and angry, foaming white water fringed by jagged black stone. That was all bad, for sure, but the real problem was closer to hand. The big Shanka was still with him, swinging gently back and forth with its dirty hands clamped tight around his left ankle.

"Shit," muttered Logen. It was quite a scrape he was in. He'd been in some bad ones alright, and lived to sing the songs, but it was hard to see how this could get much worse. That got him thinking about his life. It seemed a bitter, pointless sort of a life now. No one was any better off because of it. Full of violence and pain, with not much but disappointment and hardship in between. His hands were starting to tire now, his forearms were burning. The big Flathead didn't look like it was going to fall off any time soon. In fact, it had dragged itself up his leg a way. It paused, glaring up at him.

If Logen had been the one clinging to the Shanka's foot, he would most likely have thought, "My life depends on this leg I'm hanging from-best not take any chances." A man would rather save himself than kill his enemy. Trouble was that the Shanka didn't think that way, and Logen knew it. So it wasn't much of a surprise when it opened its big mouth and sank its teeth into his calf.

"Aaaargh!" Logen grunted, and squealed and kicked out as hard as he could with his bare heel, kicked a bloody gash in the Shanka's head, but it wouldn't stop biting, and the harder he kicked, the more his hands slipped on the greasy root above. There wasn't much root left to hold on to, now, and what there was looked like snapping off any moment. He tried to think past the pain in his hands, the pain in his arms, the Flathead's teeth in his leg. He was going to fall. The only choice was between falling on rocks or falling on water, and that was a choice that more or less made itself.

Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than to live with the fear of it. That's what Logen's father would have said. So he planted his free foot firmly on the rock face, took one last deep breath, and flung himself out into empty space with all the strength he had left. He felt the biting teeth let go of him, then the grasping hands, and for a moment he was free.

Then he began to fall. Fast. The sides of the gorge flashed past-grey rock, green moss, patches of white snow, all tumbling around him.

Logen turned over slowly in the air, limbs flailing pointlessly, too scared to scream. The rushing wind whipped at his eyes, tugged at his clothes, plucked the breath out of his mouth. He saw the big Shanka hit the rock face beside him. He saw it break and bounce and flop off, dead for sure. That was a pleasing sight, but Logen's satisfaction was short-lived.

The water came up to meet him. It hit him in the side like a charging bull, punched the air out of his lungs, knocked the sense out of his head, sucked him in and down into the cold darkness ...


Excerpted from THE BLADE ITSELF by Joe Abercrombie Copyright © 2007 by Joe Abercrombie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

John Meaney
"Critics compare Abercrombie to Dickens, but come on - Dickens was never so entertaining. This intricate story just flows, carrying along barbarian fighters with real courage (and real injuries), spoiled nobles with redeeming potential, mages with disconcerting agendas... plus the most sympathetic torturer ever. The First Law trilogy: an adventure whose characters grow in tough, surprising, satisfying ways, in a gritty, exotic world that is sometimes awful, and always fascinates. Expect fast, funny dialog, and one hell of a rush."--(John Meaney, author of Paradox and Bone Song)
Scott Lynch
"If you're fond of bloodless, turgid fantasy with characters as thin as newspaper and as boring as plaster saints, Joe Abercrombie is really going to ruin your day. A long career for this guy would be a gift to our genre."--(Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora)

Meet the Author

Joe Abercrombie (Lancaster, England) is a freelance film editor, working mostly on documentaries and live music events. He lives and works in London. He is the author of The First Law.

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Blade Itself 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
DAY-READER More than 1 year ago
First let me say that as you look at the reviews you will notice mr. Negative giving this book a bad review...I never respond to other reviews as they are entitled to thier own opinions. I must make a exception here because this book is just that awesome and deserves to be defended. Most of you may know me by now as i have wriiten alot of reviews and read 46 fantasy books a year...So when i say that Abercrombies First Blade is a diamond, a gem, one of the best wriiten fantasy epics of all time, Then you shouldnt take that too lightly. Mr. Negative probly gave Mr. R.R Martin a bad review.,(lol)...In short "This book has it all. Great characters, its funny at times and most importantly you will remain excited throughout the entire series....RARELY do i find a book that i can say that about with the exception of "A Song of Fire and Ice"
MalcolmVardy More than 1 year ago
True to form for a contemporary fantasy, The Blade Itself plunges us straight into an action scene, a desperate bid for survival and a literal cliffhanger. The mechanics were initially arresting to my cycnical take on novel craft, but Abercrombie pulls it off well. He is never verbose and always seems to come up with simple words that convey the greatest image. Perhaps the biggest strength of the book, for me, is Abercrombie's use of voice and point of view. The principles have little idiosynracies of speech - sometimes action - which makes them instantly recognisable without a surfeit of speech tags (he said, she said.) There is the "say one thing for Logan Ninefingers." and "you've got to be realistic" of Logan the barbarian, the italicised thoughts of Inquisitor Glotka, always commenting dryly but giving nothing away to his interlocutors), and the preening narcissism of Jazal dan Luthar. Logan and Glotka in particular are extremely strong memorable characters - at times pantomimic but great fun. Many of the characters are caricatures, broadly brushed and stock types. This in no way hinders the comedic elements of the book but occasionally distances the reader from full engagement with them. The plot is at times lumbering, a slow coming together of the principle characters. There are elements of intrigue, detective work, sword and sorcery (shades of Gene Wolfe at times, particularly in the House of Questions scenes). Abercrombie creates a hotch-potch of parody and tribute that nevertheless has moments of brilliance. He is at his best with action and character but occasionally lulls into mediocrity. Language is also a slight inconsistency. Often it is used effectively, particularly when he remembers the point of view. There are, hovever, some incongruities and a smattering of contemporary expletives that don't always fit the moment. Whilst point of view is a definite strength in the book, I felt Abercrombie over did the changes of point of view. We often get a chapter from Logan's perspective followed by a shift to Glotka, then to Jezal, back to Logan, off to Ferro. I found myself being drawn into a character only to be spat out and forced into another induction. I would have prefferred a little more balance and pacing here. Nevertheless there are great things in The Blade Itself, the odd sublime scene, cruel wit, and (most of the time) a deceptively simple and utterly effective use of language. It is a refreshing read and stands out from the heap of turgid mush that the genre has been spilling onto the bookshelves for the past few decades.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Blade Itself is by far one of the best fantasy novels I've read to date! Abercrombie has created a vivid world full of drama, epic battles, sprawling landscapes, magic and mystery. You won't find yourself weighed down by lenghty back-story or boring histories that is expected in this genre. The real gems of this book, however, are the terribly cynical characters. Abercombie stays away from the 'safe' fantasy characters we've come to expect. They are pessimistic, blunt, foul and offensive, and from the very beginning, you'll find yourself loving every one of them. I've bought this book for several of my friends as gifts, and have recommended it to countless more.
bibliophileSH More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because of the cover. But once I began to read I knew that I had found a wonderful new author! The book is offbeat and Abercrombie has a dry wit that is great!!! Wonderful!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
in my opinion this is one of my favorite books. I enjoyed it because of the humorous diversity of the characters. as you read the book it takes you on an adventure with a crippled torturer, a battle-softened barbarian , and a pompous brat. the book is slow until the first 50 pages but after that i was hooked
harstan More than 1 year ago
While fleeing in the water to elude his deadly foes of man and beast, Logen Ninefingers the barbarian knows he will soon be dead. In the North the Shanka led by his former mentor has subjugated the other tribes through brutality and atrocities he alone remains opposed, but flees towards the Midderland for safety. --- Meanwhile to the South, a Prophet has gathered the desert slavers to his side. The Empire prepares for war. --- In the city of Adua in the Midderland government corruption and affleunt indulgence is the norm. Thus the middle has lost control of the North and South to barbarians and mages. The wizards try to unite the people as the ancient enemy has returned, but people like Captain Jezal dan Luthar wants nothing to do with adventure and intrigue especially in the frozen north or the desert south he is to busy drinking, cheating at cards, and chasing women to risk his life at what will prove to be a bloody war. The cripple Inquisitor Glokta notorious for torture, and his two associates, are killing the seditious government leaders, one at a time. He hopes to one day add Jezal to his résumé. However, it is the actions of Bavaz the wizard who claims to be the First of the Magi, who shakes up the realm or at least Logen, Jezal, and Glokta with his demanding raging orders that they fear to follow as he seems more fraud than genuine yet fear not to as his bite may prove worst than his violent bark. --- Readers obtain an indirect taste of the Abercrombie world through the eyes of the major characters although never gain the full perspective beyond a frozen north, a desert south, and a major thriving city in the middle that is the link but with the greedy and the powerful looking out for themselves, the realm is collapsing. The fascination with this Noir fantasy is the key cast members. The foursome is not epic heroes, but instead they are flawed to the point that the story line at times feels like an amusing satire of the Tolkien lite imitations. Not for everyone, THE BLADE ITSELF is carried by its deep characters, who tote more negatives than positives and may prove to cause the beginning of the end these incredibly flawed souls make for a fresh and outstanding fantasy. --- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't say the book is bad but I can say I didn't enjoy it. I, however, am by no means an expert on the Fantasy Genre. The plot was basically non-existent in this book. Even after completing it I'm still not sure what its about. With it being a trilogy I'm sure the plot reveals itself later but I doubt I'll bother with the other two books. Some of the characters were really interesting(Glokta was my favorite) but the writing style kinda killed it for me. This is just personal preference, but... Right off the bat I found myself annoyed by the long series of run-on sentences. Having to drudge through several commas in a single sentence made for a frustrating reading experience. At times most of a paragraph would be a single sentence. While this seems like a small thing I often found myself stopping to re-read a sentence and having to decode what was just said. Also, when I come across paragraphs that go into deep descriptions of people or places I tend to skim/skip over them. I just don't find someone's "brutish jawline and sandy hair with a little curl at the end by his nose" to be interesting enough for an entire paragraph. With this book, however, I wasn't able to skip over these paragraphs. More often than not an entire paragraph would be mostly description just to have the last sentence be an event that, if skipped over, left me confused as to what just happened. If this type of writing style doesn't bother you then you'll enjoy the book a lot more than I did. In fact, you may love the book. As I said some of the characters were pretty interesting and the plot(what little of it showed) had enough mystery to make me want to keep reading. I'll probably read a synopsis to find out what happened to the characters. I just don't feel like dragging myself through another book with this writing style.
Arrat More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Been reading fantasty for over 30 yrs & this rocks. Finally a book that you don't know what is gonna happend. No more good vs evil, what you think is evil might be good & the good turns out to be a little evil, depends on whose side your on. Gritty & bloody this is a welcome change from fantasty books while good have become predictable. Only reason I didn't give the book a 5 was because I don't think we really need to have that much cursing. Looks forward to reading more of his work!
Melhay More than 1 year ago
The beginning of the book was easy yet a little hard for me. There is a lot of background work done here on the characters and the status of the world. You are introduced to all the characters in their elements, places, and world before they are introduced to each other. It can get a little confusing, but if you can keep it all separate it is worth it. One of the best parts here is having your characters separate and seeing their views on what they know or see, then seeing them actually meet and how the knowledge of that one character could help the other they just meet-if shared. Seeing how they get into the conversations to share the information or even when they don't share the information because they don't know who they have been in contact with or what they are involved in. Through out the book you really get a feel of how unstable the three Empires are and the contempt they feel for each other. There are the Northmen, the Union and Angland, and the Gurkish. The Northmen and Gurkish seem to have leaders that are very ruthless and blood thirsty to take over as much land they can and rule all they take. The Union is stuck in the middle of both these places, yet doesn't seem to be as barbaric as the other two with killing. Angland is the place, in the North but is part of the Union, in which the Union sends all their guilty parties of treason agains the crown or toward the government (and in this time it could be a small thing or a large doing that could land you here - even working with or looking at the wrong person could hurt you). They have shared borders all these years?!? If you ask me I don't know how... Just when you think you have all the characters details down a few more are added. All these people from the different areas of the world are pulled together to save their worlds from a bigger threat than the Northernmen or Glukish navy or Unions soldiers. What is this greater thing to be defeated by these specially selected few? That answer seems to be only known by the First of the Magi, Bayaz, and his brothers. There seems to be a magic that surrounds each character in their own way. Yet the characters don't seem to be aware to the fact they have something special about them. These characters don't even realize the enemies they make and the bigger enemies they upset. In this book the story only begins, the adventure only starts. I am sorry to add here that you will have to read the next book to see where they go after this story. What about the war? Who is this greater threat? I too have to now go get the second book in this trilogy. I have questions and can not let them go unanswered. There is just too much scheming and bribing and underlying meanings in things said or not said that I just have to keep going with the trilogy. I hope you enjoy it as well.
mcummings More than 1 year ago
Abercrombie doesn't dip into exposition too often, doesn't bother with volumes on the little details - no, you slip into Nine Fingers' world and off you go. A fun fantasy that leaves you content and wanting more - how often does that happen??
Vaylo More than 1 year ago
The Blade Itself, and the other 2 books in this series, are the best books I have come by since George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. This book is superbly written and strikingly original. It definitely takes your average run of the mill fantasy plot and throws it on it's head. The characters are extremely strong and very human. The action is fierce and gritty, and the storyline kept me up all hours of the night. I am now a Joe Abercrombie fan for life.
ThePinkFloyd More than 1 year ago
The cover hooked me on this book (I loved the way it felt), but soon after reading I fell in love with it. The characters are wonderful, and each one has their good and their bad--there're no clear cut heroes in this book. The story was pretty good, though I would've liked more direction, though towards the end it corrects that mistake. The dialogue is quick and witty, though it took a little while to get used to the author's voice. All in all I loved it and couldn't put it down, and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Highly enagaging and entertaining fantasy novel. Well written, full of interesting characters, and moving at a quick pace throughout - this book is a 'must read' for fans of the fantasy genre!
18578951 More than 1 year ago
GREAT!!!!!!!!!!! Even though this was the first book, it was the 5th Abercrombie that I read. The characters,Good or Bad grow on you, I love the humor and grittiness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining book. Good addition to fantasy genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brilliant in all aspects.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great character development, bloody descriptive battles/fights - highly recommend this fun read
hectorcartel More than 1 year ago
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rjdrennen More than 1 year ago
Pretty Solid This book was recommended to my by a friend who reads a lot of fantasy.  I myself had only read the A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings books in the fantasy genre before reading this, so I took his advice.  He told me he thought the First Law Trilogy was better than A Song of Ice and Fire.  I don't know that I would go quite that far.  It is very entertaining, funny, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Unlike A Song of Ice and Fire, I feel like The Blade Itself did not have any "down" moments.  Every single word felt like it was important to the overall story.  It was an engaging read, one that I would definitely recommend.  I just wouldn't go so far as to say it's better than A Song of Ice and Fire.  However, it is a nice distraction while waiting on Winds of Winter to come out!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent characters, excellent storylines, excellent novel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Abercrombie definitely kept me interested in the characters. I jumped straight into the second book after I finished the first.