Joe Abercrombie's debut is making some noise all over the internet. Understandably, little more was needed to pique my curiosity! I wish to thank Joe for sending me signed copies of both The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged when I could not get through with his publicist.
The Blade Itself is a throwback to what used to dominate the genre during the 80s before doorstopper fantasy epics took over. As such, it is reminiscent of David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist in their heydays. What does that mean, exactly? Well, The Blade Itself is a character-driven tale that is not comprised of countless storylines. The First Law is a trilogy, so the author has no choice but to keep this story under tight rein. There is also a certain sense of adventure throughout, something that was popularized by the sword and sorcery sub-genre during the 80s.
There is a lot to like about Joe Abercrombie's debut. As a throwback fantasy novel, I found it refreshing. It's nice to see the" a The Blade Itself will please some fans, it will fall short with other readers.
As he stated in a recent interview, Joe Abercrombie doesn't attach that much importance to worldbuilding. He prefers to let the readers discover his universe and its inhabitants through the eyes of his characters. Don't expect a level of details similiar to what you'd find in a Jordan, Erikson, Martin, or Bakker book. Still, the author provides enough background info to keep things interesting.
Characters always make or break a book/series. And nowhere is it more evident than in a self-described character-driven novel. The characterizations found in The Blade Itself are at times very good, but some also leave a little to be desired. Characters like Inquisitor Gokta and Logen Ninefingers are well-done, and they literally carry this tale on their shoulders. Others, like Bayaz and Jezal dan Luthar, are clichéd and somewhat of caricatures. A few are barely introduced, like Ferro and Yulwei, yet are intriguing.
One of this book's main facet -- and this is where it might alienate some readers -- is how humorous in tone the story is told. À la David Eddings, the narrative is always written in droll style, making it all but impossible to reach the emotional impact necessary to create powerful scenes. Very similar to J. V. Jones' The Book of Words trilogy and, to a lesser extent, to Brandon Sanderson's Elantris. As I said, I found this approach refreshing. But it's obvious that some readers will be put off by this. Don't let the beginning fool you. As you read on, you realize that, beyond that humorous tone, there is a lot more depth to those plotlines than meets the eye.
As a very accessible novel that can potentially please many disparate fantasy fans, I'm persuaded that The Blade Itself will be a success. Much like Sanderson's Elantris was last year. And with Pyr set to release it in North America in 2007, Abercrombie's debut will get an even bigger readership.
The author will probably never win any awards. In all likelihood he'll never be held in high esteem by aficionados. What he'll do, however, is sell books. What we have here is another bright new voice in the fantasy genre. And there can never be too many of those!
The Blade Itself is a solid debut. I'm curious to see where Abercrombie will be taking this story in the sequel. . .