The Blade Itself - Who Needs Plot?
The Blade Itself authored by Joe Abercrombie is the first book in the First Law Trilogy. The book is a “grimdark” high fantasy novel that follows three primary PoV characters through their travels. Logen Ninefingers a stereotypical berserker archetype, Sand dan Glokta a once famous knight turned disfigured torturer, and Jezal dan Luthar an up-and-coming fencing champion and army officer.
Familiarize yourself with the names of those characters because they are First Law. “Who Needs Plot?” may be slightly clickbaity but I stand by it. The Blade Itself does not have an incredibly compelling story. I didn’t want to see events play out because I was eager to see what would happen in the world. No, the reason I wanted to continue reading was to see how the characters would interact with each other and how they would respond to events.
The events themselves aren’t that interesting in this first book. Without spoiling, It’s mostly just walking around. The characters' inner monologues, interactions, and complete realization take this story from what would have been a two star rating, into a four-point-five. Abercrombie manages to keep you engrossed, engaged, and eagerly wanting more through the entire book just from how well his characters are written.
The book manages to create a fun “hero’s journey” style start to a book while dealing with some serious topics. Sand dan Glokta is really a torturer. He really does terrible things to people, has had terrible things done to him, and doesn’t think twice about ruining an innocent man’s life. You would think with a description like that Glokta would be an irredeemable, unrelatable character… but he’s not. Sand dan Glokta is one of the best realized characters I have ever had the pleasure to read. You will find yourself laughing at his monologue, witty retorts, and grumblings.
“This book is starting to sound really gory. Maybe it’s too “grimdark” for me.” The label Grimdark that is applied to this book series is rather undeserved in my opinion. While the book does deal with several pieces of dark subject matter the tone of the novel is far more light and airy. In terms of “darkness” I would say it’s far less dark than A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). To compare the darkness to another piece of media I feel like it is a fantasy version of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Bad shit happens, but you’re more likely to laugh at The Blade Itself than cry.
Overall this title is worthy of a 4.5/5 even without plot.