A Slightly Different Review : The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Today is another slightly different format for a review.   This is my third buddy read with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger. Our first buddy read was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, our second A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab.  .

Slight spoiler alert – this book was brilliant.  All I can say – to myself that is – is what was I thinking leaving this so long before picking it up.  Obviously it has rave reviews and loads of love – I sometimes think I’m simply afraid to be happy.  This is now corrected though because I loved this and can’t wait to continue.

Similar to our previous buddy reads this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round I will be posting the opening chapters and Mayri will be posting the conclusion – so don’t forget to stop by and see our concluding thoughts.

Also, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during our read this post will contain spoilers so if you’re planning on reading this book you might want to avoid both posts.

The conversation below follows weeks 1 and 2:

theblade

Week 1 – The End to An Offer and a Gift (inclusive) 

Mayri: And everything about this book grabs my attention! Logen’s frying-pan-to-fire beginning, our introduction to Glokta and his work, even Jezal’s utter shittiness. I think it’s the humour that makes Logen and Glokta kind of likeable even though evidence suggests they’re not. As for Jezal, I’m enjoying laughing at him (especially now that we’ve encountered Ardee!). 

Lynn: Yes, I feel like I’ve totally fallen on my feet with this one already,  I think, all things being equal I’m going to like Logen, but here’s the funny thing, I equally think I’m going to like the others – which is really weird considering one of them is a torturing so and so. 

Mayri: Yes, yes, yes! I agree!

I’m kind of aware that a plot is brewing in the background, but have been enjoying just meeting everyone, so I’m really hoping I haven’t missed anything vital so far. I’m intrigued by Logen’s ability to talk to the spirits and why Bayaz wants him/what Bayaz wants him for. I’ve got Foreboding Feelings about Glokta’s work for Sult (although maybe I should be more worried for Sult?) And Bethod’s emissaries are bloody terrifying – I think the Union is seriously underestimating the King of the Northmen. But then it wouldn’t be very interesting if they weren’t, would it? Ha ha!

Lynn: Yes, I don’t think I could confidently discuss the plot at this point. Clearly something is ticking over nicely and I feel like there are going to be various strands that eventually pull together but I don’t think you’ve missed anything *she said confidently, hoping all along that she hasn’t missed anything!* The spirit-talking is fascinating and especially why there are less spirits – well, not really I suppose, there’s already been a discussion on how there is less magic in this world so clearly the spirits are giving up the ghost! (hah! I’m here all week).  

Mayri: *laughing so hard over here*

Lynn: I like Bayaz already, the way he sent that snivelling Princeling away with his tail between his legs (take that).  I literally have no idea if I’m supposed to like these guys or not but the brain wants what the brain wants I suppose.  

Mayri: Yeah, Bayaz is incredibly satisfying so far – wonderfully un-wizard-like, tells it like it is, bit of a dude. I hope we’ll get lots more of him.

Lynn: I think Sult is scary in his manipulative scheming way, but I think Glokta is more scary in his totally dispassionate ability to carry out orders to the letter no matter how distasteful they might be – I wonder if he will rebel at some point? 

Mayri: This is exactly what I’m hoping for! I feel like he’s being set up as a scapegoat, but I think Sult is seriously underestimating our friend Glokta! A dangerous man to be on the wrong side of, methinks.

Lynn: It was interesting that he was dreaming about his earlier life and in particular Ardee – I wonder if she will be a particular weakness for him?  Speaking of Ardee – what do you think she’s got tucked up her sleeve (apart from a clean hankie).  She’s definitely a clever one and seems to be working her womanly wiles on Jezal.  She literally has him wrapped around her little finger nail.

Mayri: I’ve no idea what Ardee might be up to (yet), but I think we’re going to really enjoy finding out!

Lynn: Those emissaries – well, they certainly stopped everyone in their tracks.  Wow.  Just wow.  I am scared – and they’re fictional characters!

Mayri: Heck yeah! Terrifying! Abercrombie writes incredibly well, don’t you think? He had me feeling sorry for Logen’s cook pot when he left it behind at the lake side and I was all like, whoah, this dude can write! Dagnabbit! 

Lynn: Oh yes. I love his writing. He just has this incredible ability to pull you in almost from the first page – how on earth can he make you have feelings for a cook pot!  It’s ridiculous but it felt like he was abandoning a newborn pony instead of a shaped iron pot.

Mayri: *snort giggles*

Lynn: Basically, so far so good. I have such a good feeling about this one. Can’t wait to start week 2.

Mayri: YASSS! All signs point to awesome so far! Onward!

Week 2 – The King of the Northern to Barbarians at the Gate (inclusive)

Mayri: OK, so wow, tons to unpack in this next section *rolls sleeves up*:

Logen has history with Bethod; Bethod has a witch; Dogman and company survived and I don’t know about you but I like them a lot, but they think Logen’s dead *sad face*; Jezal is getting mixed messages from Ardee, and meets the decidedly odd Yoru Sulfur; Glokta brings down the Mercers guild and we meet a couple of new characters: Ferro and Yulwei, who I’m bursting to know more about! Oh, and Bayaz, Malacus and Logen have reached the Agriont, thanks to fancy dress costumes! 

Lynn: (I loved the fancy dress).

I’m so happy that I’ve read these chapters again.  Obviously – all the above – then on top of this I just adore the banter and the dialogue.  It just makes me smile.  I recall reading the chapter where Jezal and Ardee have an argument.  She gives him a good dressing down for being a whining kid (which has partly been brought on by boredom on her part and also being snubbed by the other nobles and their wives, etc), as Jezal storms off he’s thinking in his head that she’s a bloody commoner who should be grateful that he gave her any attention – it’s only a small thing but it makes me smile because he’s thinking exactly what Ardee has just accused the other nobles of – he either wasn’t listening (highly possible) or he just didn’t understand her point (also highly possible). Also,  I can’t help seeing this guy whenever I’m reading about Jezal (I’m sorry it’s just stuck in my brain now and I can’t unsee it):

Jezal

Mayri: Yeah, this book is totally my cup of tea!  

Lynn: Me too

Mayri: I love Glokta’s new base of operations and his relationship with Practicals Severard and Frost (they got him a chair and a stool. With a cushion. Aww!). In fact, I really like Glokta in general – his internal voice is just so perfect – dry, sarcastic, occasionally self-mocking, unflinching. He’s a horrible, terrible man and I love his story so far!

Lynn: Yes, such a strange character – I mean he’s a torturer, and he seems by all accounts to enjoy his work!  I feel like I should be absolutely repulsed by him but his internal thoughts are so intriguing.  

Mayri: And I’m so glad we get to meet Dogman! And Tul Durham Thunderhead, Black Dow, Grim, Three trees and Forley the Weakest – all names to conjure with, eh? – I really enjoyed this brief introduction to Logen’s crew and thought Abercrombie did a great job of very quickly sketching in their relationships to one another and the gap left by Logen’s “death”. Yet more evidence of Abercrombie’s masterful style.

Lynn: Again, spot on. Abercrombie seems to be able to draw a character – or a few characters to be fair, within one fairly short chapter and give you a good feel for them. It’s remarkable really. This meeting of Logen’s crew was also a really great way of giving us more food for thought about Logen. Clearly he had the respect of these men – some of them very tough by the sounds of things – and this tells it’s own story.

Mayri: Nicely put.

Lynn: I loved the chapter with Logen, Bayaz and Malacus sat round the campfire discussing plant names and properties – and then Logen asks what potion Bayaz is cooking in the fire pot – only to find out it’s tea! (And Logen thinks it smells like feet! How very dare). I was also really happy that this chapter gave us an explanation for the name of the series – the First Law – that it is forbidden to speak with Devils. 

Mayri: Hmm, I’ve a nasty feeling Bethod is going to be far more dangerous than I first thought. I loved the way Bayaz handled his meeting with the King of the Northmen, although Logen’s fear had me worried. The bit later with Blacktoe also made me uneasy – Logen used to be Bethod’s champion? The Feared was possibly created by the witch Caurib? And Blacktoe now works for Bethod – there doesn’t appear to be anyone resisting Bethod and I’m not sure the Union will stand up to the Northmen. These people are … brutal.

(Blacktoe’s death actually brought a tear to my eye too – although that’s happening a lot at the moment,  so I might just be particularly squishy at the moment!)

Lynn: That scene was a bit gutting to be honest.  

Mayri: Wow, Bayaz’s magic! That was frigging awesome!

Lynn: Yes, and I was particularly intrigued that Logen could sense the magic before it struck – does this mean he has magic abilities, obviously we already know he can speak to the dead but this feels new.

Mayri: Ooo, I didn’t notice this, but have just gone back to reread it and yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s very intriguing!

I’m interested in Ferro and Yulwei 

Lynn: (also known as Old Bastard – lol)  

Mayri: lol. I can’t help but wonder about the similarities between these two and Logen and Bayaz. Two fighters and two magicians … what are the odds on them being on the same side, I wonder? 

Lynn: That’s such a good point – and I seriously hope they’re on the same side.  It feels like things might be going in that direction or I could just be reading that wrong or I’m putting my own hopeful interpretation on things – because I think they would make an awesome crew.

Mayri: Heck yes! They’d be unstoppable! 🙂

Also, what’s an Eater? I suspect we’re not going to want to know.

As for Jezal, I still like him the least, but I like seeing him mucked about by Glokta and Ardee … and Glokta has reflected on how he was once in Jezal’s position. I don’t know why, but that unsettles me. It doesn’t really suggest that Jezal will improve with time, does it?

Lynn: Yes, I think this storyline is perhaps not quite as gripping – but then in other ways I wonder about Ardee and where that particular train is heading.  She’s clearly clever and it feels like she’s definitely up to something.  I guess we’ll see.

Mayri: Yeah, I’m very curious to see what Ardee is up to!

Finally, I really didn’t like seeing Logen in the city, being seen as stupid and brutish. I hadn’t realised how fond of him I am, but I feel quite protective of him and Jezal’s image of him gawking at the fountain made me so angry. (Won’t be sorry to see Jezal squashed under Logen’s little finger!) I  was also shocked that Logen’s so big – I thought he’d reflected on his own comparative smallness back in the first few chapters (can’t find it now), so having him seen as a great hulking brute by Jezal ruined my mental picture. 

Lynn: As you said above, I loved the way they got into the city in fancy dress. Too funny.  I also hadn’t thought of Logen as big – or tall – I’m not sure why that is because as soon as he reaches the city he definitely stands out and some of that seems to be that everyone thinks he’s a huge northern brute.  I’m waiting for the moment that Jezal realises that Logen has a brain inside that thick looking skull and that he knows how to use it.

Mayri: Ah, that makes me feel a bit better! I shall anticipate Jezal’s embarrassment!! Ha ha!

(and as for Malacus Quai, he really is a useless drip isn’t he?) *shakes head in despair* 

Lynn: lol – I loved the scene from above where he’s on a horse running away from capture and he’s described as ‘bouncing’ – I could picture him so vividly just with that one word and it does lend itself to his overall ‘uselessness’ – although it does give Logen somebody close to hand who constantly needs rescuing.

Mayri: Ha! Poor guy – ‘your role in this story is to make the other guy look good. You will be rescued regularly!’

So, that completes our thoughts on weeks 1 and 2 – now stop over to Bookforager to check out our final feelings.

9 Responses to “A Slightly Different Review : The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie”

  1. bkfrgr

    Thank you again Lynn for this fantastic buddy-read! I really had a blast and can’t wait for us to continue the story.

    Also, now that you’ve posted that picture of Prince Charming I can’t unsee it either! Dagnabbit!! 😀

  2. Andreas

    Hi Lynn! I followed Mayri‘s link to your blog. Buddy reading is always great, I hope you enjoy it! This series is great, I need to revisit it!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved this and we will be starting No.2 in December so yay.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Revisiting this much-loved book (much-loved series as well!) through your eyes has been quite a fun journey! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’m loving it. Can;’t believe I waited so long.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I can see this one being a lot of fun as a buddy read 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is really a lot of fun to read together. It just teases out some more thoughts somehow.
      Lynn 😀

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