Say one thing for Sam, say he's not very good at keeping up to date with his writing commitments. I keep getting waylaid by a million other tasks, not to mention my crippling apathy & laziness. Still, if I want to make any headway with my writing then I need to, you know, do some writing. You have to be realistic about these things. So, without further ado, here is a very quick review of the book series I have just finished
The Blade Itself is the first book in Joe Abercrombie First Law trilogy. It's also his debut, and a damned good one at that. It sets up a wonderfully brutal fantasy world with hints of Middle Earth, Westeros and Sharpe-era England. The plot is a fairly standard one - a handful of disparate characters are slowly brought together and manipulated like pieces on a chess board in an epic quest to blah blah blah. Yes, yes I know it sounds like you've heard it all before. But trust me, the books have merit. The plot can't be given justice by a one-sentence description. The joy of it lies in the rich world he has created - and of course in its characters.
You have Logan Ninefingers, the brooding warrior from the barbaric North, prone to philosophising about violence and leadership and whether a man can change his nature. You have Jezal dan Luthar, a spoiled prissy soldier swept up in matters beyond his control and forced to consider that he may not in fact be the most important thing in the world. You have Collem West, a soldier of common origin elevated, some would argue, above his station. You have Ferro, a traumatised killing machine who lives only to get vengeance on her hated enemies. You have the mysterious Bayaz, First of the Magi, a magician of boundless talent and limitless guile. Best of all, you have Sand dan Glokta, a ruthless inquisitor who was a promising young war hero until he was captured, tortured, broken and reduced to a husk of a man.
The characters really make these books worthwhile. Through their quests, fights, squabbles, wars, betrayals, back-stabbing, snarkery, sarcasm, highs and lows you come to know and care about them shockingly quickly. The one that makes the most impact is Glokta, as his viewpoint passages are peppered with internal monologues. Abercrombie does a great job making each viewpoint character's chapters stand out. The Northmen's chapters contain colloquialisms and oft-used phrases of theirs (the death euphemism "back to the mud" being a particular favourite of mine). Jezal's tend to have scathingly biting comebacks he utterly fails to voice.
This is one of those series where almost every character is a bastard, going about their bastardy lives and doing dastardly barstardy deeds - and yet each character is strangely endearing, likeable even. It's not like you can't identify with any of them and so find it difficult to root for them.
The characters fight and learn and grow against a backdrop of war an intrigue, where lies are piled on lies and betrayal isn't a matter of if but of when. It's a nasty, brutish world with little time for happiness and pleasantries. And yet it's compelling reading. The pages practically turn themselves in some parts.
I urge you to seek these out and give them a try. If you like Game of Thrones, The Lies of Locke Lamora and other tales of fantasy-flavoured bastards' shenanigans then I can guarantee this is right up your alley.