Oct 122011
Authors: Allison Sylte

After a few too many embarrassing repeat reads of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” Chelsea Handler’s books and the last few issues of Cosmo, my dad arranged a literary intervention for me.

Being a fantasy fan, he recommended that I regain some of my street-cred (in his eyes) by checking out “The Blade Itself,” the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s “The First Law” trilogy.

And now I’m hooked.

Like “The Game of Thrones,” “The Blade Itself” chooses a different character each chapter to focus on, eventually interspersing those stories and adding interplay between the characters, who, as the book goes on, become more and more intertwined.

The main characters include Logen “The Bloody Nine” Ninefingers, a barbarian from the North, Ferro, a wild former slave on a path of destruction, Captain Jezal dan Luthar, a dashing but arrogant nobleman, Bayaz, the First of the Magi and Sand de Glokta, a prisoner turned sadistic torturer.

While the characters seem shallow and clichéd, a real testament to Abercrombie’s writing is that they aren’t.

He makes a genuine effort to make each character, despite their flaws, sympathetic to the reader. Combine that with realistic dialogue, and Abercrombie almost persuades you that a barbarian and a torturer are people who you actually know and would probably hang out with.

Another one of Abercrombie’s strengths is his ability to write fight scenes. He doesn’t stray from describing blood and guts, and does a good job incorporating characterization into the fight scenes without making them boring.

A highlight was a fight involving Logen Ninefingers, Ferro and a group of soldiers, where Logen, who is otherwise characterized as a pretty relaxed guy, goes haywire, almost singlehandedly winning the fight and making the reader understand why he’s called “The Bloody Nine.”

One complaint I did have was that the plot wasn’t too well defined. While “The Blade Itself” was enjoyable to read, I didn’t feel a clear direction in terms of what the rest of the series would be about, or even where the characters were headed.

The novel, instead, simply set the stage for the political discontent that seemed to be brewing in the empire where the story was set, and hinted at the characters’ role in resolving that discontentment, something that seems very similar to “The Game of Thrones.”

However, “The Blade Itself” lacks the heavy underlying sociopolitical and moral themes of “The Game of Thrones,” instead taking on a more lighthearted and joking tone, despite how violent it gets.

For readers out there looking for brain candy that you won’t feel guilty about, “The Blade Itself” definitely can’t be beat, especially if you’re already a fan of the fantasy genre. Or even if you aren’t, it’s still a nice diversion, and an easy way to ease in to more hardcore fantasy books.

A real testament to how entertaining “The Blade Itself” was is that, immediately after finishing the book, I ignored the latest issue of Cosmo and picked up the second book in the series instead, simply because I desperately wanted to spend more time with Abercrombie’s characters.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte is a junior journalism major who is not nearly as nerdy as this review makes her seem. She can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:38 pm

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