The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie - Book Review

Series: The First Law (Book #1)

Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark

Pages: 515 pages (paperback edition)

Published: March 8, 2007 by Gollancz

Review Date: 01/04/2024

Tags: #joeabercrombie #fantasy #grimdark

From potential DNF, The Blade Itself became a fantastic slow burn start to an expansive grimdark fantasy world that I must continue. 


When taking a stroll in the fantasy genre at any bookstore or library, a name that I continually see is Joe Abercrombie. This name kept popping up in almost all the BookTube content that I watched. This name was being hailed as a master of the grimdark genre and somebody that should be read when you are remotely a fan of the fantasy genre.

Well, somehow I have not read any Abercrombie just yet in my many many years of reading in the genre.

Then my Dad mentioned to me one day, “Hey have you heard of this Abercrombie fellow?” My Dad of all people! Granted, he and I both read in the fantasy and sci-fi genre so this was inevitably going to happen at some point, but then it actually happened! At this point everyone in my little book community has been recommending this author so you know what I did.

I bought The Blade Itself. I read (listened) The Blade Itself. Now, I have thoughts on The Blade Itself and if it lived to the enormous mountain of expectations I had in my head.


The Blade Itself is the first book in Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Currently, as I am writing this review, there are almost 15,000 reviews on Goodreads on this book. What is even more impressive is that this book has almost 240,000 ratings! That is a staggering number of almost a quarter of a million people logging into Goodreads and leaving a rating for this book.

Well, what could hurt about adding one more review to the mix?

I also wanted to mention that I listened to the audio version of this book which was narrated by Steven Pacey. Pacey is a fantastic narrator that really helped me get immersed into this brutal world bringing characters to life all in their unique ways…even characters with missing teeth.


“Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.”

The first thing I want to say here is that I struggled in the beginning of this book. So much so that I was actually contemplating DNFing this story and saying “I guess Abercrombie is just not for me.”

I have only heard good things about this book so I knew that I wanted to at least finish it and I am so happy that I did. My thought of DNFing this story was completely squashed by the 60% mark within the story which is right about where many of our POVs converged.

Now, there were a few reasons why this story did not click with me right from the get-go. Yes, there was fantastic world building, the characters were mostly interesting, Glokta’s introspection was humorous, but I kept asking “when is something going to happen?”

Usually, I am a huge fan of slow burn stories as long as there something keeping my interest and hopefully a huge payoff towards the tail end of the story. The Blade Itself certainly has an ending that was worth the slow burn read but my interest was definitely waning in the beginning.

Out of all the characters presented in this story two were standouts for me, Sand dan Glokta and Bayaz. You might be saying “What? What about Logen Ninefingers?” Well for me, I was indifferent towards Logen until the very end of his story in this book.

Glokta’s introspection was absolutely hilarious and so much fun to listen to and I truly think this is what kept my slight interest in the story moving forward during the begining and middle section of this book. This is a character that is flawed, has a very interesting history, very entertaining tasks, and the narrator makes him even more hilarious by adding a voice that really sounds like he was missing teeth. Glokta has several witty remarks and thoughts that made his story in this book a joy to read through.

Bayaz was interesting to me because he is not what you typically think of when picturing a wise and old wizard. To be honest, I had no clue there would be wizard or magic elements in this story but it was certainly welcome. I believe Bayaz is an excellent character to push this magical element in the story across as his character just fits nicely into this grim and bleak world. The world is grim and Bayaz is also grim but with a pinch of humor.

Logen, I thought was interesting but I wasn't really hooked on his character until a chapter named “The Bloody-Nine”, which is the second to last chapter in this story. To me, Logen was just a brooding tall dude for the majority of the story and was just simply there. Why was he there? Well, he didn't really know either and didn't want to know. Then, in that second to last chapter, we see why his nickname is the Bloody Nine and … I loved it!

Now, all these characters are somewhat interesting and fun to read but the turning point for me into really enjoying this book was when these characters came together. These scenes were hilarious and a lot of fun to read through. There was a particular tower scene that involved a majority of our characters that was ultra mysterious and also hilarious as to the reaction from our different POVs.

Another problem that I had in this story was from any female POV. There was a certain female character that introduced later on in the narrative that I had no connection to at all for the entire story. I understand there is some significance here and hope to see it expanded upon in book number two.

The best way that I can describe this book is that it as a slow but great stepping stone in The First Law series. I am very happy that I finished this story as there were many things to takeaway like excellent characters (mostly), fantastic prose, great world building and humor from all angles. Did it live up to the mountain of hype I was expecting? No, but I am excited to see what comes next.

I rate The Blade Itself 4.1 out of 5 stars and recommend it to any fantasy or grimdark fan. Keep in mind that this story starts slow but is worth it in the end. I also highly recommend the audio format of this read narrated by Steven Pacey.

“Well. What can we do, except try to do better?”

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