Novels need a hook, something unique, whether it be a new or reinvented idea, to catch readers. The first book of the The First Law trilogy by Joe Ambercrombie, The Blade Itself, is more subtle in this regard. Novels often have an empathetic lead, or a host of characters with several likable protagonists. It took sometime before this was apparent in The Blade Itself, but every character is a horrible person.
Much like the Game of Thrones books, and many before it, The Blade Itself follows several protagonists that slowly come together, each from a different background with uncommon attributes. The main characters, Logen, Glotka and Luthar were unique and fun to follow, for the most part. The minor characters, Ferro, West and Dogman were a mix of enjoyable to not enough.
Game of Thrones and The Demon Cycle both had a habit of switching perspectives too soon. It became an annoyance when a chapter ended, leaving on an awkward cliffhanger. Ambercrombie masterfully balanced this aspect. The perspective switches were nice as each character was equally interesting, showing different events, and in later chapters, the same events from different P.O.V.’s. The only character that drug the experience down was Luthar. His character was wonderfully executed, showing his rich, spoiled nature, only, it became a bit much after a while. Not bad, just slow.
Logen and Glotka were fascinating reads, both for different reasons. Logen was surrounded by all manner of curiosities, talking with spirits, traveling with Bayaz, etc. Glotka though was unique as a crippled, broken man. The side characters seemed mostly to be windows, showing us events that couldn’t be seen by the main three save for Ferro. She was endlessly entertaining. With only three chapters though, it left me wanting more. She seemed wholly different when viewed by Logen. While it was odd reading, I mark this a plus with Ambercrombie showing how we see ourselves and how others see us.
Make no mistake though, none of these characters show the slightest bit of altruism, making them more human in the process. Luthar, is a spoiled brat, while the rest are killers of a sort. Some, like Logen, did it to survive, occasionally slipping into the darkness that came with it where as Glotka revealed in damaging others as has been. There are no paragons.
The biggest weakness was the lack of events. We’ve been trained by trilogies over the years to expect a bit of closer with each entry, with perhaps the second part ending in a cliffhanger. This read like act one of a book, rather than a tale itself. Not much happened beyond introducing the characters and the world, and putting them in motion. Not a negative for me, but I could see how this would leave others wanting. Don’t expect much resolution, or even the major conflict to be revealed.
The Blade Itself (the title taken a line in The Odyssey) was a wonderful opening act for the series. The world and characters were balanced as they were doled out, driving me to read on, learning more. Though this offered little beyond the opening act, it set the stage well enough to create a want to continue.
Who was your favorite character? Want more Ferro? Comment below!