I’ve been writing a number of book reviews over at Goodreads.com. I thought it might be fun to post them here as well.

Book Review: The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) by Joe Abercrombie

Fantasy has changed a lot in the last few years. Led by authors such as Bakker and Erickson, it often tends to be very dark, focusing on the squalor and terror of living in a medieval world where those in power use the limited and dangerous forces of magic to further oppress the poor wretches who live under their heel. And, oh yes, the vast majority female characters are either a)whores, b)slaves, or c)sexually-monstrous, power-crazed harpies who, most often, are fighting to help their inbred children gain or hold onto power.

Abercrombie’s book touches on these new tropes, but he manages to rise above them by being deeply character driven, and showing a patience in storytelling that will draw you in, and surprise you, if not at every turn, at least at the important ones. There are heroes in this book, but everyone is flawed, and by the end of this first volume you’ll only be beginning to unravel which of them are overcoming their baser instincts to become the hero they never imagined they could be, and which are about to fall into the pit of their own lust for power and control.

I particular really like Abercrombie’s take on the Barbarian character. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, Abercrombie gives him a deep emotional life that allows you to get into his head. In fact it takes a while to realize that he is the barbarian. So when the inevitable clash with society comes, it’s easy to root for the unwashed stranger against his more “civilized” opponents.

This book isn’t life changing. Calling it a “compelling page turner” would be a fair description. But if you’re open to a well-written fantasy romp with deep and solid characterization, you should definitely give Abercrombies books a try.

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