The Blade Itself - Joe Abercrombie I’m going to do something that's a little disrespectful and start this review by talking about another fantasy series that I’ve enjoyed: A Song of Ice and Fire. That series rules. It has everything I’ve wanted in a series since Tolkien but there’s one thing to be said about it, neither good or bad, that is a big part of its impact: it is dark, very very dark. The darkness comes, as it should in all quality fiction, not necessarily from the actual bad things that happen to good people, but from the depth of the characterizations themselves. Bad things happen to very real, very well-characterized, and truly understandable people, and so those bad things are made all the more upsetting, all the more hard to read.

So that’s where The Blade Itself comes in. It is a funny thing for me, reading the reviews. Everyone goes on about how bloody it is, how graphic and hardcore, etc etc. How it is a part of the “George R.R. Martin tradition”. Of course there is truth to that: much blood is spilled, incredibly tragic things happen, and hell, one of its central characters (in fact, its best character) is a torturer with an awfully painful past. But what I rarely see mentioned is the wonderful lightness of tone that makes the novel such a pleasure to read. For all its tragedies and darkness, the tone is amusing, light-hearted, comic, and never in awe of the various mysteries depicted. I laughed out loud many times. It is also a surprisingly tender novel. That comment may be hard for lovers of this book to read. But The Blade does not demonize any of its characters, it allows all of them (even Black Dow!) their moments of decency and kindness, it views all of them in such a cheerful, upbeat way, that never did I feel a sense of bleak heaviness at the tragedies displayed. Those tragedies are shown to be a part of life, for some, and although they are impactful, the characters are not beaten completely down by their pasts. It is not a sentimental novel, but it is a very sweet-tempered one. The down side to this is that, at times, the characters and situations have a vibe to them that is almost close to being a sitcom. The upside is that it is wall-to-wall pleasure and at the end of the novel, I felt uplifted, rather than weighted down. It is a wonderful antidote to the compelling but grueling Song of Ice and Fire. A kind of tonic. The novel is a breezy delight and I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.

Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention: the author knows how to write action sequences. They were truly exciting, even cinematic in the clarity of what was happening. Often fights are confusing affairs in fantasy, but that is not the case here. The whole novel had a brisk yet cinematic feel to it. I choose Matthew MacFayden to play Inquisitor Glotka!