Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The First Law: Book One: The Blade Itself

Joe Abercrombie is a new writer out of England who keeps bread on the table by being a free lance film editor of documentaries and live music. He has written his initial set of books, The First Law. The Blade Itself, the first installment in the trilogy, is an amazing work. Set in a medieval sort of world, it has everything a good fantasy novel/series should have; great characters (and who would have thought that you could end up having sympathy for an Inquisitor, but that's how good his characters are), lots of action, plenty of sword fighting, even some love interest.

His characters are great: Inquisitor Glotka, formerly a well-born, dashing cavalry hero and sword fighter who spent two years in a hellish prison that converted him into the pain-drenched wreck that his is now; Logen Nine-Fingers, a Northern barbarian in the finest tradition, a killer that is also human and a philosopher in his own way; Bayaz, First of the Magi, an old wizard who comes back to the kingdom he helped create and upsets its apple cart in surprising ways, and Jezal dan Luthar, a captain in the King's Own, a self-satisfied son of a noble family who cares most about drinking, fleecing his pals at cards and who hopes to win the yearly fencing Contest and attain glory so he can be 'an important man.' Abercrombie draws us into each of these characters' world in a way that is fully realized and fascinating. I ended up having sympathy for all of them and hope for all of them as the first book drew to a close. Those are not the only memorable characters in the book; there are plenty more, but those four are the major players in The Blade Itself.

The book opens with "The End" and then literally rushes into a cliffhanger beginning with Logen. Eventually, each of the other major characters is brought out in the open and given their time on the stage. Abercrombie does a skillful job of pacing and plotting, switching back and forth between characters, filling in gaps in each story, showing what is going on in the world in a panoramic, yet particular way.

I finished the first book in the trilogy relatively quickly (3 or 4 days) and have just started the second book, Before They Are Hanged. The author has already picked up the loose threads left at the end of Book One and is busy weaving them into a great story. Good stuff and highly recommended.

In between finishing The Blade Itself and starting Before They Are Hanged, I read The Sharing Knife, the first of two volumes entitled The Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold draws great characters and has won more that her share of Hugo and Nebula awards, sometimes for the same book. She writes stories that are mostly fantasy, but, as with Abercrombie, they are peopled by fully realized and recognizably human characters. Often, as is the case here, the main character is a woman. In this case, Fawn Bluefield is one of the two main characters and a sympathetically drawn one. At the start of the novel she is running away from her farmer family to make a different life for herself. She falls in with Dar, a Lakewalker and has an extremely perilous encounter with a malice, an elemental evil spirit in that world. Dar is fifty-five and, even though he is, like all Lakewalkers, sensitive to the emotional realities of those around him, he is emotionally as well as physically crippled. He lost his left hand in an earlier battle against a malice (when he also lost his first wife) and has been a Lakewalker on patrol longer than anyone else in the world at that point. The Sharing Knife ends with Dar and Fawn married (marriages between Lakewalkers and farmers are not just strongly frowned upon, but practically non-existent) and just about to enter Dar's home encampment. Can't wait to continue this one.

So there you have it; as often happens, I am in the middle of reading several stories at once. I'm hoping to get to Third Place Books after work today so that I can pick up Worldwired (so that I can finish what I started with Hammered and Scardown) and the second book of The Beguilement (don't remember the title of that one at the moment). Those two books will be next on the list after I finish Before They Are Hanged.

I have also gotten a bunch of new music, some of it quite good. I will leave that for another post.

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About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.