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The Blade Itself

The First Law: Book One

Joe Abercrombie

448 pp • ISBN: 978-1-59102-641-9
Trade Paperback (6" x 9") • $17
March 2008
Cover Illustration: © Laura Brett


Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, Captain Jezal dan Luthar has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he's about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

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. Unpredictable, compelling, wickedly funny, and packed with unforgettable characters, The Blade Itself is noir fantasy with a real cutting edge.


"A rough-and-tumble, bold new voice in the heroic fantasy ranks."
—Locus Online, Best of 2007

"Abercrombie kicks off his series masterfully with a heroic fantasy without conventional heroes. It's clearly the characters that take center stage here. Their dialogue is full of cynicism and wit, their lives full of intrigue, battles and magic."
—Romantic Times

"In the two-years-plus since we lost David Gemmell at an intolerably early age, nothing, absolutely nothing, has so reassured me about the future of heroic fantasy as Abercrombie's sequence The First Law.… All 3 white-knucklers are now available in the U. S. from the Pyr imprint of Prometheus Books.… I'm avoiding the word trilogy in connection with The First Law not only because the term has become such a punchline in any discussion of fantasy as a publishing phenom, but also because I don't think Abercrombie wrote one. He might not have pulled a Tolkien by writing one long novel in its entirety before delivering any of it to his publisher, but that's what his story reads like: one long-and-proud-of-it novel.... The First Law might appear overlong to some readers, especially those with a pulp-trained attention span, but as a prodigy of heroic fantasy storytelling the 3 books are not nearly long enough. Saying goodbye to Inquisitor Glokta and Logen Ninefingers aches like a bereavement.... With Joe Abercrombie our favorite subgenre is in good, and formidably sword-calloused, hands."

"[A] fantasy novel full of enough ironic and slightly self-deprecating humor and Scorcese-esque violence to make the average hipper than thou non-fantasy reader want to learn more about the genre (my favorite kind to convert), yet filled with enough touchstones to make your average Tolkien-weaned fantasy reader quite happy indeed….just one of the great characters in a rogues gallery of fantasy archetypes with a twist, Inquisitor Glokta is one of the finest examples of a sympathetically drawn antagonist I have seen in a very long time, in a book of any genre, and some of his inner dialogue is absolutely quote-worthy….if the rest of the series is as much fun as the first bit, Pyr can gladly have my $10….This book is highly recommended by BBT Magazine!"
—Blood Blade & Thruster Magazine

"… easily equals anything released in epic fantasy in the past few years, and just may rise to the top….This book is about characters first, and Abercrombie skillfully portrays them with near-perfect internal and external dialogue set at an ideal pace. These seem like real people from history rather than some over-done cliché or archetype….clever, verging on satirical, humor and wit infuses Abercrombie's writing as he plays with many of the common fantasy tropes, makes them his own and shows us how things can be done in capable, yet irreverent, hands….The Blade Itself is the beginning of one of the most promising epic fantasies that I've read in years. Abercrombie had me laughing with his guile as he stops just short of spitting in the face of genre and set my heart racing through some the best-written fight scenes of any genre. This one is not just for fans of epic fantasy."
—Neth Space

"The fascination with this Noir fantasy is the key cast members….these incredibly flawed souls make for a fresh and outstanding fantasy."
—MBR Bookwatch (Klausner's Bookshelf)

"The beginning of a truly unusual and wonderfully captivating series. Buy this book—and this is from someone who doesn't read fantasy!"
—Dispatches from the Border (Borderland Books)

"Abercrombie is a damned frustrating writer. He writes so well and his story is so infectious, it is difficult to stop reading and even thinking about the layers of his story and world….the book is entertaining and a great page-turner."

"Now that I've read the book for myself, not only was The Blade Itself better than I could have hoped for, but I find it hard to imagine anyone not liking this fantasy extravaganza …. To me, The Blade Itself is simultaneously an homage to fantasy of old, a satirical riff on clichés common within the genre, and a contemporary revision .... if you like fantasy but are tired of the same-old routines, enjoy a healthy dose of black humor, are not afraid of a little over-the-top violence and foul language, and appreciate the writings of Glen Cook, Scott Lynch, and Steven Erikson, then Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself is tailor-made for you. Even if none of that fits in your criteria, give the book a chance. You might just be pleasantly surprised."
—Fantasy Book Critic

"Joe Abercrombie has a nice trilogy, The First Law, that is difficult to put down …. the characters feel real and intense. I can't wait for the next part."
—Philadelphia Weekly Press/University Review

"…makes you imagine all sorts of strange, yet oddly compelling things …. this book is great if you want a more realistic view of 'barbarian' life meets civilization …. this book will leave you asking for more."
World's Biggest Bookstore's Sci-Fi Fan Letter

"Critics compare Abercrombie to Dickens, but come on - Dickens was never so entertaining. This intricate story just flows, carrying along barbarian fighters with real courage (and real injuries), spoiled nobles with redeeming potential, mages with disconcerting agendas... plus the most sympathetic torturer ever. The First Law trilogy: an adventure whose characters grow in tough, surprising, satisfying ways, in a gritty, exotic world that is sometimes awful, and always fascinates. Expect fast, funny dialog, and one hell of a rush."
John Meaney, author of Paradox and Bone Song

"If you're fond of bloodless, turgid fantasy with characters as thin as newspaper and as boring as plaster saints, Joe Abercrombie is really going to ruin your day. A long career for this guy would be a gift to our genre."
Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora

"[A] highly readable fantasy that isn't going to scare off mainstream readers or newcomers to the genre….a whole banquet of violent action and intrigue." —

"You'd never guess that The Blade Itself is Joe Abercrombie's debut novel. He writes like a natural. There are great characters, sparky dialogue, an action-packed plot, and from the very first words ('The End') and an opening scene that is literally a cliffhanger, you know you are in for a cheeky, vivid, exhilarating ride."
—Starburst (5 star review)

"Fans of character-driven epics who are willing to take their heroes
with a grain of moral ambiguity should add this novel to their 'must read' list....
The Blade Itself is a smartly-written, sophisticated debut with
compelling characters, a complex plot, and style to burn."
—Strange Horizons

"In addition to excellent characterizations and fascinating world-building, Abercrombie also writes the best fight scenes I have read in ages.
I'm glad the whole package is good, but I could happily recommend
The Blade Itself for the fight scenes alone."

"Now this is a breath of fresh air! A story told with wit, dash, and a keen
eye for character....Finding a writer like Abercrombie amidst the clutter of
second-raters who crowd the fantasy genre is like the sun breaking through dark clouds; he wakes you up and reminds you why you took up reading in the first place."
—Infinity Plus

"A promising start to a new fantasy series by a new writer....better than a run of the mill fantasy....after the first 50 or so pages I was hooked....a surprisingly good debut novel....if you like many of the recently published dark fantasies (Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin, and K. J. Parker spring to mind), then this is worth a read." —

"For once nobody has tried to make a comparison with George R. R. Martin;
instead the publisher promises something more akin to Tad Williams.
But this seems wrong-headed, almost a missed opportunity....Like Martin he
has an ear for constructing dialogue patterns, as well as the beginnings of an epic self-confidence; certainly, his prose is fluent and shows great promise.
There are none of the peaks and lows that are often common to debut novels...
The Blade Itself is an incredibly accomplished first novel."
—Emerald City

Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie (Lancaster, England), a 2008 John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award nominee, is a freelance film editor, working mostly on documentaries and live music events for bands from Coldplay to Iron Maiden. He lives and works in London. He is also the author of Before They Are Hanged: The First Law, Book Two and Last Argument of Kings: The First Law, Book Three.

Visit Joe Abercrombie online at

Author photo ©Lou Abercrombie