As the debut novel of Abercrombie, it is only fitting that it is read, reviewed and analysed as just that. First books are rife with raw potential that will be honed, crafted and refined as the writer builds up their bibliography.
The first thing I noticed when reading The Blade Itself is that nothing was really happening. The plot was so abstract that it feels like the characters are all standing still while their characters are put into strategic positions for the rest of the trilogy. This can be quite tedious for readers as you have purchased a book with the intention of immersing yourself in the fantastical world, to go on an adventure, an emotional rollercoaster; only to have to buy the sequel. However, I must be honest and admit that I didn’t really mind. Abercrombie wrote the foundations of this fantasy world into the prose so subtly, I sped through the book. Worldbuilding can be the make or break of an epic fantasy as pages of information are skimmed over and half of it forgotten because of the detachment from the plot.
But one thing that resonated with me is that even if you didn’t know who wrote this book, a few chapters in and you would be certain that it was written by a man. This is because the way in which female characters are written and portrayed. I have no issue with Ardee and Ferro as characters. I think Abercrombie developed them wonderfully throughout the book and every action they made was honest and true to their characters. However, compared to characters like Jezel and West who are active and in positions of power, Ardee and Ferro are constantly the victims of abuse, violence and depicted as powerless. In order to develop a male character, like West, violence must be done to a female character close to them, like his sister Ardee. This is one cliché in fiction that we should be moving on from; for a man to show character development he needs to see a woman suffer, sometimes at his hand, to reinforce his emotional complexity.
Nevertheless, Abercrombie has a way with words and the voice he gives to each character’s POV is uniquely vivid and distinct. The characters are a strength in this book. The plot is a nice background for the characters to work in but I’m not turning my page to find out what happens next; the page turns to get to know Glokta, Logan and Ferro better. The characters are the heart and soul of The Blade Itself.