Saturday, May 14, 2011

Reading Journal - Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself

I got called in early to work today, so this will be a brief post. I'm no longer doing "reviews", per se (at least that is my mood this year, ha), but I've seen a few blogs doing reading journals. Let's try that. One doesn't need to reinvent the wheel.

The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One) is, from what I understand, Abercrombie's debut novel.

It's pretty good. I see a lot of references to Abercrombie in my reading - they say that if you want gritty, dirty, crude fantasy fiction, he's the man to read.

Yes, that is so. Along the lines of GRRM, which I've also seen mentioned.

I'm about halfway through The Blade Itself, and what the strength and draw of this novel is, to me, is the characterizations.

Because these are some despicable characters. Crude, arrogant, ugly, distinctly unlikable. And YET, Abercrombie makes them all entirely sympathetic.

Now I went into this knowing it's the first book in a trilogy, which is to say, the protagonists' motives aren't entirely clear. Seems they'd be happy just to make it through one of their miserable days without dying or suffering or being called to task.

As the story progresses, they get motivated or involved in what's going on - and about a third of the way through the story, you begin to see moments of why these characters were chosen, and how their paths are very likely to cross later.

So, yes, I'm enjoying it.

As far as my writing goes, this has inspired rather an opposite effect on me. While reading this, it occurred to me to make my antagonist more sympathetic. My protagonists are fine (they need some work in the revisions of course); but I've really enjoyed how Abercrombie has made his roguish unlikables - likable. I've been putting it off in my own WIP primarily for the purpose of length - at 140k words, it's too lengthy for a debut novel. Adding more chapters is not helpful.

But perhaps a few chapters here and there... yes, indeed.

Anyway, so off to work for me. It's a good time for things to swirl around and solidify in my head. Have a great weekend!


  1. I do think making your antagonist more likeable, even in small ways....will make him more personable.. likely create some empathy on the part of the reader....I would think pulling the reader even further into the story....
    I'm glad you are enjoying the book... your mind is always churning ... thinking of better ways to do things...

  2. Interesting thing, reading Abercrombie... because, in so many words, what occurs to me is not so much as making the character likable - but making them understandable. And I certainly recognized that, 2/3 of the way through my first draft, that my protagonists were a little TOO likable, which is something I'm working on in the revisions anyway.

    But, in so doing, I also need to add some depth to the antagonist(s).

    Thank you for the comment, Songbird. :-)


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