Jezal dan Luther, a soldier in the Kingdom known as the Union, is drawn into a magical conflict with the rival Empire of Gurhkul alongside a barbarian named Logen, a wizard named Bayaz, a torturer named Glokta and a former slave named Ferro. The Blade Itself is the first novel in Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy and features several primary point of view characters including: Jezal, an arrogant young swordsman fighting for the Union Kingdom; Logen, a barbarian from the North possessed by demons who cause him to go berserk in the heat of battle; Ferro, a former slave from the Union's rival nation of Gurkhul with a grudge against her former owners; and Glokta a torturer working for the Union's secretive inquisition.
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The four primary characters proceed along parallel, but interrelated paths for most of the novel until all four characters intersect in the final section of the book inside the capital city of the Union, the Agriont.
The capricious nobleman, Jezal, serves as the primary POV. Jezal is known as one of the finest swordsmen in the union. He is expected to train for a public duel called the Tournament, but he would rather drink and carouse with women. After some nagging from his superior officers, Jezal buckles down and trains for the epic battle with a brute soldier named Bremer dan Gorst.
At the outset of the story, Logen is separated from his band of warriors during a skirmish with bestial monsters called the Shanka. Logen takes a tumble over a cliff during the fight and his men assume him dead. Logen, of course, survives the fall and quickly links up with mage's apprentice. The mage's apprentice was actually on a mission to find Logen. He brings Logen to meet his master, Bayaz, the First of the Magi. Bayaz is a legendary figure in the Union, famous for founding the Agriont. One of Bayaz's former Magi brethren, Khalul, is now known as the Prophet of Gurhkul. Logen learns that the brewing war between the Union and Gurkhul is merely a proxy for a much older conflict between Bayaz and Khalul. Bayaz tells Logen that he needs the barbarian's help on an important mission. Logen agres to travel with Bayaz to the Agriont.
Glokta was once a famous soldier in the Union army. Years ago, he won the same tournament that Jezal is now training for. Unfortunately for Glokta, he is captured during a battle with the Gurkish. The denizens of Khalul imprison and torture Glokta for years. The torture left him crippled. Unable to fight any longer, Glokta is now a torturer in the service of the Union's inquisition. Throughout the story, Glokta tortures and interrogates several important noblemen in the Agriont. He uncovers hints of a conspiracy between certain members of the Union nobility and a mysterious banking house known as Valint and Balk.
Ferro is introduced in the middle of the story on the distant continent of Gurkhul. She escapes the hunters on her trail only to come across and old magi in the service of Bayaz. This magi convinces Ferro to journey with him to the Agriont where they will meet Bayaz and Logen.
Bayaz and Logen arrive at the Agriont first. They watch Jezal's duel and Bayaz uses his magic to help Jezal defeat Bremer. After the fight, Bayaz crashes a meeting of the Union's closed council and claims his rightful chair as the kingdom's founder. Glokta questions the Magi's identity and asks him to prove it. Bayaz does so by opening the House of the Maker, a giant spire at the center of the Agriont that hasn't been opened in centuries. Inside the House of the Maker, Bayaz finds a magic sword that he gifts to Logen.
The book ends with Glokta embarrassed and Bayaz assembling his crew which includes Logen, Ferro and Jezal. They all plan to leave for a distant land called the Old Empire in search of an evilrelic.
Best part of story, including ending:
Glokta's story is particularly compelling, but the rest seems like set up for the later two novels in the trilogy.
Best scene in story:
The arrogant Jezal finally has his duel with Bremer dan Gorst and is clearly getting destroyed. Bayaz intervenes for reasons that are not revealed. Jezal wins the duel and is hailed as a great Union hero.
Opinion about the main character:
Jezal is entirely unlikable as a protagonist in every way. You keep rooting for him to get his comeuppance, and just when it's about to happen, Bayaz saves him using magic.