3.5 / 5
A typical Calvino book, characterized by his excellent descriptive style and unique eye for all those cultural and behavioral details that make his writing so unique. Most of the stories are very interesting and varied. There are some that were not such big hits with me but I feel that they don't affect the whole quality of the book negatively in any way. In short, if you're a fan of Calvino then this is another must-read. If not, you might still find it very interesting and easy to read. Recommended!
“Amid the hot stench of fresh offal, she rises to her feet like the dreadful ghost of a fallen battlefield soldier, her hands tacky with the thick pulpy dregs of death splayed wide.“
“A country of foolishness and wonderment and capital and perversity. Feeling like God at supper in the sky, horizons pink and blue, a frontier blasted through with breath and industry, like God himself could suffocate on the beauty of the place, could curl up and die at beholdin his own creation, all the razor reds of the West and the broke-down South always on a lean, elegantlike, the coyote howl and the cannibal kudzu and the dusty windows that ain’t seen a rag of cleaning since.”
“It just comes from thinkin too much. That’s why you can’t slow down for long. You gotta keep your brain tired out so it don’t start searching for things to dwell on.”
“And when it was finished, her clothes soaked through in blood and bile and crusted with graying tissue, she wiped from her face the gore she had ripped from the bodies of the dead—the issue of her own feral cannibalism—and only then was she able to open her eyes full to the stinging, punishing orange light of the failing day.”
“See, God is a slick god. He makes it so you don’t miss out on nothing you’re supposed to witness firsthand.”
To say that the frozen silence contracted itself into a yet higher globe of ice were to under-rate the exquisite tension and to shroud it in words. The atmosphere had become a physical sensation. As when, before a masterpiece, the acid throat contracts, and words are millstones, so when the supernaturally outlandish happens and a masterpiece is launched through the medium of human gesture, then all human volition is withered at the source and the heart of action stops beating.
Such a moment was this. Irma, a stalagmite of crimson stone, knew, for all the riot of her veins that a page had turned over. At chapter forty? O no! At chapter one, for she had never lived before save in a pulseless preface.
How long did they remain thus? How many times had the earth moved round the sun? How many times had the great blue whales of the northern waters risen to spurt their fountains at the sky? How many reed-bucks had fallen to the claws of how many leopards, while that sublime unit of two-figure statuary remained motionless? It is fruitless to ask. The clocks of the world stood still or should have done.
Indeed he had worn that piece of furniture - or symbol of bone-laziness - into such a shape as made the descent of any other body than his own into that crater of undulating horsehair a hazardous enterprise
Meanwhile Bellgrove had been savouring love's rare aperitif, the ageless language of the eyes.
Noon, ripe as thunder and silent as thought, had fled unfingered.
He knew that he was caught up in one of those stretches of time when for anything to happen normally would be abnormal. The dawn was too tense and highly charged for any common happening to survive.
He had emptied the bright goblet of romance; at a single gulp he had emptied it. The glass of it lay scattered on the floor.
His mother stood before him like a monument. He saw her great outline through the blur of his weakness and his passion. She made no movement at all.
- Abercrombie's characters... well what can I say about them!!! This is certainly the novel's strongest point! His characters are truly amazing, gritty and totally realistic, at the same time heroic and shameful each in his own little and special way. Often, I found myself thinking of them as a mix between Peake's Gormenghast protagonists and Dragonlance heroes! Abercrombie makes you care for all of them in the same way GRR Martin does!
- Also, people that follow my reviews know that I have a sensitive spot for dialogues as I value them highly. This novel excels at that point! Both the dialogues as well as the internal monologues have excellent pacing, style and content which add to the general appeal and believability of the plot and characters.
- The structure is also a positive point. I generally don't prefer multiple points of view but Abercrombie pulls this out quite well and competently. You never get lost or confused and it's easy to remember where each thread is at. Also, a detail which I really liked and helps make this work is that Abercrombie alters his style a bit depending on the point of view. So from one POV you get longer and more detailed descriptions, from another you might get deeper internal monologues and from a third you might get a "lighter" language.
Not so positives:
Not really a lot of them ...
- While not bad, the pacing of the story was sometimes a bit uneven. There were parts where I felt that it dragged a little bit, as if Abercrombie was uncertain of how exactly to proceed or where to go from there.
- The above leads me to my second minor gripe which is that sometimes plot-wise the novel felt a bit aimless, as if the characters and their personal lives were left in the driving seat to take the story wherever it took them. While I understand that this was Abercrombie's intention from the beginning as he wanted this to be a character-driven novel while maintaining an atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty, I think that maybe he overdid this just a bit too much. This is more of a personal and subjective gripe however as I usually prefer a more plot-driven narrative.
- My final complaint has to do with the ending... or the lack of resolution. In my mind there are two types of trilogies, one that has 3 stories closely related and interconnected together usually in a temporal manner (i.e. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set) and one that has 1 long story divided into three books (i.e. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings). The Blade Itself is the first part of The First Law trilogy which apparently falls into the second category, and thus it has no resolution at the end, no ending. I'm not sure I can blame a book for what it is but... I had to find some negatives!! :p