The Blade Itself is a sparse, semi-grimdark thriller with morally grey characters. I enjoyed it in part, I think, because the characters did not feel gratuitously grimdark. They don't kill or torture people because they just like killin' em; they kill or torture people because they're responding to the incentives.
The character-line that was the best was the one taking place in far north Angland (really?), where we meet the traveling band we had earlier judged to be dead. The sparse dialog, brutality, and general atmosphere there was the best.
Overall, this was enjoyable, with good characterization, if a little short on the worldbuilding.
On understanding: “The very first lines,” said Bayaz. “Forgive me for saying so, but I’ve been on this world for more than thirty years, and I’ve yet to understand a single thing that’s happened. To know the world completely? To understand everything? That’s quite a task.”
On killing someone who had been a friend: “I just had enough. So I reckon I earned this. Fair is fair.” He lifted his chin. “Well then. Get it done, lad.” Logen raised the sword. “I’m glad it’s you, Ninefingers,” hissed Blacktoe through gritted teeth, “for what it’s worth.” “I’m not.” Logen swung the blade down.
On killing someone who killed some innocents with a band of murderous tax collectors, but who is a boy and didn't want to do it: The boy was something more of a problem, though. He stared down at the body with big, wide eyes, then he looked up. “You’re them, ain’t ya,” he said, “them as Ninefingers beat.” “Aye, boy,” said Threetrees, “we’re them.” “I heard stories, stories about you. What you going to do with me?” “Well, there’s the question, ain’t it,” Dogman muttered to himself. Shame was, he already knew the answer. “He can’t stay with us,” said Threetrees. “We can’t take the baggage and we can’t take the risk.” “He’s just a lad,” said Forley. “We could let him go.” It was a nice thought, but it wasn’t holding much water, and they all knew it. The boy looked hopeful, but Tul put an end to that. “We can’t trust him. Not here. He’d tell someone we were back, and then we’d be hunted. Can’t do it. Besides, he had his part in that work at the farm.” “But what choice did I ’ave?” asked the boy. “What choice? I wanted to go south! Go south and fight the Union, and earn myself a name, but they sent me here, to get taxes. My chief says do a thing, I got to do it, don’t I?” “You do,” said Threetrees. “No one says you could’ve done different.” “I didn’t want no part of it! I told him to let the young ones be! You got to believe me!” Forley looked down at his boots. “We do believe you.” “But you’re going to fuckin’ kill me anyway?” Dogman chewed at his lip. “Can’t take you with us, can’t leave you be.” “I didn’t want no part of it.” The boy hung his head. “Don’t hardly seem fair.” “It ain’t,” said Threetrees. “It ain’t fair at all. But there it is.” Dow’s axe hacked into the back of the lad’s skull and he sprawled out on his face.
Awkward confessions of love: The clever words leaked out of his mind and he spoke without thinking, looking her straight in the eye. Maybe this was what honesty felt like. “Look, Ardee, I know you think I’m an ass and, well, I daresay I am, but I don’t plan always to be one. I don’t know why you even look at me, and I don’t know much about this sort of thing but, well… I think about you all the time. I hardly think about anything else any more.” He took another deep breath. “I think…” He glanced around again, just to check that no one was watching. “I think I love you!”