This is a very well done fantasy novel. The characters are various and interesting, displaying a fascinating mixture of noble ideals and human weaknesses. They struggle at times to reach their ideals and give in at other times to their weaknesses, so that you are always wondering which part of them will win out in the end. What side will they choose? Will they become a villain or a hero to us? Will they change sides? Quite apart from the society where they live, where the villains can be the heroes and vice versa. These characters are a cut above the simplistic, one-dimensional characters that populate lesser writings.
Joe Abercrombie has created a complex world with several different types of societies, from the barbarians at the gate to the more civilized, and engages us with all of them. The discovery of the motives of many different groups moves the plot along nicely, and we get a good sense of the interplay between the influence the individual has on their own destiny and the destiny imposed on them by outside forces.
An excellent romp through a world of both sword and sorcery. I look forward to the next one in this series, and recommend The Blade Itself to all. I love the quote as well: "The blade itself incites to deeds of violence" -- Homer