The Blade Itself is the first book in Joe Abercrombie's First Law series. It's a gritty fantasy taking after the David Gemmell mode - indeed a later book in the series (Last Argument of Kings) was nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Awards.
It starts with a familiar setup - a nation under threat, an ancient mage assembling a party of adventurers to go forth - but has easily enough twists to subvert and play with what could have been stultifying stereotypes. Fast-paced action sequences leavened with dark humour drive the plot along, and Abercrombie's eye for a memorable character (Glokta the inquisitor is one of the best characters I've seen in a fantasy book for a long time) helps make it an enjoyable experience.
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The Blade Itself: Book One of The First Law
Before They Are Hanged: Book Two of The First Law
Last Argument Of Kings: Book Three of The First Law