Though I was not an avowed Joe Abercrombie fan before starting this book, I wanted to read more of his work to see what the fuss was about. Turns out, the fuss is very much justified. The opening scene was enough to hook me, and the cast of well-rounded characters drew me in. The book read like a grim fantasy version of COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO; in essence, it's a story about a woman propelled by her need for revenge.
One thing I didn't remember from THE BLADE ITSELF was the sheer quality of the prose, which distracted, I think, from the rather dark world in which the story takes place. The world building is solid, and the plot is just complex enough without going to GRRM extremes. It works well as a standalone, too, which is difficult to accomplish in this genre.
Overall, this book pushed me firmly into the camp of Joe Abercrombie fans, and I look forward to reading HALF A KING.