The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie is a book that comes highly recommended by various friends who share my sweet tooth for relatively mindless fantasy adventure, and one that I've been reluctant to read mostly due to it's promotion as "gritty" fantasy, or in the words of one cover blurb "fantasy noir". Which usually means typical fantasy leavened with swearing and breasts, and lots of depressing events, because everyone knows the way to make books"gritty" and "realistic" is to suck all the joy & fun out of them.
But I'm at such a low fantasy ebb I'm re-reading mediocre 70's paperbacks, so when a copy came in over the counter last week I grabbed it.
And whadda ya know, it's good. Yes, there is swearing, and yes there are occasional blinding literary anacronisms (note to Mr. Abercrombie- in future please avoid boxing/prizefighting metaphors in your medieval fantasy novels). But the characters are well drawn, the setup is completely & comfortably traditional (mighty wizard in a world where magic is waning gathers up a ragtag crew to join him on a quest to save civilization) and, wonder of wonders, it has a sense of humor. It's realistic in the sense that it looks at certain fantasy tropes with a modern eye, but it isn't an unrelenting examination of all things dire & dirty- it leaves you room to breath and be amused by characters and events.
About halfway through now, and looking forward to the sequel, which awaits on my nighttable.