on 3 April 2007
It's hard to find fault with this series. The first of the trilogy, The Blade Itself was so far distanced from a lot of the contemporary high fantasy that I often paused at passages remarking on how inventive something was. Unusual in itself since I normally go through books at quite a pace. Before They Are Hanged builds on this beautifully.
The names of people and places seem appropriate, rather than just nice sounds that the author once thought of. When passages are done from a certain characters point of view they take on very unique tones, going so far as to fill the occasional paragraph with each persons various obsessions... things which often have nothing to do with the story but add tremendous depth to their chracter. I use the word character too much maybe, but they are one of the best parts of a very good narative. It seems the ones with the more bad aspects become the favourites. Luthar who would be a typical hero if he wasn't such a swine to all his friends. Logan the bloody nine who may or may not have slaughtered innocent women and children, and Sand Dan Glokta who can scarcely be a more terrifying figure if he wasn't, and hadn't been, constantly at the mercy of worse.
The other main thing to remark upon (and the only other thing if I am to keep this review shorter than the novel itself) is the setting. Too often in fantasy authors try to match Tolkein by creating an entire world, history, and all which everyone seems to magically know all about. The places in 'The First Law' seem plausible because they are full of more ordinary than extraordinary, because various ruins are only half explained, and most importantly because the history isn't written to be overly romantic. There aren't many heroes, and those there are, are revealed to have had a human side just like the main protagonists.
Away with your gods, and elves, and dark lords. Semi-plausible human fantasy is the way forward.... if only to act as abackdrop which allows the truly unique and magical moments in this book to shine.
on 5 February 2008
Well, I loved the first book. A cracking story (even though a lot of it was the set up for the rest of the tale), great humour, adult themes and a refreshingly different style of writing.
I was very excited to get my hands on the second book (as you can tell from my review for the first book if you're interested) and perhaps went through it too quickly. I speed read it because I wanted to find out what happened next. Not intentionally, just really excited to have found something so different.
As a result I failed to appreciate the writing so much and was overly disappointed by an ending that screams for the next book.
Don't misuunderstand me, I am not the sort of reader who gets excited by waffling prose or archaic style. It is just that this series is so different. It is written for adults and that is, in my opinion, quite unusual for fantasy books.
Anyway, to cut a rambling review to an end, I just want to say that the second time I read through the first two books, I enjoyed this one more. Although the story is exciting it is the way it develops, and the way the characters interact, that makes it quality.
5 stars, highly recommended, but make sure you read the first book...first.
on 11 July 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and this one is even better. The characters are incredibly likeable - even Glotka (a particularly nasty torturer) is an interesting and immensely likeable character. You know characters are well written when you aren't sure whether to be sickened by a character or to be cheering him on.
The dialogue is usually funny, interesting and witty. Well written characters, well written dialogue and despite it being the bridging book there are plenty of exciting events. Abercrombie writes battles very well, they feel fast paced.
He is descriptive of the locations in the book, but not overly so - a trap that many fantasy writers fall into. You know what the world looks like but the focus remains on the characters, not banal details.
The book feels fun, the characters are great, it's well paced. Highly recommended!
This - and the previous volume - are wonderfully written. That is the first element that stood out for me.
They are also page-turners of the very best kind. There was not one disappointing paragraph - just original, realistic, compelling, wonderfully twisted characters (rare indeed for this genre, I am afraid); an amazing, dark, suspenseful story-line; and all sorts of tantalising hints as to the lore and background of the culture and countries in which it is set.
I love the way the author can have you laughing at some cynical observation or manipulation then feeling sick to your stomach at the next. There is much hard-won wisdom and humanity in there too. And the Magick (again, quite rare in this genre, unfortunately) is exciting, mysterious and truly arcane.
At times I was reminded of the intruiges in Dorothy Dunnett's 'Niccolo Rising' sequence of historical novels. And comparisons with Gene Wolfe and the best of Mike Moorcock don't go amiss either.
What I found most fascinating about 'The First Law' though is how moving and realistic it is. (I sometimes forgot I was reading 'Fantasy'.) A superbly nuanced depiction of the terrible tragedy of war, in all its manifestations, shot through with the blackest of black humour. From the first few chapters I knew I was reading something very special indeed. I have enjoyed few books as rich and original as these in years. Immensely satisfying. And to say I am awaiting the next volume with great anticipation is an understatement.
on 26 March 2007
I read The Blade Itself, and thought it was a very good start to Abercombie's writing career. Before They Are Hanged is even better, and has left me eager for the last part of the trilogy, whilst at the same time hoping that it won't be the end of all the characters. I read the book when I was travelling away from home on business, and had only taken 2 books with me (this, and Tad Williams "Shadowplay" - thank goodness I had Abercombie's!!).
It helps if you have read the first book, but it is not absolutely imperative, as BTAH can quite easily be read by itself. The characters continue to develope lives of their own, and the Northerners (Dogman, Tul, Dow, and Grim) are almost a poor man's Bridge Burners/Bone Hunters - let's get them reunited with The Bloody Nine before too long, please!. Glokta continues to be a favourite anti hero, and presumably will have an even bigger part to play in everyone's lives in the final part of the story.
The style reminds me slightly of David Gemmell's, and for me that is a plus - not too 'clever' or long winded, and you get what it says on the packet - a rollicking good story, with a dash of dark humour thrown in. Keep it up Mr. Abercrombie, Sir, and remember not to kill off all the characters - keep some for a few spin off or 'prequel' novels when The First Law has come to an end. Take a leaf out of Erikson's book if necessary - if he can let the Bridge Burners become ascendant, rather than lose the characters, I'm sure you can think of something for The Bloody Nine (and his new best friend, Ferro???).
on 30 August 2014
‘Before they are hanged’ is the second volume in the First Law Series, by Joe Abercrombie. Directly following ‘The Blade Itself’, the fantastic introduction to the series; it continues with the same hard-boiled, brutal, and realistic characters with the same amounts of brutish violence. Dark fantasy at its best, it succeeds in being amazingly better than the first book.
‘Before they are hanged’ continues with the same characters as its prequel, though with a story that is even bigger and meaner than that of the first book. The book begins with the Union finding itself at war on its northern front against Bethod and his barbarians, with an additional impending war against the Gurkish also threatening the city of Dagoska on the south. Inquisitor Glokta is dispatched to Dagoska to solve the disappearance of the previous Inquisitor, and also must somehow overcome the corrupt and incompetent leadership of the city in order to manage to maintain and defend the city against the Gurkish forces threatening it. Deadly political intrigue ensues, and Glokta must manage to waver through the different forces in order to achieve something that isn’t thought possible. All whilst avoiding the being killed.
Meanwhile, and at the same time, Bayaz has gathered a party composed of Jezal dan Luthar, hateful Ferro, Maljinn, and logen. They have to go to the far south to recover an apocalyptic artifact from the past – the seed – which supposedly contains a destructive force so powerful that it would be able to save the Union from the invasions of both Gurkish and North. The big question through their whole storyline is, however, will they be able to even reach the artifact?
Just like in ‘The Blade Itself’, the writing in this book is absolutely astounding. It is relentless and hard-edged, and brings in all the brutality of the world created by Abercrombie in what is definitely the best way possible. Each of the characters is individualized in a way that highlights their own personality and goals, everything about them. The action is extremely well written, as is the dialogue and the dark humour. The book succeeds in being even better than the last (even though such a thing seemed impossible with how good the first one was, in my opinion), and was a complete joy to read from start to finish.
Something which made me enjoy even more the book though, was the fact that in this one the there was more interaction between characters; mainly with Jezal, Ferro, Logen, and Bayaz. If the last book felt a bit empty in this regard, the feeling isn’t present at all in this one, as by having them travel with each other it makes their respective characters grow and interact with each other in ways that really completed the novel, and made it an even better read.
All in all, ‘Before they are hanged’ is a fast-paced, gritty, and dark fantasy book that will not let you go. Well-conceived and most enjoyable, it is something any fan of this genre should read and not miss, and probably one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read in quite some time. It is definitely awesometacular, and reading as well as purchasing is heavily recommended.
on 25 March 2014
Controversially perhaps, I actually think this surpasses the first book. It’s always the case that the second book in a trilogy suffers from being (or being seen to be) the ‘filler’; bridging the gap between the fresh new beginning and the climactic finale. That said, the character development so central to a second novel - and designed to make you care more about their respective endings - I found to be more interesting than their respective introductions in The Blade Itself. This is probably because it comes hand-in-hand with a galloping progression of the story.
Things do develop, but there is also a sense of matters being tied up. The overarching story still remains, but the end of the book heralds the end of the quest, the end of another Union battle, and a full stop (of sorts) for Glokta – but all left teetering enticingly on the edge, with a whole new chapter ready to be opened, and new set of questions to be answered. My point being that you don’t immediately have to pick up Last Argument of Kings (but you will want to).
I maintain my comments from the first book about some characters you’d rather read about/with than others. Glokta remains absolutely superb, West comes into his own and develops into one of the most interesting and justifiably introspective characters, and Bayaz still annoys the hell out of me (although this is tempered by Logen, Jezal, and Ferro ,who remain close to him on their quest westward[?], which is altogether a great part of the story). I think this probably means there’s something for everybody, which may be part of the overall appeal; although I also think we can all agree on our opinion of Sand dan Glokta[?]
In short, it flows from the first book, and I will eagerly move onto the third. Good (old school) stuff.
Before they are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie is an excellent second book in the First law Trilogy.
In this book all of the characters are firmly set on their particular journeys that they began in the first novel. Bayaz has drawn together his companions, Ninefingers, Jezal, Ferro, Longfoot and Quai, and has set out in search of a weapon to use against the real enemy behind the looming threat hanging over the kingdom. Meanwhile Gloktor has been sent to save the city of Dagoska from attack whilst at the same time finding his way to the centre of a conspiracy that threatens his life. Finally Major West has gone north where he has the terrible misfortune of being paired with the largely useless crown Prince Ladislar as they take on Bethod and his Northmen.
This book is a thoroughly enjoying read that moves each story arc on nicely. As with the first book, the true strength of this novel lies in the brilliance of its characters. Each character is well written, unique and best of all they grow with the story. Each one is affected and changed by the decisions and journeys that they make and the book is much the better for it.
Overall if you enjoyed the first book then you will no doubt love this one. There is more of the same qualities that made the first great (brilliant characters, gritty realism and laugh out loud humour) but it is set at a much quicker pace than the first novel in the series. There is plenty of action, the story gets much deeper and to be honest there really isn't much that this book falls short on. All in all this is a great book and I thoroughly recommend it to all.
on 28 May 2013
This was absolutely brilliant in every sense of the word. It led on seamlessly from The Blade Itself, which set everything up perfectly. The characterisation continued nicely and I gained a better insight into the lives of those who I thought I knew well already. I also really enjoyed the battle scenes; they were compelling and have been written with such a brutal pace and realism that I almost felt as though I was there watching it unfold in front of me. The intricacies of the relationships built between the leading characters are intense and add just another dimension to what is already an exhilarating read. There is however two elements I would like to pass comment on before I go:
Firstly I have read some reviews that have given low ratings because of the content and 'grit' within; I personally think that Joe writes with a stark reality, depicting well the facets of conflict and war in all its hideous depravity as well as its glory. It is truly a breath of fresh air to be given the full picture in terms of those involved, including all of their vices, weaknesses and skeletons in their closets, and not only their virtues. Although the tale is set in a fantasy world I would say that in terms of character development, there's gritty real life drama unfolding before your eyes and it is breath-taking stuff.
Secondly the Guardian makes this mention on the front of the books 'delightfully twisted and evil'. Clearly everyone has their own opinions but I feel these four words deserve some further explanation and I would say this: the story is most definitely delightfully entertaining, there are some fantastic twists, and yes there is evil but only because Joe has laid bare the bones of his characters and not hidden away any nasty bits.
In summary, I can't wait to read the Last Argument of Kings!
on 21 November 2011
I absolutely love this series of books!
Joe Abercrombie was recommended to me by a friend and I must say it's one of the best Fantasy read's I have had in a long time.
His characters are superb (dark yet like-able) and unlike a lot of fantasy authors he doesn't get too bogged down on describing the setting (a la Jordan) or setting up a magic system/mythology that no one understands - this makes for a really enjoyable action-packed read. There is dark humor, mystique and action, action, action!
Before They are Hanged continues the good work of his first book (The Blade Itself) expanding on the intrigue, politics and mystery created. In fact, unlike a lot of `second in the series books', the story gets better and the read more interesting.
The story is generally told in a POV format with some really funny asides thrown in (really like the Glokta character in this regard).
Don't wish to spoil anything for you, but lets just say that a few interesting things happen in this book regarding Bayaz, Glokta and the Bloody Nine (not to mention a certain noble who gets grounded rather rapidly). There are some violent scenes described in a delightfully twisted (yet not over-the-top) way which definitely help make this a more adult fantasy read (unlike some of the other `wishy washy' stuff out there e.g. latter books in Jordan's Wheel of Time series).
If you enjoyed the first book, you will definitely enjoy the second (and the rest of the series for that matter).
I highly recommend this series to anyone that enjoyed authors like Erickson (similar sort of character development), Gemmell (has the feel of Legend) or George Martin (Tyrion similar to Glokta).
Hope this helps.