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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable continuation of the storyline
Before They Are Hanged is the second book in The First Law Trilogy and the sequel to The Blade Itself. In this middle volume of the sequence, Before They Are Hanged picks up the storylines left dangling from the first novel and develops them further. As with the first book, this volume often feels like a 'standard' fantasy novel with lots of standard tropes in use, but...
Published on 8 Jun. 2007 by A. Whitehead

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor characters not achieving much
For the first 150 pages not a lot happens, and then all the battles get going - that you've been waiting the whole of the first book for, and a fair bit of the second. The middle of the book is great, exciting, strong adventure. Then the events we'd been waiting for finish and there's a bit of a lull, followed by a brief battle at the end.

It all feels...
Published 13 months ago by Kublai

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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable continuation of the storyline, 8 Jun. 2007
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Before They Are Hanged is the second book in The First Law Trilogy and the sequel to The Blade Itself. In this middle volume of the sequence, Before They Are Hanged picks up the storylines left dangling from the first novel and develops them further. As with the first book, this volume often feels like a 'standard' fantasy novel with lots of standard tropes in use, but Abercrombie successfully continues to put a subversive spin on events which keeps things fresh and interesting.

There are three main plot threads in the book. In the Northlands, the Union Army prepares to face the forces under Beothed. They have enlisted the aid of Threetrees and his band of cutthroats and warriors, but Marshal Burr and Colonel West find their hands full with just keeping their feuding generals from each others throats and babysitting the preening, useless Prince Ladisla.

Meanwhile, in the South, the city of Dagoska falls under siege from the army of the Gurkhal Empire. Inquisitor Glokta, in the city to investigate the disappearance of his predecessor, finds himself orchestrating the defence of the city against a vast and powerful foe, but is also forced into making alliances with suspect agents in order to ensure the city's survival.

In the West, Bayaz and his band of unlikely companions continue their journey to the edge of the Circle of the World, to recover a weapon of tremendous power. Their journey will take them through the fallen remnants of the Old Empire, an ancient city and a towering mountain range before their goal can be achieved.

Abercrombie's story rattles along at a fair old pace. With the characters introduced, there is no more need for scene-setting and the plot explodes with vigour. More happens in this 450-page novel than some writers struggle to squeeze into an 800-page tome, and it's all invigorating, page-turning stuff. There's a lightness of touch and plenty of humour in the writing which makes reading the book all the more pleasurable. The characters become more interesting, with Glokta particularly becoming a morally ambiguous person whom the author gives real character to, his decisive ruthlessness coming as quite a shock in some parts of the book. Meanwhile, in other parts of the story other characters undertake unexpected transformations. Meeting other people who know Bayaz from earlier in the world's history forces the reader to reconsider their opinion of him, whilst another character undergoes a startling personality transformation which is kept quietly in the background, hinting at some darker force moving in the storyline which will be explored further in the final book of the series.

The only criticism that comes to mind is, once again, the lack of a map. This is even more of a problem in the second novel as much vaster areas of territory are covered. One of the problems of not having a map in the book is revealed by the fact that, until an offhand comment made in this volume, I was unaware that Midderland (the Union homeland and location of its capital, Adua) was an island. A second, even more minor problem is that a skirmish in an ancient, ruined city threatens to feel like the use of one standard fantasy idea too many. Luckily, Abercrombie's writing is strong enough to avoid this problem, especially as it provides some of the most memorable imagery in the novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant second book of an exciting contemporary fantasy series, 27 May 2008
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
Fantasy is a much maligned genre , yet it has given us a slew of hugely gifted writers. George RR Martin, Robin Hobb, Steven Erikson, Clive Barker, China Mieville to name some of the top of my shiny bonce. There is a new name to add to that list. Joe Abercrombie is a freelance film editor but on the evidence of The Blade Itself, the first of The First law trilogy , of which Before They are Hanged is the second, he has a new career as a writer . Like the first book this is terrific stuff.
There are three threads to the story featuring more of the wonderful array of characters , introduced to us in the first book . Some of these are developed further as you would expect ,but one or two even undergo unexpected character arcs that are importantly wholly believable. Plus there are several new characters introduced and Abercrombie is even confident enough to kill one of these off after developing an enthralling sub -plot around them.
The barbarian Logen Ninefingers, first of the Magi Byaz , his apprentice Quai and navigator Longfoot are joined by the perma-scowling misanthropic Ferro and arrogant aristocrat Jezal Dan Luther pining for the lady he left behind on a long journey to the island on the "Edge of the world" where Byaz is seeking "The Seed"- a magical weapon that could end all the conflict.
Union armies meanwhile are preparing to face the massed hordes of barbarians led by Bethod. Colonel West has reservations about his superiors and with good reason , finding to his surprise that the barbarian troop led by Threetrees are far greater fighters than his Union soldiers and he will need all their guile and ferocity to survive.
Meanwhile Inquisitor Glotka and his Practical's are despatched by Arch Lector Sult to the southern city of Dagoska where his predecessor has disappeared and the Gurkish army is amassing ready to reclaim the city from the Union. He suspects there are traitors within the city council and he's right but who are they and how can he engineer the ragtag band of defenders to repel the massive forces advancing on Dagoska ?
Like The Blade Itself this book this book is a cracking and exciting read. Happily and most entertainingly Abercrombie is the type of writer who can really make dialogue fizz ,He also has a highly modernistic irreverent approach to fantasy with lots of profanity , which no doubt will alienate fans of classic fantasy , and plenty of gory action sequences, including a couple of epic battles.
At the books conclusion it's all set up splendidly for the final instalment and I am salivating at the prospect of finding where that takes us. While The Blade Itself doesn't have the deep political intrigue of works by Robin Hobb or George RR Martin and indeed doesn't conjure up it's world quite as vividly, for which the lack of a map is a surprising oversight, it's still well written and about as compelling as fiction gets...fantasy or otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Addictive storytelling, 14 Mar. 2012
After making the mistake of reading book one of Abercrombie's The First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself, without having book two and three at hand, when I went on my London book splurge I made sure to not only buy those two books, but the first standalone novel in Abercrombie's world, Best Served Cold, as well. I quickly read this book, but then the dreaded morning sickness took over and well, you know the rest of this story! I loved getting back to these characters, however, and I hope to get stuck into the next book fairly soon after the baby gets here.

As with the first book there are three main arcs: one that follows Glokta, one that follow Major West, who's joined by Logen's band, and an arc that follows Bayaz whose party includes Logen, Jezal, Ferro and of course his apprentice and the guide Longfoot. And, again as in the first book, all the arcs are entertaining, though my personal favourite parts were Glokta's stay in Dagoska and Logen's crafting of bonds with Jezal and Ferro. Especially the romance thread between Logen and Ferro is at once hilarious, touching and heartbreaking. I also liked spending so much time with West, he's awesome and one of the few truly honourable men in the books so far.

Before They Are Hanged is very character driven. We see far more of the world than we did before, but even through these travels - which are mainly focused on West and Bayaz' group; Glokta moves around, but we don't see him travel - the characters and their development and interactions remain key. While most characters show growth, in my opinion, Jezal dan Luthar shows the most. Not surprising as he needed to do a lot of growing up. But it goes beyond just that. He seems to find his better side and learns loyalty to other people than himself. This is mainly done through his interactions with Logen, who in his own gruff way seems to mentor him. I really liked the group dynamic in this party of misfits and I do wonder where they'll go in the final book of this trilogy.

We finally figure out what Bayaz is up to, though these discoveries also make his "good guy" status more dubious. The further along we get in the book, the more I started to doubt that Bayaz is actually the somewhat benevolent figure he claims to be. In retrospect, I don't why I'd be surprised at this as I said myself in the review for the first book that the characters are 'grey, greyer and black' with not a speck of white among them, not even the honourable Major West. But Bayaz' turn for the darker does conjure up questions about his true intentions and where his quest will lead his party. I can only surmise it won't be good.

Before They Are Hanged doesn't suffer from middle book syndrome; yes, there is a lot of set up and moving around, but it doesn't drag at all. It can by no means stand alone, however, without having read book one this won't be a satisfying read. Yet it is a great follow up to The Blade Itself and it ramps up expectations for the final book in this trilogy, Last Argument of Kings. Abercrombie's storytelling is addictive, once you've started the first book; you'll be hooked until you've read them all, which for me is the mark of a great writer!
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying sequel, 13 Mar. 2007
A lot has been said about Joe Abercrombie's debut, The Blade Itself. Contrary to those who found its characters lame, its dialogues trite, and its plotlines uninteresting, I enjoyed The Blade Itself. To me, it felt like a throwback book, a work which was reminiscent of what used to dominate the fantasy genre during the 80s. Okay, so it's a far cry from Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, or Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. So what? That doesn't mean that a "lighter" work cannot be a fun reading experience.

If you expect to see a masterpiece like Schindler's List every time you go to the movies, you might as well stay home and not bother. Likewise, when you sit down to read a novel, well not everything can be a GRRM read. Today's SFF market is diversified enough to allow disparate authors to have their own niche.

Let's get one thing straight: If you didn't like The Blade Itself, don't expect Before They Are Hanged to win you over. On the other hand, if you enjoyed Abercrombie's debut, I daresay you will love the sequel.

Before They Are Hanged is comprised of all the aspects which made its predecessor a good read, yet it is also a marked improvement in every department. The author moves the story forward with more aplomb, all the while maintaining the "gallows humor" which has become his hallmark.The worldbuilding plays a larger role in this one, especially in the story arc that shows Bayaz, Logen, Ferro, Jezal and the others travel to the island at the edge of the World. The imagery is more colorful and arresting than in The Blade Itself. The absence of a map is particularly confusing in this sequel, however. There is a lot of traveling around in each story arc, and the reader clearly has no idea where everything's supposed to be. Lou Anders, if you're reading this, put a damn map in the US edition!

As another character-driven tale, the characterizations remain the most important facet of Before They Are Hanged. Abercrombie also shows much improvement in this aspect. Although a number of clichéd characters remain, the author did a very good job in fleshing out the cast. And while Glokta and Logen are still fan favorites, Abercrombie has given more depth to Ferro, Jezal and many others. As for me, I must say that I absolutely loved every chapter that showcased the Northmen posse of Dogman, Threetrees, Black Dow, Harding Grim and Tul Duru Thunderhead!

In my opinion, Joe Abercrombie possesses all the qualities that made David Eddings such a powerhouse during the 80s and 90s. Even better, he steers clear (so far, anyway) of the frivolities which proved to be Eddings' downfall in the end. Funny, entertaining and accessible, there's a lot to love about Abercrombie's style. I know that many of you are put off by such a claim, but remember that Eddings sold more than 18 million books worldwide. I have a feeling Joe could live with that. Just a hunch, but I think both Gollanz and Pyr could live with that as well. Joe Abercrombie will never be the second coming of Stephen R. Donaldson, Guy Gavriel Kay, or Kim Stanley Robinson. Regardless, the author's style will nevertheless attract and please a vast number of fantasy fans.

Before They Are Hanged is a satisfying sequel which should establish Joe Abercrombie as one of the bright new voices of the genre. To the haters, it appears that Abercrombie is here to stay. . .[...]
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cover was pretty and it got better from there, 3 April 2007
J. Webb "Lot9H" (Shropshire, England) - See all my reviews
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's all gone a bit LOTR..., 18 July 2010
Before They Are Hanged is a sequel, and the middle part of a trilogy. It should perhaps not be surprising that it falls into one of the big traps of middle-part-ness: It doesn't really have a story.

A bunch of people travel across a continent and are beset by obstacles. How Middle Earth. A massive army is slowly surrounding a little port which one character is charged to protect. A siege and battles. Hmmm. And another group of people travel through another part of a different continent while getting into the odd battle or two with a hostile army.

Replace shanka with Orcs, and you are in Middle Earth. Except, of course, our heroes are still a barbarian, a feral wild woman, a torturer, a vain pompous ass, a working class colonel...

OK, OK, I get it. Flawed heroes. Middle Earth. Bah, humbug.

Which is a little unfair. It's well written, enjoyable, thrilling - it just is also frustrating, offers no conclusion or satisfaction, lacks the sinister skill of George R R Martin, lacks humour, and takes itself quite seriously for a fantasy novel which is ultimately quite unoriginal. It's a cut above average, a solid three and a half out of five star kind of read.

Oh, and get over the damn repetition. A body found floating by the docks. You've got to be realistic. She did not trust him / like it. Every time a chapter stars Ferro, I want to skip it, she is that annoying. Glokta is enjoyable to spend time with, but even he is very very repetitive.

I'll still read the next one, though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter, cynical and hugely enjoyable, 23 Aug. 2008
Cartimand (Hampshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed The Blade Itself, which breathed fresh and much needed life into the swords and sorcery genre, and so I plunged into this sequel with eager anticipation. Within a few pages I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. All the splendid characters are back - the pick of the bunch being Abercrombie's delightfully twisted (in every sense) anti-hero Glokta. Whilst Logan, Jezal, West, Ferro, Dogman, Ardee and all the rest are expertly depicted fully rounded characters, it is everyone's favourite torturer who steals the show once again with his cynical but also often profound and side-splittingly funny observations on human nature. Sometimes showing surprising kindness. Other times torturing without mercy and calmly letting an innocent man go to the gallows, Glokta is certainly a complex character and, for my money, is easily up there with the very best creations of the fantasy genre. As the plot separates into three main threads, we are treated to some remarkably vivid descriptions of combat, intrigue, sex, camp-fire cameraderie, comedy and, if you've ever wondered what it feels like to be hit in the face with a mace, you won't after reading this!

Wonderful stuff! Volume III is next on my reading list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better the second time around, 5 Feb. 2008
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, thrilling, and with great characters., 11 July 2011
P. Fitzpatrick "paulfitz28" (Seattle, WA, USA) - See all my reviews
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!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, 6 Oct. 2007
Dr. Robert A. Josey "mystery lover" (Scottish Highlands) - See all my reviews
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.
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