Book Review: Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: The First Law
Author info:

This is book #2 of The First Law Trilogy, check the review for book #1 here.

Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he kicks your arse with his characters. That’s the long and short of it. I already loved The Blade Itself but a whole bunch of new books got in the way and I’ve been aching to resume reading the series ever since. I came down with a bad flu and had plenty of time to catch up with the reading since I haven’t been able to do anything else other than lie down and read.

This book has been such a thrill ride with the breathtaking adventures, thickening plots, and most of all, the splendid cast of characters. Their growth and changes and relationships are all masterfully done. The progress of Jezal and Logen Ninefingers was especially mind-blowing. I loved the landscapes, the ruins, the descriptions of the weather. I’m a huge sucker for journeys in depressing landscapes and bad weather and I’d love to do a fan art of a scene from this majestic journey if I ever find the energy for it.

Bayaz drags Logen Ninefingers, Jezal, Ferro and Quai to the ends of the world in search of the mysterious Seed we saw mentioned in The Blade Itself, with Brother Longfoot from the order of Navigators as their guide. These parts were awesome to read, the landscapes and the adventures were great but the character developments and interactions were the best parts of it.

Collem West is fighting against Bethod with the Northmen allies in Angland, and I must say his character development was absolutely dazzling. One of the best I’ve read in fantasy in fact. He turned from a dull side character into a shining star in this book. The Northmen’s culture and speech is another well done aspect of the worldbuilding. Dudes are so much more than brutish barbarians, gotta give them that.

Glokta’s detective work and political intrigue chapters, his internal dialogues, his superb lines were such a delight to read I will end up re-reading the whole series again. Glokta so far is my favorite grimdark character along with Jorg from The Broken Empire. If you are a fan of Raistlin, you’ll be a huge fan of Glokta.

Ferro has also a bigger part in this book and she quickly became my favorite female character. Her zero fucks given attitude is rather rare. Her unrelenting hardcore nature is also awesome. One cliche I really can’t stand is the strong female characters fallin for some dude and going all mushy. I can’t stand it. I was quite happy to see that wasn’t taking place here. Kudos to Abercrombie for breaking this annoying cliche, too. Mr. Abercrombie has written the whole series as a cliche-breaker, but for someone like me who hate to see strong characters getting tangled up in a romance plot and going mushy, that was a relief.

Another thing I must mention is the fighting and battle scenes. Normally those bore me to death since I’ve read so much hand to hand combat and battle stuff, I speed-read through such scenes with 5x fast forward, but both the hand to hand combats and the field battles here are grrrreat. Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he writes the finest battle scenes.

I have just one thing to complain about the book: Prince Ladisla was just too unrealistic, pretty much a caricature to be frank. Both him and his idiotic cronies refusing to see obvious reason and logic and acting like total morons. There are moronic characters like that even in actual history behaving like total dolts in battle situations, but Ladisla was a touch too much. He wouldn’t stick out in Riftwar or Dragonlance books, but when you have super complex characters like Glokta and Logen, he sticks out like a sore thumb and comes off as an unrealistic parody. I can’t point a finger and tell you exactly why, but he does.

But that’s really not a big deal, considering the book is arse-kicking awesome. I’m getting my friends and colleagues to pick up The First Law as we speak, I really need offline people to talk about it!