Before They Are Hanged: A Book Review

before-they-are-hanged-uk-pbVolume two of the First Law trilogy is just as good as the first, if not maybe a bit better. Its Joe Abercrombie’s second published work and the polish is much shinier than the first. Similar to Rowling, the growth and development of the writing conventions is tangible from the first book to the second. The setting is a bit more spread out, and primarily takes place in both the cold North and the hot South, and then the “edge of the world” which is sort of a dark, scary mixture of desert, arctic, and everything in between.

I try to avoid pot synopsis in these reviews, so there’s not a ton to say about the storyline other than its typical fantasy. There’s a war in the north, there’s a war in the south, and there’s a small group of intrepid companions looking for a magical thingy to help save the world by stopping the wars. Its the detail of the plot and the characters and their interactions that really makes the First Law and all of Abercrombie’s books so wonderful to read.

In the North? The craziest, most entertaining group of crusty Northmen, all barbarism and bloody-mindedness, join up with the polished steel but empty brains of the Union army, all under the watchful eye of Colonel West, the rage-a-holic put-upon most un-heroic hero that ever was penned onto paper. There’s also criminals who get consricpted, one of which is a woman, and then there’s jealousy and sex.

In the South? The crippled, bitter, yet somehow relatable and heroic Sand dan Glokta (an Inquisitor, by the way) finds a way to hold a fortress for months in the face of unbeatable odds against a savage army of cannibals and crazy people, all the while uncovering a conspiracy within the ruling council. Sub-plots of racial and religious tolerance, and also weird out-of-place mercy that still manages to fit into the story.

The Edge of the World? A wizard, his apprentice, a homicidally schizophrenic Northman, a spoiled-brat dandy fencer, and a murderous demon-blooded slave girl are all trying to save the world by finding the Seed, and trying to form bonds and survive in a barren, desolate place.There’s also some sex here too, which makes the reader want to stand up and clap, and also disappointment and severe battle wounds.

I could not put this book down, and I didn’t want to. I’d recommend this to anyone who looks their books with a twist of dark and gritty. Ignore the fantasy storylines, they’re almost secondary to the memorable characters and gritty violence.

Volume two gets the full 10-out-of-10 fingers. The Bloody-Nine be damned.

Signing Off.

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