Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie – Review

Cover- Before They Are Hanged

Published: September 8, 2015

Publisher: Orbit

Series: The First Law #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 515 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0


Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It’s enough to make a torturer want to run – if he could even walk without a stick.

Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem – he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.

And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters. If they didn’t hate each other quite so much.

Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven – but not before they are hanged.

Before They Are Hanged is like the grimdark interpretation of The Fellowship of the Ring, except they’re going to pick up a magical object instead of pitching it into a volcano. Oh, and instead of a band of likeminded, wholesome adventurers they all hate each other and have some pretty serious character flaws. With that said, I can’t say I was disappointed because it was a pretty great book and the travelling for ages is only a small part of the story.

Like I said, half our characters are on an Unexpected Journey and it’s filled with misery, rain, and violence with just a touch of redemption. Out of all of them, Logen is still the most pleasant and he goes into berserker rages, killing all those who cross him. In Dagoska our most beloved Sand dan Glokta is trying to uncover treasonous plots and keep the Gurkish out of the city for as long as possible. To the north Colonel West is trying unsuccessfully to manage His Royal Highness and not get murdered by Bethod. Everything’s on the brink of crisis and it made it so hard to put the book down.

While the story and character arcs are overall quite good, I will say this suffered from middle book syndrome just a little. So long was spent travelling across the stupid continent to find Bayaz’s magical object that I got a little bored with those POV chapters from time to time. There was enough action to keep it from being a total slog, but it was much slower than either Glokta or West/the Northmen chapters. Once again I’m surprised at how much I loved Glokta’s POV. He’s cynical and hilarious – without his internal commentary on life the book (and his character) would be less.

Before They Are Hanged was an excellent read/listen and if you like audiobooks I would highly recommend that format as Steven Pacey’s narration is on point. As always. I’m currently finishing up Last Argument of Kings and should have a review of that up in a couple weeks!

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