Before They Are Hanged (2007) – Joe Abercrombie


Four stars

Read Mar 12 2014 – Apr 05 2014

Book 2 of The First Law

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 – and Inquisitor Glokta needs to find answers before the Gurkish army comes knocking at the gates.

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 mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, most feared man in the North, and most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, if only they didn’t hate each other so much, potentially deadly ones.

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

Easing back into reading with high fantasy may not be the easiest of tasks, but Abercrombie makes it easy with Before They Are Hanged. I have to admit that I have a shaky knowledge of the politics of the world (compounded by the fact that, surprisingly, there is no map). There are three “lands” – the Union, Gurkhul and the North. The Northmen are invading the Union under the self proclaimed king Bethod, while the Gurkish Empire are also warring with the Union. Add to this mix the rising power of dark magical forces and then you’ve got a plot.

The second book in the series follows three small story arcs: Colonel West and a group of named Northmen who are fighting against Bethod; Inquisitor Glotka; and Jezal, Bayaz, and their travelling companions. While so much happens in the book, nothing actually really does happen. I’m racking my brains thinking of some way to capture the enormity and intricacies of the plot but also trying to keep it simple. Either way, this was a really interesting read.

Spoilers abound beyond this point.

Inquisitor Glotka is increasingly becoming a more and more sympathetic character, but then he’d do something like torture a man he knows is innocent and that is just not on.

I am also rather confused about the quest for The Seed at the end of the world. A failure? But what does that mean? What was the whole point of their journey throughout the book?

Ardee was sympathetic in the first book, but now I find her kinda… bitter and mean. Which is surprising seeing as how I love strong female characters,  but she just does not sit right with me. Especially after kicking the moneylender multiple times. I guess I sympathize with the smalltime characters a bit too much because the injustice that they received really quite annoyed me.

Will be taking a break from this series for probably a week or two, just to keep the whole trilogy from blending into one hazy plot.

The First Law Trilogy
The Blade Itself (2006)
Before They Are Hanged (2007)
Last Argument of Kings (2008)


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