Before They Are Hanged, Joe Abercrombi, PYR, ISBN 978-1-59102-641-9, 543 pgs., $15.98

Cover of "Before They are Hanged (First L...

Cover of Before They are Hanged (First Law)

And the plot thickens. Or, more exactly, becomes more convoluted. This is the second book in Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy and picks up right after the first book. And so, we join Superior Glokta, imperial torturer who finds himself suddenly on the wrong side of politics and quickly to be sent to the city of Dagoska, a city he is tasked with defending and whose fall is imminent. Elsewhere, the Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire, fear and death. Crown Prince Ladisla is sent to drive them back. Unfortunately, the Prince is incompetent, his generals argue who has more power, and the officers who know what needs to be done are not listened to. While this happens, Bayaz, the First of the Magi is heading west, leading a group consisting of the most feared man of the north and the most hated woman of the south. They are rounded out by a navigator so full of himself that he can barely stop telling everyone how great he is and the current foil champion of Angland, a preening fool with no experience but much cockiness.

These stories interweave back and forth as the plot advances, each carrying the narrative along and each critical to the overarching theme of self-sacrifice and self-destruction. The are battles individual and mighty, bloody and self-fulfilling, and chaotic and meaningless. Death and destruction are everywhere. Survival is due as much to luck as skill. And, yet, each group, persists onward, either fulfilling fate or creating destiny.

Before They Are Hanged is an interesting book and Abercrombie manages to maintain his dark humor throughout, his characters opining in somewhat sarcastic fashion about their situations and those around them.  Because Abercrombie is telling three distinct stories here the plotting is a bit convoluted and the reader needs to be able to juggle these disparate plot lines while trying to keep the main plot in mind.  This is no easy feat although Abercrombie’s eye to detail and plot lines helps a great deal as does his ability to make each of his characters very distinct.

I liked this book, as much as I like the series and I am definitely looking forward to reading the third and final book.  Abercrombie has created a world worth reading about and characters that move about in it that are worth caring about.  Even Glokta, the crippled torturer, is a joy to follow due to his Machiavellian mind and attention to purpose.  Highly recommended.

Click here to buy at Amazon.
Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two)


About damnaliens
Writer, reviewer, home provider to the Damnaliens

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