Book Review: Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie

The Basics

When last we left our heroes, Bayaz was organizing an expedition to the Old Empire to find a magical MacGuffin, and Ferro, Logen, and Jezal are his chosen band to help him in his quest. Meanwhile, Glokta has been shipped off to Dagoska with a Gurkish army standing right outside the city gates.

My Thoughts

Favorite in the series. Absolute favorite. That doesn’t even require thought for me to say; it’s that thoughtlessly good. It’s exciting and adventurous. It’s funny. It’s chocked full of surprising character interaction. Glokta gets to be a magnificent bastard all over Dagoska. The First Law Trilogy had me with the characters in the first novel, and suddenly the story ramps up here and gets more, better, bigger, faster.

I made this statement already with my review of the first book, but it bears repeating in a big way. Abercrombie is big on subverting fantasy tropes. Characters don’t do what they’d do in their designated fantasy roles. They break molds. That doesn’t just extend to characters either. If this were Tolkien, these characters would face adversity and then ultimately succeed, but Abercrombie isn’t interested in regurgitating what we’ve already read, and on the sliding scale of optimism versus cynicism, he is a major cynic. He takes such an enormous chance at the end of this book, it was like watching someone walk off the edge of a cliff with a grin on their face. And it worked. Beautifully. I think I remember feeling utterly shocked and then busting out with hysterical laughter. It’s that kind of book.

This is the Empire Strikes Back of The First Law Trilogy. The book that might annoy some, but others with more mature tastes will enjoy for the leaps of faith and the journey itself. Abercrombie proves that it’s not about reaching a conclusion, that rushing to get there is pointless. I’ll get a little more into that with my review of the third book, because it illustrates that concept even better in my opinion.

I’ve said in other reviews, particularly of fantasy series that have hooked me, that I don’t hook easily. I am a slippery fish when it comes to committing to a series, and he had me from the first book. So much so that I read this one only a couple weeks later, because I couldn’t stand being away from this world. I am not that kind of reader. I’ve been known to wait years between books in a series. I’m trying to impart how addictive this series is, how you will not be able to turn back when you begin. It’s well worth your time.

Final Rating