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Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book…

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Joe Abercrombie

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Title:Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two)
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Pyr (2008), Paperback, 543 pages
Collections:Your library

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Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie (2007)



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WARNING: There will be spoilers for The Blade Itself in this review.

We catch up with our various protagonists pretty much where we left them at the end of the previous book. The First of the Magi Bayaz is leading his group of misfits (who all hate each other) to the end of the world on a magical quest. Newly promoted Superior Glokta is settling into the city of Dagoska, which is on the brink of an overwhelming invasion which he has been ordered to stop at any cost - while investigating the disappearance of his predecessor. Major West, also newly promoted, is trying to babysit the Crown Prince Ladisla who seems to be trying to ensure that he gets every single man under his command killed.

This book suffers from a typical second-book syndrome. Although a lot happens and our protagonists gain some measure of self-confidence and acceptance of their lots, the broader situation remains similar to the end of the first book, but with far less hope - it feels suspiciously like the pawns being moved into place for the final book.

The characters that we know and love from The Blade Itself haven't changed all that much, although their incessant swearing and self-absorption started to grate on me. Bayaz and Jezal lose much of their charm now that the questing party is in a situation that is beyond their control. Bayaz no longer seems like the wisest man in the world; he just seems irritable and sanctimonious, and Jezal's lack of self-awareness and prejudices make me want to strangle him (yes, he gets better, but the change is way too slow!) I still love Logen Ninefingers and the rest of the Northmen, though. West is also tolerable, especially as he grows a spine. My favourite character is definitely Superior Glokta - his self awareness and sardonic wit are amazing, and he's even starting to show signs of having a heart.

Abercrombie has a great sense of humour (both via his characters and his narration) and manages to balance the incredibly different viewpoints of his characters really well. His political intrigue is cleverly plotted. Sometimes he switches viewpoints a bit too quickly, but that's a very minor issue.

I don't mean to imply that I didn't like the book - I did! I think Abercrombie's attempts to make the characters realistic and gritty went too far, and ended up somewhat distracting, but the fact that he was able to provoke such strong frustration in me (as I feverishly turned the pages) proves that he's a great writer. The character building was good, we learned a lot more about the world, the writing and pacing works well, and I'm definitely going to read Last Argument of Kings as soon as possible. ( )
  kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
This is a well-written tense grimdark novel, though it feels like middle book in a trilogy. Major issues are left unresolved, and one of the largest subplots in particular ended in a failure that felt rather... deflating at the end of the book. That said, I admire that Abercrombie write the book in that way. These novels haven't been quite as much of a blood bath as GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire, but he is still ruthless in his own way: his characters fail in profound manners, and deal with those repercussions. Along those lines, I remain most intrigued my Glokta, the war hero turned cripple torturer who is despicable and yet complex and relatable. ( )
  ladycato | Oct 8, 2016 |
4.5 ( )
  Amanda105 | Sep 5, 2016 |
The cast of characters meet each other, sometimes on the same side, sometimes opposite sides and still, things are not clear cut; you find yourself rooting for one or other of them and then they come into conflict. Glokta at the siege of Dagoska shows his honourable side, but in such a way as to leave you wondering just what all this obedience to some set of ideals is all about. Pairing up, or at least, coupling goes on, but the book ends without hope that there is anything lasting... And the quest itself seems hopeless to and I wait with bated breath for the last book :) Again! ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
Ok, where to start with this review for the second book in the First Law trilogy...

It has already been mentioned in other reviews that it picks up immediately after the first book, with Glokta heading south to Degoska (spelling names in this review is a challenge, since I'm listening to the books instead of reading them) to prevent the city from being overrun by the Gurkish army, Collum West heading north to prevent Adua from being overrun by Bethod, and Bayaz, Logen, Jazel, Quay, Longfoot, and Ferro heading to the edge of the world for... something.

At this point, the characters are well-known, and I wasn't expecting much in their development, but boy, was I surprised! I especially liked how Glokta's character developed over the course of this volume. I was also surprised at how much I dislike Bayaz, who has turned into something of a conniving manipulator, failing to give the "whole truth" or worse, only giving enough information to get his team into some deep, life-threatening trouble.

As several reviewers already mentioned, this book overcame the "second-book-in-a-series" curse very well, and the tension is ratcheted up significantly towards the end of the book, with several characters being killed (a couple shocked me), intense palace intrigue, shady dealings, and double-crosses happening in spades throughout. Of course, it ends on a series of cliff-hangers, too.

The narrative is outstanding, and Stephen Pacey has got to be one of the best at this. His ability to differentiate the dozens of characters is simply amazing!

On to the next book! ( )
  ssimon2000 | May 31, 2016 |
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"We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged." - Heinrich Heine
For the Four Readers

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Damn mist. It gets in your eyes, so you can’t see no more than a few strides ahead. It gets in your ears, so you can’t hear nothing, and when you do you can’t tell where it’s coming from. It gets up your nose, so you can’t smell naught but wet and damp. Damn mist. It’s a curse on a scout.
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Aber wenn man, sagen wir mal, auf einer weiten, großen Ebene mitten im großen Nichts in einen Kampf gerät, der sich nicht vermeiden lässt, dann versuche ich, drei Regeln zu folgen. Erstens: Tut Euer Bestes, wie ein Feigling, ein Schwächling und ein Narr zu wirken. Schweigen ist die beste Rüstung eines Kriegers, heißt es. Ein hartes Äußeres und schlagkräftige Worte haben noch nie eine Schlacht gewonnen, aber einige verloren. [...] Zweitens: Betrachtet niemanden als einen leichten Gegner, ganz gleich, wie ungeschlacht er wirken mag. Behandelt jeden Mann, als sei er zweimal so klug, so stark und so schnell wie Ihr, und dann werdet möglicherweiseangenehm überrascht. Respekt kostet nichts, und nichts bringt einen Mann schneller um als Selbstbewusstsein." [...] Drittens: Beobachtet Euren Gegner so genau, wie Ihr könnt, und hört auf die Meinung anderer, aber wenn Ihr einmal einen Plan gefasst habt, dann haltet an ihm fest und lasst Euch durch nichts davon abbringen. Wenn die Zeit kommt, um zuzuschlagen, dann solltet Ihr das tun, ohne zurückzublicken. Verzögerung ist aller Katastrophen Anfang, pflegte mein Vater immer zu sagen, und glaubt mir, ich habe ein paar Katastrophen miterlebt.
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Colonel West battles Northmen that invade Angland, inquisitor Glotka has a complicated and dangerous assignment defending the Union in Dagoska, and the magus Bayaz, leading a party that includes Jezal dan Luthar and Logen, seeks a relic that will allow him to enter the demon realm.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575082011, Paperback)

Bitter and merciless war is coming to the frozen north. It's bloody and dangerous and the Union army, split by politics and hamstrung by incompetence, is utterly unprepared for the slaughter that's coming. Lacking experience, training, and in some cases even weapons the army is scarcely equipped to repel Bethod's scouts, let alone the cream of his forces. In the heat-ravaged south the Gurkish are massing to assault the city of Dagoska, defended by Inquisitor Glokta. The city is braced for the inevitable defeat and massacre to come, preparations are made to make the Gurkish pay for every inch of land ...but a plot is festering to hand the city to its beseigers without a fight, and the previous Inquisitor of Dagoska vanished without trace. Threatened from within and without the city, Glokta needs answers, and he needs them soon. And to the east a small band of malefactors travel to the edge of the world to reclaim a device from history - a Seed, hidden for generations - with tremendous destructive potential. A device which could put a end to war, to the army of Eaters in the South, to the invasion of Shanka from the North - but only if it can be found, and only if its power can be controlled ...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:13 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Superior Glokta has a problem. How can he defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when his allies can by no means be trusted? Ancient secrets will be uncovered and bitter enemies will be forgiven--but not before they are hanged--in this sequel to "The Blade Itself."… (more)

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