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Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
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Before They Are Hanged (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Joe Abercrombie

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2,028493,278 (4.19)58
Member:mrko
Title:Before They Are Hanged
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Gollancz (2007), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fantasy

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Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie (2007)

2009 (6) dark fantasy (20) ebook (22) English (6) epic (9) epic fantasy (20) fantasy (458) fiction (125) First Law (29) high fantasy (11) Kindle (14) magic (25) novel (16) own (7) paperback (9) read (27) read in 2008 (9) read in 2009 (7) science fiction (13) series (17) sf (7) sff (13) signed (10) speculative fiction (7) sword and sorcery (7) The First Law (47) to-read (34) torture (8) unread (13) war (8)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Before They are Hanged begins just where The Blade Itself left off and continues the stories of Logen, West, Jezal, Ferro, Bayaz, Glokta, and company. Expect more of the same in this novel: brutal fighting, sickening torture, nasty politics, ruthless characters, and barbarian grammar.

This recipe mostly works -- the plot is interesting, the pace is fast, there's a bit of humor, and the characters are well-developed and continue to grow. I certainly enjoyed the story. There were a few things, however, that keep me from giving this novel (and the series) "favorite" status.

First, the writing needs a bit more polish. I find it jarring to read sentences which are missing antecedents or punctuation:

* "He glanced sideways and caught Luthar's eye, licking his lips nervously in the gloom, wet hair plastered to his face." (I don't know whose lips are being licked here.)

* "Jezal half expected a string of drool to escape from his toothless mouth it was hanging open so wide."

* "Now it came to the test there was an invisible wall between them."

Second, much of the language was vulgar and uncouth (e.g., use of "tits" instead of "breasts" in both dialogue and narration) and the sex scenes, which involved mostly grunting and cussing, seemed more like animal than human couplings. I realize that this was the tone that Mr. Abercrombie was going for, but some of it was unpalatable.

Third, some of the secondary characters' bad personalities were over-the-top. I felt like this was a technique used to give the main characters, who have few benevolent qualities of their own, a nobility boost. I am having trouble truly liking any of the main characters (except Logen -- I like him), but I do sense that they are being slowly developed and I hope I'll like them better in Last Argument of Kings.

Last, I've said it before: I NEED A MAP! Why can't I have a map?

Gee, I've complained more than praised, but I did enjoy Before They are Hanged for all the reasons I enjoyed The Blade Itself. I'm just explaining why I can't give The First Law the five stars that so many other reviewers (here and elsewhere) have. Tomorrow I will purchase Last Argument of Kings. Perhaps that is praise enough.

Read more Joe Abercrombie book reviews at Fantasy Literature . ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
The second novel in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, but I’m afraid this one was a bit of a step down. The Blade Itself had its flaws, but I was willing to overlook them because it seemed like it was going somewhere interesting. It ended with several of the main characters united into a single group, about to set off on a quest – a vague and unspecified quest, but a quest nevertheless.

Before They Are Hanged follows them across hundreds and hundreds of pages of windswept grassland with not much happening. In another story thread, Superior Glokta is sent to an Arabic-flavoured city to defend it against the incursions of a rival empire; in another, Major West struggles through the Union’s war in the North. Both of these threads were more interesting than the main quest, but neither seemed particularly relevant to the series’ outcome either. I’m not entirely sure where Abercrombie is going with it all.

The thing that mostly bothered me about Before They Are Hanged is the same thing that bugged me about the first book. (Not the Tom Swifties – he’s eased up on those.) It’s hard to articulate, but it’s just a general lack of lustre. It never drew me in. His writing isn’t bad, but neither is it particularly good. He spends less time on things that might be interesting – the world, the quest, the stakes – and more on amateurish arcs of telegraphed character development, and hammering home the same few points over and over again. Take, for example, Abercrombie’s apparent revelation that battles are brutal and bloody and that the life of an adventurer is not all it’s cracked up to be. This observation might have held more weight if he’d written these books in the 1970s or 1980s; I know George R.R. Martin covered it in the 1990s and since I’m not well-acquainted with the fantasy genre I’d be surprised if he was the first. And there’s nothing wrong with this, per se, except that Abercrombie bangs on and on and on about it. Sometimes I feel like the entire series is an excuse for him to have grizzled old veterans lecture young, inexperienced dandies about the realities of combat. This is particularly egregious in the war in the North, where Logen’s war-hardened old comrades, who drift through the book with a sort of resigned stoicism, are exasperated at every turn by the Union’s incompetent and underequipped armies, led by a foolish Crown Prince who thinks of battle as nothing more than a path to glory. It makes no sense whatsoever that an empire which controls a significant size of this fantasy world is hopeless at war. There are too many straw men in this book. (Ask yourself how many stupid leaders there are in A Song of Ice and Fire, and the answer, of course, is none – there are leaders who are arrogant or reckless or cruel or stubborn, but never stupid.)

I’m continuing to read this series largely because I don’t like to leave things unfinished, and because my girlfriend already owns all the books. The third and final volume is Last Argument of Kings, and if Abercrombie can pull something interesting out of the hat and actually wrap this series up in an unexpected or entertaining way, then I’ll forgive the glacial pace and clumsy development of the first two books. ( )
  edgeworth | Mar 17, 2014 |
Not as wonderful as that which precedes it, Before They Are Hanged still manages to be a great piece of Fantasy Fiction. This book relies on one of the great tropes of all writing, the old Throw'em together and they'll stick routine. Nevertheless, there's more than enough here to make for a cracking read. ( )
  dgold | Aug 10, 2013 |
I read the first book some time ago. Unfortunately book 2 provided no help in picking up the story again. That said, the characters are so well formed, with dialogue both witty and thoughtful, I didn't mind too much. Took a good few chapters though. Love the mix of characters, with the mix of universal truths aboutwar, how experience is gained and that nothing ever works out the way you thought it would. The Dogman rules! ( )
  libgirl69 | Aug 10, 2013 |
I liked this so so so much more than The Blade Itself. Soooo much more! The Blade Itself was ok.. Good enough for three stars, but I wasn’t even close to blown away. If it weren’t for all of the people who encouraged me to push on, telling me that the series improved with time, I probably would have stopped reading the series there. But I didn’t stop, I read on, and I’m really glad I did.

The characters are all together now, so the journey has begun. It’s no longer several different seemingly unrelated stories, dancing around each other but never quite touching; it’s a cohesive story with a plot that moves forward and good character development. If you’re like me and were less than impressed with book one, I’d say go for it and try out book two. You might just find yourself becoming hooked!

I’ll definitely be reading on in the series, and soon I hope! ( )
  breakofdawn | Jun 11, 2013 |
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Epigraph
"We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged." - Heinrich Heine
Dedication
For the Four Readers

You know who you are
First words
Damn mist.
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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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Book description
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:06 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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