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 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 his elite 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… but a plot is festering to hand the city to its besiegers 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.
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Narrator: Steven Pacey
Series: The First Law #2
Running Time: 22 hrs 38 mins
Audio Release Date: 30/06/2010
My Rating for ‘Before They Are Hanged’: 5 out of 5
Purchase: Audible UK, Audible US, Amazon UK, Amazon US
As with my other review for ‘The Blade Itself’ (which you can find here) I decided to use the physical book cover rather than the audio book cover (the audio covers for this series are spectacularly boring. It’s almost like they were forced to make them uninteresting/painfully generic).
Much like The Blade Itself, ‘Before They Are Hanged’ benefits from excellent storytelling, world building, character development and, if you opt for the audio book version, stunning narration by Steven Pacey. In fact, ‘stunning narration’ still doesn’t quite do it justice. Steven is to fantasy what R. C. Bray is to Science Fiction.
The characters from The Blade Itself, now firmly off and set up in their own little plot groups, flourish far more than I thought possible after book 1. The level of interaction between the (and I know its a bit clichè) most unlikely group of heroes (Logan, Luthar, Ferro, Bayaz and Quai) is exceptional. You get their awkwardness, frustration and reluctant strengthening of the group’s bond. Really adds to the whole plot and gives the book some depth.
Colonel West’s unenviable job of keeping a know-nothing, waste of space prince safe as said royal attempts to lead the charge on Bethod’s north men is entertaining, as is the dynamic between the north men desperate to fight Bethod (Dogman, Three Trees, Black Dow, Grim and Tul). All in all, as is the case with any Abercrombie novel, character depth is his strong point (especially impressive given how, despite the size of some groups, they each feel distinctly singular and real rather than a bunch of names written down to beef up the numbers).
The story never felt slow or boring to me. Not that a story that involves everyone’s favourite cripple suffering through life’s every torment could ever be dull. That being said, it does have the feel of a book series that, even if the characters complete what Bayaz tells them is the main quest, he’ll then say ‘well, actually, this is what you really need to do’ before leading them to the other end of the world. Not that’d bother me. This is a re-read and I’ll no doubt go through them again in the future. So it’s clearly a dynamic I can get behind. Besides, anyone who has read the Cycle of Arawn & Cycle of Galand novels know what a neverending ‘go and do this, then this’ plot device is. Bayaz doesn’t even scratch the surface as far as that is concerned.
Overall, despite him being the sort of person that you should hate with every fibre of your being, Glokta is by far my favourite character. This book sees him reach new depths and, dare I say, become likeable. Not that I’d let him hear me say that of course … body found floating in the docks …
All in all, this was an excellent book two and I can’t wait to get stuck into book three and the subsequent spin-offs.
Having already read ‘A Little Hatred’ it’s really cool seeing all the things Abercrombie either set up for the future or, when writing A Little Hatred, dipped into the past for. Certainly one of my favourite fantasy authors today.