Before They Are Hanged Book Review

Title: Before They Are Hanged
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2007
Pages: 514
Goodreads Rating: 4.28
Rating: 9/10

“A man who doesn’t want opinions should keep his own mouth shut.”

In Before They Are Hanged, we continue to follow Logan Ninefingers, Sand dan Glokta, and Jezal dan Luthar. While Logan and Jezal are sucked into a journey to the edge of the world, Glokta is left to deal with the issues at hand ranging from war to political backstabbing. From the opening chapter to the very end of the book, Abercrombie takes you on a death-defying, morally gray, cringe-worthy adventure.

Pros:

Characters and character development
Abercrombie knows how to write his characters. Logan’s berserker/down-to-earth combined personality is absolutely enjoyable to read. Ferro’s harsh yet softening behavior is evolving perfectly. Bayaz, with his sarcasm and intensity, is one of my absolute favorite characters. And Glokta dealing with his existential question is fascinating and captivating. 

Along with stellar characters, most of the character development in Before They Are Hanged is amazing. In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Glokta and Ferro’s inner struggles that led to their distinctive personal growth throughout the story. 

Mage insights
I’m a big fan of getting some backstory and historical perspective and Bayaz provided that and then some. The mage’s insights give us more context around the laws governing the magic system, a weapon of inconceivable power, and the past wars that brought us to where we are today. Some of this insight helps to explain and connect parts introduced in the first book in the trilogy.

Connected some dots from the 1st book
At the end of The Blade Itself, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the number of battlefronts and enemies. Few of the storylines seemed to be tying together. Before They Are Hanged fixes that by clearly identifying and connecting the groups forcing the Union into fighting two enemies at once. It also helps explain why the mage’s grand adventure is a necessity.

Cons:

No map. 
For an author who has said how much he loves the map for A Song of Ice and Fire, Abercrombie does not provide a map for The First Law trilogy. Now if the characters were all staying in the same city or area the entire time, I could make do without a map. But Abercrombie has his characters going on an adventure to, quite literally, the edge of the world! Along with that, he regularly mentions where the characters are located and it drove me absolutely nuts that I couldn’t look at the map to see how far away they were from one another.

Jezal’s character development
Ah, Jezal… my least favorite main character. He was annoying when he was a bratty, arrogant prick. Following an unfortunate situation (that I absolutely loved reading), he discovers that the world does not revolve around him. His new behavior has made him harder to tolerate as a reader. His sudden disgustingly romantic optimism feels more like a character switch rather than character development and it leaves me wondering just how long this will last because we see his newfound manners slip less than 200 pages later.

*** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD ***

An unsatisfying ending 
Throughout the entire book, most of our main characters are on a grand and dangerous adventure traveling to the edge of the world in order to find this weapon of inconceivable power. At the end of the book when they’ve reached the edge of the world, they are still unable to get their hands on this weapon. Upon discovering that their life-threatening journey has led to nothing, they turn back to go home. After over 500 pages… reading about every death-defying moment… we, the readers and the main characters, are rewarded with… nothing. 

Yet… the author seems to be hinting at something when Bayaz says, “Where does the wise man hide a stone? … Among a thousand stones! Among a million!” I’m afraid that this weapon is, in fact, on this island at the edge of the world… just not where the legend says it was. But too late now! They’ve already given up and are heading home!

Overall…

I’m officially a Abercrombie and grimdark fantasy fan! I was hesitant to pick up The First Law trilogy because other readers told me that Abercrombie pulled no punches. From my experience reading the first two books in the trilogy, if you like A Song of Ice and Fire, you’ll like The First Law trilogy. It is definitely grimdark… but it is bearable and dare I say it? Incredibly enjoyable.  

Published by Caroline

Avid reader, board gamer, yogi, and photographer.

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