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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy, Epic in its Innovation and Storycrafting
I'm an avid reader - in fiction, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. However, while I tend to try to find the more cerebral, cutting-edge or challenging SF, I've often treated fantasy as a guilty pleasure.

Not so with Before They Are Hanged or its predecessor, The Blade Itself. There is no escapism here, no dialog that would be found only at the...
Published on February 15, 2008 by Anthony M. Hildebrand

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of my Fruits
Hey Joe Abercrombie, are you playing games with my mind? Yeah... I think maybe you are.

What's up with page 524? You dropping an Easter Egg in this thing?

On page 524, Mauthis says to Glotka, "You may dispense with the pleasantries, Superior." Ahhhh... that's the same line that Vader says to the Commander of the Death Star in Retrun of the Jedi...
Published on March 8, 2012 by Moon Donkey


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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy, Epic in its Innovation and Storycrafting, February 15, 2008
This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
I'm an avid reader - in fiction, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. However, while I tend to try to find the more cerebral, cutting-edge or challenging SF, I've often treated fantasy as a guilty pleasure.

Not so with Before They Are Hanged or its predecessor, The Blade Itself. There is no escapism here, no dialog that would be found only at the Elizabethan court. This is rough-and-tumble fantasy, only earning the label because there are swords and sorcery.

And this sequel is not fluff or a fond return. Abercrombie, if anything, has fit 1000 pages of story into one-half of that, as the architect of an amazing tale that builds on the solid foundation of the first novel. The story is tight, exceedingly well-written, and has one of the most realistic and believable (if dark) worlds I've ever seen created. The same goes for the characters.

There are no knights-in-shining armor. If you prefer flawless heroes and damsels in distress, this book is not for you. However, if you want a well-written story full of insights into human nature, the world at large, and the art of storytelling, I can think of few other books that deliver like this one has.

These books have the capacity to redefine and revolutionize the fantasy genre. Abercrombie, while young, is an amazing and innovative writer that I look forward to reading more of in the future.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-edged dark fantasy at its very best!, June 18, 2008
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"Before They Are Hanged" is the second volume in the First Law Series by promising young British writer Joe Abercrombie. The first novel, the wonderful "The Blade Itself" was a fantastic introduction to a series featuring brutal, hard-boiled characters, excessive profane language and copious amounts of violence. It was dark fantasy at its best--nasty and brutish.

Well I am here to say that "Before They Are Hanged" is an even bigger, meaner and better story as things get kicked up here to another gear.Inquistor Glokta and the barbarian, Logen "The Bloody Nine" Ninefingers are anti-heroes for the ages. Abercrombie turns all of his characters, who are filled with violence, maliciousness and machinations, into guilty pleasures. You know you should feel shocked and offended at some of the things the characters say or do, but it is just too damn hard not to enjoy it. While it may be good to be the King, it is also good to be bad.

As the novel begins, the Union finds itself at war on its Northern front against Bethod and his massive horde of battle-tested barbarians. Impending war with the Gurkish also threatens the southern city of Dagoska.

Inquistor Glokta has been dispatched to Dagoska to solve the mysterious disappearance of the previous Inquisitor of Dagoska. He finds he must overcome the corrupt and incompetent leadership of the city in order to achieve his objective, and defend the city from the impendingGurkish attack. Deadly backroom political intrigue ensues as forces within and without battle for their own agendas, causing Glokta to use his wits in order to keep control.

Meanwhile operating under his own agenda, the wizard, Bayaz, has gathered a party of his own, the mindless and arrogant Union officer, Jezal dan Luthar, the mysterious hate-filled Ferro Maljinn, and Logen. They have set out to recover an apocalyptic artifact from the past which Bayaz covets, the Seed. This device supposedly contains a destructive force so powerful and otherworldly that it will be able to save the Union from the invasions of both theGurkish and the North. But will Bayaz' group be able to recover the Seed and harness its power in time to save the Union?

Like "The Blade Itself", Abercrombie's writing here is hard-edged and relentless. Like a nail-chewing, steroid-popping beast of a fantasy novel, the story's pace flies at breakneck speeds, flexing its considerable muscles during well-conceived battle sequences. The action pounds, the dialogue cracks, and the humor oozes through, combining into one of the most enjoyable reading experiences of the year. I find that I cannot wait for the conclusion.

Last Word:
Better than the first novel, "Before They Are Hanged" is a fast-paced, gritty bit of brutality and fantasy that grabs you and doesn't let go. Dark, well-conceived and enjoyable, this is one not to be missed.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written continuation to the story, March 3, 2008
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This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie is the second book in the First Law trilogy, the first being The Blade Itself (The First Law: Book One). The third, and final book, Last Argument of Kings is scheduled for release in the United States in September, 2008. The First Law Trilogy is not your run of the mill, cliché ridden fantasy series. It is dark, twisted, and unlike most of the `traditional' fantasy books being published.

The plot, or should I say plots, of this book pick up right after The Blade Itself. There are three separate plots, that center on separate characters or a group of characters. There is the plotline of a character trying to hold a city under siege and the measures he undertakes to keep the city from falling. There is a plot revolving around a group of characters seeking an artifact to aid them in a greater task, I won't say anymore about that because of spoilers. Lastly, there is a plot about the pending invasion by the Northmen and how the Union soldiers can combat the attack. These are the three plot lines that essentially tie the book together, however, there are countless subplots woven into the book as well. There is a great deal of political underpinnings in two of the three plot lines as well as betrayal and other manners of one-up man ship between a couple characters.

The characters in this novel are essentially the same characters that were present in the first novel. Some of the returning characters are Glokta, Logen Ninefingers, Bayaz, Ferro, Jezal, and Colonel West among others. They are all complex characters and most, if not all, go through a great deal of character development in this novel. One of my complaints of the previous novel was that a couple characters came across as forced or contrived. That notion never crossed my mind with this novel. Rather, a couple of the characters go through quite an overall transformation due to their ordeals, such as West and Jezal. The characters in this book are top notch, they are gritty, rough, crass and real. If you are looking for light, happy characters that you can laugh with, look at a different book. I was rather impressed by the amount of character development in this book. Granted, some characters do not get a lot of character progression, but they all grow in some way or another. Whether it is a character realizing something about themselves due to an injury the incur or a character growing a backbone, to a character beginning to show a softer side of themselves to a select few people.

In The Blade Itself, it seemed Mr. Abercrombie had a few, shall we say growing pains. However, in this novel, there seems to be an exponential growth in both his writing and his overall story. If this type of growth continues with the next novel (and any future stories after that) I think readers will be more than pleased.

The only criticism I have of this novel is there is one particular character, Glotka, who has a great deal of what can only be described as internal dialogue. This holds true to the first book as well, but when I read the internal dialogue it just doesn't work very well for me. This may be a personal bias of mine, since I do not care for first person books. Some of the internal dialogue is fine, but there are points in the novel where it seems over used.

Where The Blade Itself seemed like a setup for future events, in Before They Are Hanged events occur at almost a frenetic pace leaving the reader little time to stop and catch their breath. Mr. Abercrombie seems to almost dare the reader to try and put down the book. The prose in this novel seems more refined and polished. The flow and pacing seem more natural and, at least to me, seemed easier to grasp and understand. This could very well be due to having the first novel under my belt already.

The First Law trilogy seems to be taking on the mantel of a fine painting. Taken piece by piece each book is solid. However, taken as a whole, as the entire trilogy, the true beauty of this work begins to stand out.

Overall, I think this is a marked improvement over the first novels minor flaws. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre and are seeking a solid adult fantasy novel, then by all means look no further than this trilogy. Although, you really need to start with the first book if you are to understand the events in this book. With Before They Are Hanged, Mr. Abercrombie has established himself as one of the new voices of the fantasy genre that will be around for many years to come. I can easily see myself recommending this trilogy to many people in the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.", May 24, 2008
By 
April (L.A., CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
THE BLADE ITSELF was excellent (readers should start there, with the first book, not here), and though it was basically the set-up of the plot, it established the characters wonderfully. Here, the plot moves into high-gear as the Union Armies move to Angland, where Major West attempts to keep the spoiled and useless Crown Price from leading his troops to disaster. West meets up with the hardened Northmen warriors, the renegade Named Men: Threetrees, Dogman, Black Dow and Grim, who have been battling the inhuman Shanka as well as King Bethod's well-trained, magically aided army.

Instead of facing the cold and death and incompetence in the North, pampered nobleman, Captain Jezal, finds himself instead on the far side of the world with the First of the Magi, Bayaz, the legendary Northman, Logen Ninefingers and Ferro, the tireless former-slave who only desires revenge. They are on a quest in the Old Empire, replete with grand ruins of an ancient civilization, to recover a magical artifact that may change the balance of power among the Magi and the warring Empires and many hazards stand in their way.

And in the South, Superior Glockta of the Inquisition is charged with holding a city, an outpost of the Union, against an overwhelming force, the vast armies of the Gurkish Empire who are besieging it. He must also find out who is responsible for the disappearance of his predecessor and who may be plotting treason against the Union. And in a city that is virtually doomed to fall to the enemy, almost anyone could turn traitor.

If you liked the first book, you should like this as much or better. The characterization continues to deepen and grow in a satisfying way that makes the book worthy all on its own. The action is fast and furious with battles in the North and in the South and smaller but no less dire actions in the Old Empire. The blood and gore and torture and treachery continue as much as ever--or even more so as whole armies are slaughtered and the fates of Empires are at stake. As before, this is only a part of a continuing tale so not much is tied up at the end, although some story arcs are completed. Still, it remains an amazing read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Abercrombie pulls back the veil, January 31, 2011
By 
J. Leard (Waterloo, IA United States) - See all my reviews
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"The Blade Itself", Joe Abercrombie's first novel and initial entry in The First Law trilogy, was a somewhat unique take on fantasy, leaning towards gritty realism and very adult violence in a genre that often glosses over the horror of the violence inherent in the genre. Still, most of the basic plot elements weren't that unique. There's a wise old wizard, there's an apprentice, there's a barbarian, there's a cad of a swordsman, and so on and so forth.

With "Before They Are Hanged", Abercrombie rolls the plot forward, and the safe and comfortable foundation of the first book in the trilogy is undermined, bit by bit, in exciting and sometimes surprising fashion. While the basic plot elements are once again not all that new, their execution is, and Abercrombie begins to weave a much more complex plot than his first book led on. What's most surprising about "Before They Are Hanged" is where the plot is at the end, leaving readers wondering what could possibly happen in the last book. Abercrombie's bloody, grown-up fantasy saga is in full stride here, and he does a great job of keeping the plot moving forward without tipping his hand. The dark humor, brought forth in internal dialogue and muttered asides, keeps readers smiling, even when the the scene is spattered with blood and gore.

Of note is that the Kindle version, like the previous and following volumes, suffers from some formatting problems. Each new paragraph is broken up by a double space, which causes scene shifts to sneak up on and confuse the reader. I've notified the publisher and they are looking into this, but it does not appear to have been updated yet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compares with some of the better fantasy series, January 4, 2014
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I got onto this series through the various rabbit holes in the world of book searches on kindle and was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of ideas and writing of Abercrombie. I am a fantasy fanatic and have suffered through some poor writing just for my love of the genre. This series could go up against most (almost all) of the myriad stories I have followed. Excellent plot and character development. Absolutely worth it
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book 2...this incredible fantasy/adventure continues, April 10, 2008
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This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
As good as, if not even better that the first book! ('The Blade Itself')

Basically, this novel continues with the intriguing story line that we were introduced to in the first book and alternately follows the travels of four different main groups (those groups being 'lead' by Glokta, Colonel West, Logen and Dogman).

There were some great battles, magic, unexpected events, and even a sprinkling of humor throughout this exceptional fantasy/adventure. This is a book where the action is non-stop; there is minimal 'down' time in this work.

The most significant difference in this book (compared to the last) is that the writing by Abercrombie has improved; it seems more detailed and intense...richer. Another positive is the ongoing character development of all of the main protagonists, thus making a lot of the people in this fantasy very easy to identify with; and to either like or dislike, depending on your point of view.

As with the first book, the only niggling negative would be the lack of a map. There is a tremendous amount of geography covered in this novel; a map would have been helpful to locate and approximate groups and events.

Conclusion:
First rate fantasy story telling! If you love fantasy, you'll find this book impossible to put down. (this 2nd book even has a couple of George R.R. Martin-like surprises). 5 Stars...more if I could.

Addendum May, 09/08 *possible character spoiler*

Having just finished this trilogy, I'll add this as a final thought...

For all their accomplished skill, I don't think either GRRM (Ice and Fire series) or Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen series) have ever created an individual character like Sand dan Glokta. Glokta, with his villain-esque persona, is the unforgettable, physically grotesque 'cripple' in this tale; a character whose profession requires him to be the consummate liar (except, excruciatingly, to himself), who has instinctive, self-preserving insight into most 'situations' and provides us, the readers, with regular doses of witty cynicism. There were moments in these novels (involving Glokta) that were so sad and tender that they near moved me to tears (particularly this last book) and others that made me laugh out loud; of all the wonderful characters in this trilogy, it was Sand dan Glokta and his tale that I enjoyed the most.

R.Nicholson
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Say one thing for Logen Ninefingers, say he's still alive, September 17, 2012
This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
It's often the case with the traditional trilogy narrative form that its weakest link is the middle volume. In the first volume, all the characters have been introduced and their motivations explained, and the main action has gotten under way. And the eventual resolutions of everything that began in the first volume must obviously wait until the third, concluding volume. So the middle volume generally acts as a "bridge," simply providing more of the same from the first volume and leaving problems unsolved and characters still dangling from cliffs, and it can be a little disappointing. Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy is a good example of this trend, as is "Lord of the Rings." (The multivolume fiction series, by the way, like George R.R. Martin's work, is a different sort of animal, with each book behaving more like a very long chapter in a unified narrative.)

But even in his first published work, Abercrombie seems to have avoided the middle-volume trap. I won't try to summarize all the characters and parallel plot-lines of the first volume, _The Blade Itself_. You simply need to go back and read it because this volume doesn't even pretend to stand alone. But I will say that you will find nothing boring or sluggish in the middle part of this story. It picks up, in fact with Logen Ninefingers, the thoughtful, reflective Northern barbarian setting off on a somewhat mysterious quest across the western continent under the acerbic, slightly pompous leadership of Bayez, First of the Magi. The Bloody Nine may turn out to be the actual leader, which won't really surprise him. ("You have to be realistic, after all.") The group also includes Capt. Luthar, a noted, Contest-winning fencer with zero actual military experience, whose self-image (as well as his physical self) undergoes drastic change, and Ferro Maljinn, cold-blooded killer with a towering grudge against the entire Empire, but who develops an unlikely relationship with the Northerner. Then there's Glokta, talented inquisitor (crippled from his own extended experiences with the knife and the rack), who is the newly-appointed Superior of Dagoska, an isolated city-state under occupation by the Union but now under crushing attack from the Emperor. He's responsible for defending the place and there's no way he can win, and everyone knows it. Finally, There's Major West, a supporting character in the first book with a larger role here, who is part of the Union's army in the far north, trying to stave off an invasion by the barbarians under their first-ever king. And there are also the surviving members of Ninefingers's old war band, who don't know he's still alive (or vice versa), and who have their own bone to pick with the Northern king and therefore offer their services to the Union.

Abercrombie doesn't do heroes. The characters in his rousing, very exciting narrative are of two kinds -- those who survive and those who don't. His style is sort of "sword and sorcery noir" and he does it very well indeed, with ironic dialogue, dryly tongue-in-cheek description, and the certainty that not everyone will get out of the story alive. This is very high-caliber fantasy writing and I can't recommend it too highly. And I haven't even started the third volume yet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of my Fruits, March 8, 2012
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This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
Hey Joe Abercrombie, are you playing games with my mind? Yeah... I think maybe you are.

What's up with page 524? You dropping an Easter Egg in this thing?

On page 524, Mauthis says to Glotka, "You may dispense with the pleasantries, Superior." Ahhhh... that's the same line that Vader says to the Commander of the Death Star in Retrun of the Jedi. "You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander. I am here to put you back on schedule."

Then Mauthis says, "I have no ego to bruise." Ahhhh... that's the same line that Spock says to Kirk in Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan. "Jim, you proceed from a false assumption. I am a Vulcan, I have no ego to bruise."

Say one thing for Moondonkey, say that his knowledge spans the galaxy.

Brilliant analysis aside, I'm giving this book 3 stars. I gave The Blade Itself 4 stars, but I don't think the second book is quite as good as the first. Frankly, I expected to gain a little more understanding of where the series is going, the goals of the people in it, etc. I can't say that I did for the most part. Therefore, I'm giving the book 3 stars. Hey - that's still good though. I'm not one of those review zombies who gives everything they like 5 stars because "it was the best book ever" or some such nonsense. 3 is good. 4 is exceptional. 5 is off-the-charts awesome.

However, the overall series taken as a whole is what really matters here. It strikes me that the three books are really just one large novel split into three parts - so it is somewhat premature to rate each separately.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, gritty, humorous read, May 5, 2008
This review is from: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) (Paperback)
AS with the first book in the series, we've got an interesting world which seems fairly simple on the surface...and perhaps is. What keeps you going here is the writing style and the characters who are generally quite distinctive and humorous. Very enjoyable (though the violence factor is quite high if that's not your cut of tea).
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Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two)
Before They Are Hanged (The First Law: Book Two) by Joe Abercrombie (Paperback - March 1, 2008)
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