Before They are Hanged Review

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Paperback, 573 Pages
Dark Fantasy/ Adult
By: Joe Abercrombie
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 1/4

β€œWe should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”

Before they are Hanged is a continuation of the story immediately after book 1. I have seen many readers mentioning how this feels like one huge tome divided into 3 books instead of being 3 separate books and I agree with that. I did not feel that story lines were closed. On the contrary, the story keeps getting bigger and better and I believe there is a great challenge in tying everything up in the third book which I think Abercrombie is capable of.

Say what you want about Joe, Say that he is a great author! I think Joe’s prose is very good. The story is kind of dense but more often that not, I found myself flying though the book because some of the parts were just gripping and I had to know what happens next so I had to just giving it my all and reading at full speed while maintaining concentration. I believe the writing can be over descriptive sometimes and the story could have been shorter for sure but if you want, you can choose to skim some of these paragraphs (I am not good at skimming unfortunately). One thing that stood out the most to me writing wise was the dialogue. Every character had their distinctive way of speaking and thinking and you could tell who is who by that alone. On top of that, when the author is using the narrative voice, he has his own distinctive tone too which makes it even more amazing. I am going to talk a bit about the characters and explain some of those dialogues that I just loved with my whole heart.

β€œPeople love to see death. It reminds them that however mean, however low, however horrible their lives become… at least they have one.”

The characters are not very typical in this book which makes it an even more unique read. There are a few main POV we are following throughout the story and most of the characters in this book are morally grey which is my favorite type of characters. They all have a good and a bad side and that makes them more fleshed out.

πŸ’‰ Logen Ninefingers: To be honest, I thought Logen was an okay character when I was first introduced to him in The Blade Itself. I did not know why he was such a beloved character in the adult fantasy sphere. After reading more about him in this book, I think he is the character that grew up on me the most and now I am a fan too. I just loved how this big grumpy guy has a great heart and he is always happy to help the people around him that he cares for. Logen explaining the war at some point in the book was one of the best descriptions I have read to date about war. The backstory we had was kind of surprising and sad for me and I definitely care to know more about him. The romance (If it could be called that) that Logen had in this book was fierce and I just enjoyed every single second of it.

πŸ’‰ Sand Dan Glokta: I loved Glokta from book 1. He became one of my favorite characters of all time after his introduction in book 1 and he still is. I like the consistent tone he has through the books. I just love the idea of how he hates his own life and fantasizes about his own death so that he can finally rest. Glokta is a super smart character and the interrogations are the best thing in the book. Whenever there was an interrogation, I would be stuck to the pages and trying to absorb every second of Glokta’s brilliance. There is a softer side to Glokta for sure and I love that but don’t be tricked by this. He is a very vicious character and has no mercy (Almost!!).

β€œStrange, isn’t it,’ mused Glokta as he watched him struggle for air. ‘Big men, small men, thin men, fat men, clever men, stupid men, they all respond the same to a fist in the guts. One minute you think you’re the most powerful man in the world. The next you can’t even breathe by yourself.”

πŸ’‰ Bayaz: One of my favorite tropes for characters is the overpowered old mage who looks like an old man but his powers can make the mountains tremble with fear. Bayaz is exactly that kind of character. I think he did not have much appearance in this book but I believe he will have a bigger role in the next book. What I know is that whatever you do, don’t get on the bad side of Bayaz!

πŸ’‰ Jezal Dan Luther: Jezal is also a character who grows immensely in this book. I empathized with him for the things that he had to go through in this book and he certainly had a tough time but I think it is making him realize the reality of life and war and making him a less pampered character. I hope he gets a happy ending.

πŸ’‰ Captain West: The captain’s role in book 1 was more mixed with Jezal’s role. In this book, they are separated and the captain has a lot in his back to carry. I don’t have strong feelings about this character but I think he is a good guy.

πŸ’‰ Ninefinger’s crew: I didn’t care about Ninefinger’s crew in book 1 and I did not care about them. I did not even think they have an important role in the book but all of that changed in this book. The book even ends with a scene involving the crew and it was just emotional and now I am certainly rooting for them and want to see more of this badass crew.

β€œAn open mind is like to an open wound. Vulnerable to poison. Liable to fester. Apt to give its owner only pain.”

The world-building in this book is better than book 1. I want to see the fantasy elements that any fantasy book should have and we are starting to see more of these in this one whether it is spirits or mythology or Rules (The first and Second Laws) I want to know more and we are getting there. I think book 3 should involve even more magic and more epicness.

Summary: Before they are Hanged was an upgrade to everything in book 1. I still love the characters that I did in book 1 but also care more about characters that I didn’t before. The plot is a continuation and we still need to have much closure. The upcoming book is challenging because it needs to have a mix of epicness, world-building and characters while preserving the good things in this book. The dialogue is my favorite thing in this book but I wish it was a bit less descriptive and faster at some points. Overall, still a great book that I do recommend for fans of the dark fantasy genre!


  1. This trilogy is the best I have read (in a different way) since lotr. Better than got by far. I’ve been hooked on sf&f for 60 years, and have read 1000s of books. This stands out from 98% of the genre.

    Liked by 1 person

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