Title: BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED|
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Edition released: 2007
Reviewed by: Adam Donnison
Bethod, ruler of the Northmen, has overrun Angland and is pressing south. But he is making enemies both behind and in front of him, with some of the Named Men wanting to swap sides, but when Dogman, Threetrees and their group try to join the Union they come across a massacre, where the pride of Angland have fallen foul of Bethod and the weird mist that seems to precede his army. The Union need help, and Threetrees is determined to give them it, even if they will need some persuading.
Lord Marshall Burr is trying to plan for the defence of Angland, but how can you fight a war when two of your commanders hate each other and will do their best to make the other look bad, and the third commander is the Crown Prince, who has romantic notions of war and a coterie of fawning idiots as his underlings? Worse, the Lord Governor of Angland has disobeyed orders and managed to get both his sons killed in the ensuing massacre.
Inquisitor Glotka is also thinking of defence, although from the Gurkish in the South. Glotka has no love of the Gurkish, his broken body due to their ministrations over 2 years of torture. Defence of the city is going to be difficult, if not impossible when you know there is at least one traitor in the ranks, and he also has to find out why and how his predecessor has vanished. While Glotka is not afraid of a challenge, he can't see how this can end in anything but a dismal failure, which will no doubt cost him dearly.
Meanwhile a strange collection of misfits is heading to the end of the world for the weapon to help keep mankind safe. Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is keeping his cards close to his chest, and his choice of companions is not making for an easy journey. Logan, the most feared man in the North is afraid that he won't have time to build a team of the strange madwoman of the South, the brash young officer from the Union, and the overly talkative Navigator, and Bayaz' secrecy is not making it easier. Logan fears that unless he builds a rapport, the group will be useless in a fight.
BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED is the second book in THE FIRST LAW series, following THE BLADE ITSELF. Joe Abercrombie continues the epic themes and the luscious dark humour that makes this series such a treat. You don't need to have read the first book, although it is such a great read you will want to anyway.
The characters in this book jump from the page, with deeply carved characterisations, while still allowing for them to grow as the story progresses. Vanities and frailties are explored along with the meaning of strength. There is even some clever mixing in of the ugliness and stupidity of racism, neither heavy handed nor out of place.
To say that I love this book is an understatement. I can't get enough of the cynical Glotka, nor of Logan, the warrior tired of battle, but destined for the fight. Both share a fatalism, and in that a dark humour, that is irresistible.