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Before They Are Hanged (The First Law #2) by Joe Abercrombie - Book Review

Write on: Mon, 06 Apr 2020 by  in Archive Read 3712

Before They Are Hanged was SO GOOD! I really have no idea why it has taken me so long to get round to continuing the First Law. I enjoyed the return to this world so much that I have already started book 3, Last Argument of Kings.


“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”


If you haven’t heard of the First Law, Logen Ninefingers or Joe Abercrombie then you’ve probably been living in some sort of dark cave with a really really heavy rock blocking the entrance and a rescue party has recently found a way to remove said rock and… okay I’m getting carried away but you know what I mean. These books are so popular for a reason and it was an almightily joyous experience returning to the minds of iconic fantasy characters like Logen, Glokta and Jezal Luthar. Even more enjoyable when they have cool catchphrases like


‘You can never have too many knives,’




‘You have to be realistic about these things’


And my personal favourite,


‘Click, tap, pain.’


The crippled San dan Glokta, Superior Inquisitor of the Union is seeking answers on his predecessors whereabouts, all whilst being besieged by one of the Union’s numerous enemies. The Dogman is accompanying a small-band of Northmen tracking a massive-army of Northmen on their way to destroy the Union.

Logen is on the epic quest to save mankind with the Magi, Bayaz and the young Union captain Jezal dan Luthar. Three genius storylines that interweave between each other, have subtle and witty links to each other and are all as captivating as one another.


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


Abercrombie has created a cast of characters who all pretty much stand between ‘terrible person’ and ‘bad person’, who are all absolutely brilliantly funny, relatable (worryingly), filled with dark humour and incredibly realistic. One of the most important things to mention of Abercrombie’s characters are that they are realistic, being totally believable in the various situations they find themselves in. The interactions between each other had me laughing out loud regularly and always left me with a good feeling after reading, even though it is grimdark. 


“A choice between killing and dying is no choice at all. You have to be realistic about these things.”


The story takes each of the characters in unpredictable routes that kept me guessing, pulling off some twists excellently. The gritty action started from the onset and continued throughout, the dark characters reacted with that layer of realism that I now am growing to expect from an Abercrombie book. It was all excellent.


“As for being a good man,’ and Glokta curled his lip, ‘that ship sailed long ago, and I wasn’t even there to wave it off.”


There is plenty of witty dialogue with black humour, especially from the Inquisitor Glokta. He reminded me of Tyrion Lannister, using his brain and wits to piece together puzzles and be as fearsome as Logen, however he is a whole different entity to Tyrion. His dry sarcasm during torture scenes *almost* made me feel terrible for laughing but come on, how can you not?


“Strange, 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.”



5/5 - Phenomenal storytelling with phenomenal characters and dialogue that is dark and hilarious in equal measures. The thoughts of the characters add a lot to the world building and depth of the cast that will grow on you in no time. The action is bloody and furious, brutal scenes that keep your blood pumping. It’s epic in all meanings of the word, one of my favourite books. Onto Last Argument of Kings!

Last modified on Thursday, 16 December 2021 15:15

I am a part-time viking, part-time knight and a full-time teacher. You’ll see me in the corner wearing a coat of mail reading a good book.