Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Before They Are Hanged’ is the sequel to his debut novel ‘The Blade Itself’, and the second book ‘The First Law’ series. ‘Before They Are Hanged’ is a hard-fought, hard-earned story of ancient secrets, old foes, and fresh blood.
In ‘Before They Are Hanged’, the reader is plunged straight into the deep-end. Embattled on both north and south fronts, the Union struggles to keep its head above water. The plot is wide and wonderful, encompassing a journey to new-ends, a bitter fight to the end, and a charge to glory on the battlefield.
Old characters are unmistakeable in their weathered and worn guises, pumped up with the blood of a good scrap. Add to the already colourful cast an artist’s palette of pompous Princes, traitorous underlings, and a helping of sell-out Merchants, and you’re sure to be in for a rip-roaring performance.
Abercrombie set the standard with his quirky prose in ‘The Blade Itself’ and continues it into ‘Before They Are Hanged’. However, I did find parts of ‘Before They Are Hanged’ a little slower than its predecessor, something of a slog at times. Which is essentially why I’m giving it three stars. In this instance, I’m using ‘The Blade Itself’ as the measuring stick, and because the debut was just so good, this falls short – but not flat. That’s not to say this suffers from ‘difficult second book syndrome,’ not at all. I just felt that this was a little less tight in terms of plotting, a little rougher around the edges.
I’ll give it its due though, the promise of things yet to come is more than enough to keep any reader on board for the finale, in ‘The Last Argument of Kings’.