Friday, September 04, 2009

The First Law: Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged is the second book in The First Law trilogy. Picking up on the heels of The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged is a fast-paced adventure taking place all across the Circle of the World. The book is split into three different factions: Bayaz, Logen, Ferro, Jezal, Longfoot, and Quai are journeying to the Edge of the World to obtain a dangerous relic; Gokta is dispatched south to investigate the disappearance of a Superior in a city filled with folks of questionable loyalties; West is deployed to the North, to fight and engage with Bethod's men; and Dogman, Threetrees, Grim, Dow, and Tul, the North's most bloody men (save, maybe, Ninefingers), are looking for ways to upset Bethod.

Yes, there are a lot of characters, but Abercrombie writes in such a way that you can feel each one's personality leaping off the page. You can feel West's regrets, his confusion. You can understand the animosity behind Ferro, the cock-sure noble attitude inside Jezal, and the compassionate ruthlessness that belongs to Logen.

Other than the breathtaking action scenes, the permeating mystery hanging on every page, and the magnitude of the quest, one of the best parts about Before They Are Hanged is the character development. As the rag-tag group with Bayaz makes their way Westward, Logen sets it in his mind to get everyone on the same side, namely instilling respect in Jezal and trust in Ferro. This process was immensely enjoyable and satisfying.

Like with The Blade Itself, by the end of the book I was left scratching my head, much like Glokta. The answers we get from Before They Are Hanged only lead to more questions. I have no idea where The Last Argument of Kings will take me. I feel like there are loose ends, like there are wrongs that need to be righted, like there is truth that needs to be revealed, but I don't have the slightest idea of how it's going to happen. That's part of the fun of this series. Abercrombie can throw a wrench in his characters, having them do something completely unexpected, and leaving the reader scratching his head from not seeing it coming.

Before They Are Hanged is filled with battles, bloodshed, treachery, and magic, with more than enough mystery to keep you reading well into the night. Hopefully with the end of the series more will be revealed and loyalties will be shown.

I can highly recommend this series if you want to read something with realistic characters that have realistic expectations, set in a world where there is more than a hint of supernatural activity and intrigue. Of course you wouldn't want to start with this book, as it is Book Two. Overall, Before They Are Hanged was a great and fun read, leaving me eager to see where things are headed and how it's all going to end with the characters that I've grown quite fond of.

And now, two of my favorite quotes from the book. (Don't worry, they're not revealing.)

"What? You got a crowd of friends back in the Badlands, all asking after you? Where did Ferro get to? The laughs all dried up since she went away."--Logen, to Ferro

"No one enjoys an elbow in the face while they sleep."

There will probably be a follow up post on this book, where I muse a bit on some of the characters. Stay tuned.


Krista said...

Guess what? I'm starting The Blade Itself this month! Woot! Woot!

Awesome review!

David Wagner said...

Great things ahead of you in Book 3, my friend. Book 2 is awesome, though... I especially loved the trek through the dead city, that was terrific.

The mercenary character Nicola Cosca plays a substantial role in Best Served Cold too. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler, just something to look forward to. He's a great character.

Anyway, a good review. Thanks for posting it.

logankstewart said...

@Krista: You won't regret it. It's been an amazing ride so far, and I can't wait to finish.

@David: Aye, the dead city part was pretty cool. I'll be getting Best Served Cold soon.

Krista said...

So, I'm about 80 or so pages into The Blade Itself and so far so good. Really quite gruesome, though, but I'm still liking it...

Krista said...

Oh, and my favorite character is Logen so far... LOL! Kind of ironic....LOL!

logankstewart said...

You're in for a great ride, Krista. Enjoy.