In Brief: In this second book in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, established characters pick up the pace with war brewing on two fronts and a quest for a lost artifact.
Pros: The excellent writing and Sword and Sorcery feel continue from the first book. The author sticks with the same core characters and continues to develop them. The action is quick and deadly, the pacing and plotting are spot on. And you have to appreciate the gallows humor. No second book lull here.
Cons: Some readers seeking a deviation from the classic neo-European fantasy setting may be disappointed.
Review: The title of Before They Are Hanged, courtesy of an epigraph from the poet, Heinrich Heine: “We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.” Yeah. That sums up the prevailing ethos of the main characters as well as the author’s thematic approach.
It’s a welcome approach, true Sword and Sorcery in the tradition of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber rather than Tolkien (although the nods to Tolkien are evident). Abercrombie continues with the main characters from The Blade Itself: Logen Ninefingers, practical barbarian from the north, Superior Glotka, the crippled inquisitor who was once a soldier and court favorite, Bayaz, first of the magi, Ferro, former slave and assassin, Captain Luthar Jezal, fencing champion and upper-class twit, Colonel West, self-made officer from the provinces, and the Dogman, renegade Northman tracker and archer.