Review: Before They Are Hanged

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Before They Are Hanged Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To put it bluntly, this book was really bloody good, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it was really bloody and good. Before They Are Hanged, and the First Law series in general, is a perfect algorithm of violence, intrigue, character development, and world building.

The Violence

Damn. Joe Abercrombie knows how to write a good, bloody fight. One of the best parts of the novel is that Abercrombie’s style is one of cynical realism. Fights are confusing and nasty. Battle isn’t all glory and honor in reality, it’s really more fear and desperation. That’s how Abercrombie chooses to portray it throughout the series and it works for me. That perspective is a nice change of pace, although at times it can be a bit gory for my tastes.


I think the best stories have a bit of mystery. The First Law trilogy is no exception. There are so many things that are not fully explained that allow the reader to speculate and theorize about. I really love to try to put the pieces together from the hints and clues left by the author.

Character Development

The First Law trilogy has a very unique set of characters, the likes of which I’ve found in no other fantasy series. What’s strange is that, despite their obvious flaws, they really grow on you. When I first started reading The Blade Itself, I disliked most of the characters, but by the end of that novel, I was very wrapped up in their stories and I genuinely cared about them.

One of the reasons that I believed that occurred was because the characters develop over the course of the story. Sure, they may not go from villain to hero or they may have setbacks, but they do change to some degree over time and become more likable.

In particular, Logen and the Northmen are my favorites. They are just so much fun to read. They are oh so crude, but they are also insightful in a way that is so simple that it has the trappings of wisdom.

World Building

You might call Before They Are Hanged a road novel. Much of the story is spent on an epic journey that shows off a lot more of the circle of the world than we saw in the first novel. Overall, I think that Abercrombie puts together a pretty unique geography that is enriched with an interesting and mystery history.

Overall, Before They Are Hanged was an excellent read. The First Law trilogy has quickly become one of my favorite fantasy stories. I would recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach!

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