Before They Are Hanged: Mini Review
Part-2 of the First Law trilogy.
With such a spell-binding title to a middle-book of a trilogy ( one that evokes grim visuals of dark shadows hanging down from a broken tree at the end of the street and gusting in the wind surely?) one HAS to get swept into it.
It’s been a while since I last read “The Blade Itself” – the epic fantasy debut that explosively launched Joe Abercrombie onto the Fantasy writing scene. While I enjoyed him taking the usual fantasy tropes and then giving them his own bloody “gritty” little twist to make them realistic and super dark, I was not going gaga over it. It was a good book, a 3-star one with some fantastic violent action scenes and the usual generous dose of politicking intrigue.
Then I read “Heroes” – one hailed by many to be Mr. Abercrombie’s finest effort till date. I was hooked. This man was greater than the First of the Magi when it came to spinning a violent gritty tale of war. So I cut back to the unfinished trilogy and have never stopped reading except when I go to sleep or am stuck with my day job. Un-Put-downably Awesome.
It’s a second book in a trilogy so obviously there are no resolutions to the conflicts. One BIG grouch that I had with the first book was its ending – sudden and unexpected. I remember that was what put me off for the first time. The second book however, sweeps you along in its pace. There are three major activities happening in book two.
First: As with most epic fantasies, this one involves a travel – with the motliest crew that you can ever put together in a room. The most powerful magi, Bayaz, a throw-back from the Olden Times, along with the two vicious killers to have ever surfaced on the pages, Bloody Nine-Fingers Logen and Ferro Maljinn. For those who read part-one you know what I’m talking about. For those wading into these new oceans, well – Logen is perhaps one of the most famous creations in the Fantasy world – a big lumbering Northman who’s survived a fight too many, a cold blooded killer and an absolutely delightful human being with big “trust” issues with almost everybody. But that’s one guy I’ve grown to respect and admire. I’m waiting with bated breath what Mr. Abercrombie’s got in store of him. Another interesting partner in this epic journey is Jezal Luthar, the handsome loafer who learns a lot of truths about himself and life in general over the journey. If anyone grew up on this journey, that’s this guy.
Second: the war that’s brewing in the North between the barbaric king Bethod and the Union army – through the POV of two guys – one’s the honest hardworking soldier, Collem West who’s probably the only straight forward character in this whole series, which kind of makes him a little boring and the other through the Dogman, Logen’s ex-company who’s leading the merry band of Northerners who are sick of Bethod and want to settle scores with him.
Third and most interesting part is about the skirmish in the South of the empire where the other set of barbarians called Ghurkish ( Makes for a nice growling sound deep in your throat, huh?) are set to attack the Southern city of Dagoska. The royal inquisitor, Glokta ( by far the most colorful character ever in this book!) is sent to investigate and hold the ramparts. Glokta, once a dashing soldier in the King’s own, now a cripple is a man who does the dirty jobs for his bosses back in the court. Meaning, he is willing to go to any extent to “extract” the secrets out of suspects. A man who’s got mental tsunamis going on in his mind over EVERYTHING, a man who has lost interest in the finer aspects of living. Living in constant pain, suffering the rejection by others – all this is beautifully painted by Mr. Abercrombie. Amazing character portrait, if one was ever written. Glokta is the one guy who gives the entire fantasy stereotypes a run for their money – Never have we encountered a protagonists who is so twisted and ugly and yet arresting ( well, you might argue Thomas Covenant was one such – but it was his alter ego that set out to save worlds, no? )
The plot is thickening. And I for one, have already plunged into book3. Will maybe write a review for the series if I finish it this weekend.