Book Reviews

Book Review : The First Law: Before They are Hanged

Before They are HangedTL;DR:

The First Law: Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie follows in the first book’s footsteps in that it is a mixed bag, and while my overall impression is still positive, I did not enjoy this book as much as the first. The lack of enjoyment was in no part due to the story or the character development within; I greatly enjoyed both of those. What really brought this book down for me was sub par writing. The book was littered with repetition, from parallel sentence structures to repetitive descriptions and finally, overused words. Regardless all this I still enjoyed the book enough to recommend it to anyone who enjoys gritty fantasy.

The Bad:

1. The book has a good deal of repetition in it. Parallel structures in sentences (e.g. He watched a, he watched b, he watched c.) are seen regularly. I feel like I read the word “gawp”, or some variation thereof, once every 5 or 6 pages. (My Kindle tells me that gawp and its variations only show up about 18 times in book, so about every 23 pages would be more accurate.)

The Good:

1. The character development in this book is far better than the development in the previous book in my opinion. We get to learn a great deal more about each character as an individual and come to truly understand how they see the world, which makes the growth that the characters experience that much more meaningful.

2. The characters in the book remain flawed, and it is fantastic. Reading about shiny heroes who can do nothing wrong is boring. It’s much more interesting (for me) to read about someone with a darker past and watch them struggle to make the right (or the wrong) choice, then read about how they deal with that choice.

3. Abercrombie reveals more of his world’s history, and he does so in a very easy to digest and interesting manner. We follow Bayaz and his group as they travel through the Old Empire, and along their journey small, easily digested bits of information and history are fed to the reader, allowing them to slowly learn and absorb the worlds history.

The Meh:

Not much meh in the book, I was pretty polarized on everything I came across.


The war with Bethod in the north is in full swing and Collem West has been sent north to fight with the Union. At the same time Inquisitor Glokta has been sent south, to the city of Dagoska. The Gurkish army masses outside its walls, the threat of the impending attack casting a menacing shadow over the whole city. Bayaz, Nine-Fingers, Ferro, and Jezal have all crossed the ocean and now make their way across the dangerous terrain of the Old Empire. Bayaz leads them in a quest that will require all of their individual talents, a quest that will see them recovering an incredibly powerful relic from times long past. Will the war in the North be won? Will Dagoska fall? Will Bayaz find the ancient relic he seeks?


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