First review: “First Law: Book Two- Before They Are Hanged” by Joe Abercrombie

Posted: April 8, 2012 in Review

As a reader and a writer I love a good fantasy story.

Who doesn’t?

If you said “I don’t.” I won’t hold it against you, but don’t sit next to me in public, okay?

Anyway, fantasy novels are one of the three main genres I read (mystery/thriller and historical fantasy fill out the other top spots). I realized that I have read the genre for years, but have never attempted a review. Well, here we go:

Joe Abercrombie has really upped the bar in his sequel to his debut “First Law: Book One- The Blade Itself. The first book, though well done, felt like too much of a straight setup. I felt like i received too much glossing over of characters that were also constantly underfoot. Understandable to some extent or the first in a trilogy, it still left me somewhat soured. The second novel definitely sweetened the pot.

The characters, far from wholesome, are plenty likable for their realness. We have a barbarian who is more thinking man than those around him would know, a torturer that wants to help those around him, though he wonders why. Through in a pretty boy nobleman who soon learns that looks are fleeting and honor means something different in a world wrought with danger, and you are only scratching the surface of what this story holds.

Abercrombie has done a great job of creating characters that you truly want to get more from and the characters finally match the backdrop that Abercrombie gave me in the first book. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the first book, but felt cheated in not knowing what was truly at stake or each character. In this book we find out about the stakes, and they are astronomically high and convoluted.

Oh, did I mention that there is a older than you can dream of wizard that makes Gandalf seem as warm and cuddly as he Easter Bunny. He is at the very center of something that he shouldn’t be dealing with, but if he doesn’t then all is lost. At least that is what he is telling me.

If you want truly gritty, hard nosed fantasy, look no further than this series. Some say that there are no likable characters. I think that what we have here are characters as flawed as any human, only we see every flaw here, and in the real world people hide them.

Everyone should read this book. The fate of mankind hinges on it.

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