Before They are Hanged – reread

June 6th, 2012

I believe the best way to make oneself look fair-minded, adult, and emotionally big after treating someone else’s hard work, sweat and tears to an unfavourable pasting is to review one’s own work and heap praise upon it.  So, without further ado, my thoughts on re-reading Before They are Hanged:

Now we’re talking.  Yeah, this is a big improvement over The Blade Itself in all sorts of ways, at least from where I’m sitting assessing it as a writer.  Possibly there’s a slight reverse middle-book syndrome going on for me here.  As a reader the middle volume perhaps has neither the excitement of introductions nor the satisfaction of conclusions, but looked at as a writer it neither has to carry the weight of setting things up, nor put in the work of dragging the threads together (or perhaps failing to), and hence writerly screw ups of one kind or another are less likely and the book is free to just spin the wheels.  Your mileage may of course vary, and indeed many mileages have, but for my mileage Before They are Hanged spins the wheels pretty damn nicely even if I do say so myself…

Beware ye of spoilers oh pitiful fools what have not read The First Law trilogy!

Writing generally is much improved, I feel, the voices have become more distinctive and assured, the descriptive stuff is a lot more arresting – partly I think that’s a result of the travelogue nature of the plotlines which means characters are frequently running across new and exciting things in a way they weren’t so much in the first book.  If you’re writing in tight Point of View there’s simply no need to describe a character’s own familiar bedroom, or the street they walk down every day, and I think that gave some of the descriptive stuff in the first book a slightly unconvincing, info-dumpy quality.  “Jezal ran past building X where important institution Y was based and frowned up at monuments A and B commemorating important event in history Z which may be important later and neatly illustrates point C about Union culture and Jezal’s own character…” is just not honestly the experience of having a run in your own backyard.  This works a lot better, and there’s more variety in the settings as well, sweaty Dagoska alternating with the frozen North and the desolate Old Empire.  Some interesting stuff in there, and reading some of this I slightly miss the fantastic in the lower magic direction I’ve taken in the standalones.

The big score is the pacing, though.  There’s a definite sense I was piddling around somewhat in The Blade Itself while trying to manoeuvre the characters into position to get this book started, but having laid that groundwork things kick off here with a vengeance.  There are three entirely separate plotlines – Glokta’s machinations in defence of Dagoska, the Fellowship’s quest across the Old Empire, and West and the Dogman fighting oop north, and I’d say they all have a sense of well-contained forward motion.  Very little feels wasted.  Glokta in particular works much better here, freed from the direct oversight of his superiors and with Licence to Act Like a Shit from on high.  He’s at his best ruthlessly making idiots of the arrogant scum around him, and his thoughts have settled into a much more pointed and elegant acid cynicism.  Prince Ladisla, and to a lesser extent Poulder and Kroy, are much more caricature than character, but then the approach has always been for slightly larger than life supporting players (this is fantasy after all, there’s no point in being scrupulously realistic, I don’t think) and most of the stuff in the North still works well, Threetrees and the rest of the band are always good value, and the developing relationships between Logen, Jezal and Ferro are satisfying, even if some of the necessary Expounding Upon Stuff That Happened Ye Manie Centuries Ago Around The Campfire (TM) is a bit clunksome.  Above all, I felt there was a really nice rhythm to the way the three plotlines compliment each other, especially in the first half, where chapters from the quest plotline alternate with blocks of Dagoska and the North, the chapters getting shorter as things build to a crisis in each, cutting from building tension to building tension to building tension.  Slick, that.

Problems?  Well, the Bloody-Nine’s appearance is less memorable this time around, Bayaz’ magic has lost its impact somewhat, and indeed Bayaz generally is diminished as he is forced back into Ye Olde Mysteriouse Wizarde With Unexplained Planse role, but then we all know we’re going somewhere with that, so I think it’s forgivable.  Women are starting to emerge as a bit of an issue – the lack of them, the superficiality and sexification (is that a word? My spellcheck says no but I say YES) of most of those that are there, of which more later.  The action generally still strikes me as really memorable, though – the two battles in the North, the siege of Dagoska, the fight among the stones, the chase through collapsing Aulcus, all good stuff, and there are some really good speeches dotted about here and there as well, some great exchanges between Jezal and Logen, amongst the Northmen, now with added Shivers, between Glokta and pretty much everyone, especially Cosca.

Probably I shouldn’t say this, but Before They are Hanged strikes me as fucking ace, probably to the degree that your intense love for it validates you (and certainly me) as a human being.  Hmm.  Is it frowned on if cover quotes come from the author of the book itself, because I need to let the world know that they really ought to be reading this shit…

Posted in reading by Joe Abercrombie on June 6th, 2012.

49 comments so far

  • Dante Di says:

    No, I wholly agree with you, Joe. It’s definitely my favorite book in the trilogy, and sits in my Top 5 Favorite Books, ever.

    Glokta’s storyline was fantastic in every aspect, the ancient city was incredibly memorable and tense, and I absolutely became enthralled with the concept of your Eaters, a worthy addition to any enemy dossier/bestiary.

    In fact, this is the book that inspired me to write my first novel. Not to make your head too big, but this was the kind of writing that I wanted to do someday, and I’ve been cracking at it since!

  • Kelvin says:

    I quite liked your Expounding Upon Stuff That Happened Ye Manie Centuries Ago Around The Campfire bit; it’s one of the parts I remember vividly. When a setting is engaging enough (and yours certainly is), I can find myself looking forward to information dumps for a bit of shameless clarity. But only when the rest of the content is well done. Which yours of course is.

  • Gary says:

    I preferred Before They are Hanged to the Blade itself because it showed more depth to the main characters and more a sense of impending doom. Of particular note is the change within of Jezal and of Ferro. What was portrayed very well was getting snippets of the real person deep within them that tries to get out and overcome the persona they showed on the surface. The characterisation was frikkin awesome.

    With the impending doom thing, the siege of Dagoska was nicely done and at no point during it did you stray away from the fact that it was a lost cause. So many stories in books, film and television have some cheesy miraculous victory when characters are faced with the jaws of defeat. I’m so glad you stuck to your guns on this one and Dagoska did fall, and in doing so made it all the more believable.

    On a completely seperate topic, have you had a chance to delve a bit into Dragons Dogma yet? I’ve played only a few hours of it so far and I have to say I have been mightily surprised and impressed by it from what I have played. I didn’t think much of the demo, but the actual game itself appears to be pretty innovative and good fun to play. The story in Dragons Dogma is a bit ‘meh’ and voice acting is a bit pants, but I cannot fault the gameplay. An underrated gem I think this could turn out to be.

  • Mike Cobley says:

    Nice one – dunno if I’d have the cojones to do that to one of my own books just yet, but…kudos to you, muchacho.

    Interesting what you say about infodumps – editors and agents clearly prefer a kind of fragmentary approach, as if the necessary background can be kind of infused into the narrative, delivered to the reader with a sleight of hand. I actually feel that at some point you just basically have to take a para out to sit down with the reader, as it were, and lay out the necessary background/explication etc. The ease and palatability of that depends on the kind of non-dialogue narrative you use, and how deep inside the character viewpoint it is.

    Of course, if you’re a Jeenyuss writer who has perfected him/herself, one need only write naturally 😉

  • Michael says:

    I’d go with fucking ace too.

  • Gary says:

    Yep, Before they are Hanged is fucking ace. Works on so many levels. Like a chocolate flavoured minge.

  • AntMac says:

    There is nothing wrong with your female characters. Plenty of female writers have more trouble than you, and that is objective fact.

    I hate the whole thing about men being held to this special standard. When was any woman ever criticised because she can only ever do a workwoman job of writing men, because she wasn’t born one?.

  • Neil says:

    I 100% agree with this book being the best of the trilogy, though your really ACE book is Best Served Cold. To keep it on Before They are Hanged though, this book was vivid, alive, ever-moving, suspenseful and just fantasy done right.

    And I’m nearly on the same boat as Dante Di. I was half-way through the first book of a series I have planned out when you published Before They are Hanged and realized I was writing everything absolutely wrong. Congratulations, you fixed the structure beams of my plot and for that I say: KUDOS.

  • Dan says:

    This is your finest work. So far.

  • Smitty says:

    Glokta in defense of Dagoska by itself could be a freaking movie. That was one of my favorite plot lines in any book. Seriously.

    It’s been years now, but I still have vivid images in my head from those scenes.

  • Adam says:

    A proper intro to the kind of man you get in Nicomo Cosca.

    The shaping of Glokta into one of the more formidable characters in the trilogy.

    And those are my two favorite characters throughout all the books, for which reason its hard for me to be objective. I reread the whole triology and BSC right before The Heroes hit the shelves in the U.S. and remember geeking out over the Dagoska affair (“oh yeah… THIS happened. Yay!!!”).

  • Everitt says:


    One question that always bugged me about BTWH is why Bayaz didn’t simply take a boat for their entire journey to get the Seed? Assuming that the various maps of the First Law world posted online are even vaguely correct (yes, I fall into the Mapist camp), it strikes me as faster, easier and far safer to go by ship. I suppose, Bayaz might have wanted to use the journey to mold Jezel into a proper ruler-to-be.

    Did you think about this? Or am I just being the stereotypical nerd who frets about why the dilithium crystals in episode 2E11 are a different shade of pink in 3E14?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    The maps posted online aren’t even vaguely correct. Midderland is in the centre, with other much larger landmasses around it in a vaguely circular configuration, but otherwise, no. There’s no practicable sea route. And even if I’d made such an obvious blunder, Bayaz is hardly like to, is he?

  • Phil Norris says:

    Personally I loved the “what happened many moons ago” stuff, always been a history buff and love it when books/films/TV shows fill in the backstories.

    I felt there was a very strong link between Glokta – and how he is treated and looked upon – in this book and a certain Tyrion Lannister during A Clash Of Kings.

    Both sent into a city with zero friends & backup, both physically weaker than everyone around them, but both fully capable of kicking everyones ass.

    An added link is Vitteri (that’s not spelt right) who is effectively Glokta’s Bronn.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Amazon have uncharacteristically failed to deliver Dragon’s Dogma. I’ll let you know.

    IF I’m a jeenyuss writer? IF?

    Perhaps there could be more right with them, then? Don’t think it’s a special standard, particularly, but I feel there aren’t enough women in the first law and those there are aren’t well developed enough. I’ll probably expand on this when discussing Last Argument, though, and you can again tell me how wrong I am…

  • Ravenous says:

    It’s good that the stand alones aren’t loaded with the fantastic. It helps with world building, and makes the fantastic better.

    I-phones and laptops are amazing and magical,… till everyone has them, then they’re just tech.

  • James says:

    I miss the fantastic too from the trilogy. I think the standalones are fantastic books, but the trilogy had that sense of being of something greater just out of reach.

    I can’t be the only person who wants you to write a prequel set in the time of ‘Stuff That Happened Ye Manie Centuries Ago’.

  • Ravenous says:

    I think I would rather read a “Second Law” trilogy, then a prequel. Find out more about Kahlul, his Eaters, and Fero. Plus there is a lot of room for the Prophet’s version of Bayez’s story.

  • Futureman says:

    If I had never heard of you before and ran across your book with this on the cover:

    “Before They are Hanged strikes me as fucking ace, probably to the degree that your intense love for it validates you (and certainly me) as a human being.” -Joe Abercrombie

    I’d pause, it’d take me a second, then I’d realize that it is indeed a quote from the author of the book, then I’d buy ever book you’d ever written. Maybe check with your publishers first, but I’d definitely recommend adding your own quotes to all your books.

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    I’ve always listed Before They Are Hanged as my favorite, it was damn near perfect. The only argument you could make against it is that when the fellowship’s quest turns out to be a dud there is a sense of a turd plopping in the toilet. The reader feels almost like the characters, betrayed after an extensive journey to find they were lied too, which is actually kind of great. I love it because it is a slap in the face of cliche, but if I didn’t have The Last Argument of Kings to read immediately after then I probably would have felt a little disappointed.

    Then again I was really disappointed with the ending of the trilogy at first, but after reflecting on it over several days I grew to love it and appreciate it for the genius it is.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Ravenous, James,
    Yeah, I dunno about prequels. Would hate to end up tying myself in the kind of knots Prometheus did. Some things are better left in the past.

    Dogmans’ Bladder,
    Well, it’s a risk, the old turd-plopper ending, and it certainly won’t please everyone, and perhaps trades off instant satisfaction against a more lingering thought-provocation. Maybe some further discussion of this on the reread of Last Argument.

  • Frank says:

    I love how you came to the same conclusion about Glokta; I thought he was pretty cool in The Blade Itself, but in Before They Are Hanged he’s perfectly placed to, indeed, act the shit he likes to be towards others. But I also liked how he escaped without much trouble, in the end. It gave him that sparkle of not just don’t caring two shits, but being able to walk out of Dagoska pretty much unscathed (haters gonna hate and all that jazz). Best book of the trilogy, and Glokta my favourite character from then on.

  • Monique says:

    I didn’t get to finish reading this one before moving and have to wait longer to get back to it…loving the anticipation ha ha. Love your work and think you’re brilliant, both as a thinker and a writer.

  • Count Spatula says:

    Well, here’s a fan who ADORED the “turd-plopper” ending with a capital A, D, O, R, E and D. Such a fantastic trope subversion I have rarely seen, and for that I applaud you.

    Seriously, the ending is one of the greatest things about the book, which is saying something ’cause it’s a bloody good book – probably my fave of the three! I always supposed that the unfulfilled ending mirrored the character’s struggles to change themselves as well, which seems to be a thing you like to do in all your books. I see a lot of reviewers mistake that for lack of character development but they’re basically missing the point entirely. Even in real-life old habits die hard, and in these books it’s even harder when you’ve got a hard-wired reputation for narcissism, cruelty and/or murder to override; not to mention a magnificent bastard pushing you down a certain path. I just adore finding parallels like that, though I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, and tbh I don’t really care – if it is, +1 awesomeness for you, if it’s not, it’s still awesome.

    Overall, I thought the ending was a perfect fit. Yeah, perhaps you do have to pause and think about it to see what makes it work, but hey I LOVE analysing things like that. It’s what makes a good book great.

  • Patrick says:

    Hahaha! Oh, Mr. Abercrombie. I think you’re one of many people who can take arrogance and make it an art!

  • Patrick says:

    Scrap that. “One -out- of many people”.

  • Weedypants says:

    Joe, you definitely stuck a middle finger up at the idea that the middle book of a trilogy is doomed to be weak.

    BTAH is definitely may fav of the trilogy.

    Fair point about the women (lack of). My knowledge of your private life is, of course, limited, and I’m happy for it to remain so. Nonetheless, I’d say you write like a heterosexual male – combat or even in the quiet moments always the beguiling prospect of possible combat. I wouldn’t want you to get all “female writer” on us (romance or always the beguiling prospect of possible romance), but more believable female characters (not men without the “fruits”) are always welcome.

    Finree was great in TH.

  • Jacob says:


    I have to say, I found Bayaz’s collapse moment to be well in tune with the low fantasy theme. At first he struck me as sort of a deus ex machina sort of man.

    Next thing you know, his power has limits. I like that.

  • AntMac says:

    *Tugs fetlock nervously*

    Ooo ar, squire, di’n’t mean nuthing by it.

    I didn’t mean you were wrong, you are the professional here, and I admire you for it. And you obviously care a great deal to do a better job of work every time, it shows in all aspects of your writing. So wanting to do better in this one aspect isn’t anything out the way for you.

    So, yeah, I bet your future characters will be better. It seems like you have a perfectionist bent to me.

    But I stand beside my first comment. There is imho, nothing “wrong” with your female characters. They are not complete ciphers, or overly sexy props for the males, or completely sidelined, or absolutely stereotyped. Many writers’ characters of either sex, have not the depth and worth of your female ones.

    I read some excited criticism of you that all your female characters were damaged goods. But so are all your male ones, right?.

    All happy characters resemble each other in being boring.

  • Giasone says:

    But can you imagine what it would be like to have Ferro on a ship for that length of time? She’d end up trying to kill Jezal – and the Navigator, most likely. Also, as I understand it the Old Empire is a continent stretching far into the north and south, so any sea-voyage to the western coast could take months of sailing through treacherous waters, storms, hostile navies, pirates and who-knows-what living in the depths – not to mention the dangers of sailing close to the coast. (The southern coast of Australia, near where I live, is littered with ship wrecks, as are many other places around the world, and I don’t imaging the Circling Sea in the world of the First Law is any more tranquil than the Southern Ocean in our world.) All things considered, it was better to make a run for it across land, especially since Bayaz didn’t expect to be unconscious part of the time.

    True, there are very general similarities between Sand dan Glokta and Tyrion Lannister, namely their sardonic wit and certain physical issues. But there are also crucial differences.
    For example, Tyrion comes from a much higher-ranking aristocratic family than Glokta, which may explain partly why Tyrion, unlike Glokta, has so much trouble keeping his trap shut. I think Glokta is in some ways more ruthless than Tyrion – who probably couldn’t stand observing the torture that Glokta works with. Glokta is more like Tywin Lannister in this respect, while Tyrion is more inclined to feel sympathy for people. He’s not as bitter as Glokta, largely because he has lived with his disadvantages all his life, rather than losing advantages. What else? Tyrion is more of a womaniser, Glokta more likely to be monogamous, I think. Tyrion is more interested in books, Glokta in physical pursuits (before his misfortunes).

  • Giasone says:

    I’m not bothered by any imbalance in the sexes of characters in any book. Characters appear as a story unfolds. If there’s an imbalance, so be it; there’s no need for an affirmative action quota – just more good writers exploring alternatives according to their own inclinations.
    Otherwise where will it stop? The next thing will be how many homo- or bi-sexual characters appear – not that I’d object to some, just so long as their presence or the revelation of their sexuality is right for the story.
    (Actually, I’ve already got a few suspicions in this regard… Although I have to admit I was wrong about Ferro…)

  • Zerocool says:

    I just read TFL again in its entirety. In three days. This is not a boast…I just read fast. I mention it because I was able to easly and quickly flow from book 1 to 2 to 3. It gave me a certain perspective. Everything really worked well…the prose was poingnant and decisive, the characters entertaining and memorable, and the storyline was a goddamn kick in the nuts. Note: I do not agree that there was a noticable lack of female persona’s…those that were present held the same amount of my attention as their male counterparts…

    You were, are and will continue to be a great writer. The intricate weavings of reality into fantasy have given your story a certain je ne sais quoi. Having read fantasy/sci-fi since a very early age (and I am no spring chicken), I have found it refreshing to find a smart contingent of newer writers (Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, Peter Brett, Scott Lynch, Jim Butcher, Alex Bledsoe, Kevin Hearne, Michael Sullivan, Patrick Rothfuss, etc.) of which you lead the pack.

    A quick question as to timeline in relation to TFL and Best Served Cold…I noticed a comment from Cosca in TFL relating to Mercatto (something about her causing him a ton of grief). It sounded as if that comment dictated the timeline of BSC was already occuring? Is that true or did I misread?


  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Count S,
    Well, I’m real glad it worked for you. Are you a real count, by the way?

    AntMac (and others on the female characters),
    You may want to tug your forelock next time. A fetlock is the bony knobble above a horse’s hoof. Don’t tug one of those. Could be dangerous.

    By all means disagree with me, especially if you’re arguing that I’m EVEN MORE ACE THAN I THINK I AM. I don’t think the women are terrible, but they could be a lot better. There could be more of them and they could be more diverse. Most are kind of primarily seductive in style – Eider, Ardee, Caurib, maybe Cawneil. A worryingly high number have been sexually exploited in some way as a significant element of their past – Cathil, Eider, Ferro, maybe Ardee. With Ferro I think I was so intent on presenting someone so opposite to the classic soft and feminine epic fantasy role she became a bit one-noted in the other direction, which is fine in BTaH where there’s some sense of stuff going on beneath the surface but runs out of steam in LAoK where her plot slightly peters out for a lot of the book. More incidental characters – Terez, Shalere, Cathil etc. tend to be one-note caricatures, which is true of a lot of the men as well, like Ladisla, Poulder, Kroy, but then there are a lot of multi-faceted men to counterbalance that. There’s also a real lack of women just around, incidentally. You could be forgiven for thinking that Cathil and Caurib are pretty much the only women in the whole North. Armies right up until the early modern era would have been accompanied by a lot of women of all kinds.

    I think there’s often a tendency to knee-jerk defence with this type of stuff. I’ve done it myself. That an accusation of sexist writing is like an accusation of witchcraft. But society is sexist. We all have our unconscious biases and they’re bound to be expressed in our writing. As a writer you’re brought face to face with that and it can conflict extremely uncomfortably with a self-image of being a modern, enlightened, progressive member of society. Plus epic fantasy carries an immense amount of sexist baggage which, if you self-consciously write epic fantasy, it’s hard not to echo to some degree. I think you’ve got to try and see it as, rather than a crime you’re hoping to prove yourself not guilty of, one of an infinite range of styles of bad writing which you need to be watchful for and hope to improve on. Take it on the chin and be analytical. I’m a man, and so the likelihood is I’m going to find men easier to write than women. Probably the focus will generally be more on the men. The Heroes, for example, is a very male book about war and male concepts of heroism, so I think it’s not unreasonable that the great majority of the cast are men. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to include women wherever possible and to make them as deep, diverse and interesting as you can. That doesn’t even necessarily have anything to do with sexism or progressiveness, it’s just presenting a world more like the real world, and that’s just good writing.

  • AntMac says:

    I am horrible embarassment. I can not understand why I wrote fetlock . . .

    OK, I am very grateful for those two paragraphs, and I think I see where you are coming from now. You have my blessing to make better female characters then. Besides, I really enjoyed them, so better is better, right, I win?.

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    There are enough great female characters to maintain the realism of an oppressed people taking a smaller role, and show how highly capable women are at the same time. In an oppressed society the odds are so stacked against them that it would be cartoonish to have an abundance of powerful female characters, not to mention the obvious advantages men have in violent and lawless settings.

    All of this is irrelevant anyway, because the world you choose to create doesn’t reflect on your beliefs. If writers like Joe limited their imaginations to creating worlds that were “fair” then most novels would be crap. If the world in The First Law is sexist, then logically there won’t be as many females in roles relevant to the plot.

    To top it all off Joe even gives us the unlikely remarkable female warriors like Ferro, Monzcarro, and Wonderful. Then there is Finree whose intelligence makes the men around her seem idiotic, yet Joe is still accused of sexism.

    This discussion is giving me flashbacks of ninnies complaining that The Thing (1982) was sexist.

  • AntMac says:

    Yeah, but what he is saying isn’t that he is going to completely sanitise his female characters.

    He is saying he is going to keep these issues in mind alongside all the other things he considers, in an effort to make characters that are as free as possible from “unconscious” fault, faults he may commit without thinking about it, because we are all a product of our conditioning.

    He can then go ahead to DELIBERATELY write a female character that is a rape victim, or a heroic swordswoman, or a thatcher , or a ( add your own character ) if that is what he thinks is proper.

    And because his choice is informed that little bit more because people have maybe brought his mind to bear on possible faults in previous characters, the writing is that little bit better.

  • AntMac says:

    Or so I take from his post, but what the hay, I have been wrong once or twice before.

  • CE says:

    If the First Law Trilogy is the ‘Man with no name’ trilogy can we expect your next book, (A) Red country to be the ‘Unforgiven’? A final swan song? It was Clint Eastwood’s last western!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Dogman’s Bladder,
    AntMac gets close to it, I think. This isn’t about responding to any particular criticism because you’ll never get consensus on what is or isn’t sexist, or is or isn’t a positive representation, and people will always be levelling criticisms that you find absurd, as well as ones you find perceptive. As a writer you absolutely have to be your own judge on what to do. This isn’t about someone else’s opinion, I’m interested in those but ultimately I don’t give a shit unless I agree. It’s about MY opinion. It certainly isn’t about sanitising things or imposing quotas or limiting your imagination. If anything it’s about expanding your imagination to include women in roles and of types that don’t automatically occur to a man writing epic fantasy. This doesn’t necessarily need to have anything to do with real life beliefs either, it’s about creating a richer, more vivid, more convincing invented world. One dimensional women, or cliched women or stereotyped women mostly conforming to certain patterns (or characters of any kind, for that matter) are no kind of advantage to a book. You want to write women who are as rich and varied in their motivations, behaviours, and relationships as the men. Or I do, anyway. That’s just good writing. Or, hey, less bad.

    Well I hope to be publishing more books in the fullness of time, but you’re not a million miles away in certain respects…

  • Luke Kidson says:

    It was (as I recall) BTaH that had one of my favourite lines from any book, where Logen and Ferro are talking and Logen asks “Do you have to?”
    That conversation broke ALL the norms I’ve encountered (never before then having seen anyone drop the ole c-bomb in a fantasy book!)and the sheer ease and flow of how it fit in, that catapaulted you, from being an author I really admired and enjoyed to being one of my faves (hey – you’ve gone up since then again!)
    Your meticulous pacing, brilliant and gritty characterisation, scope and scale, all of it pales beneath your dropping of the c-bomb. You did it with style. It had panache (yes, I said panache about it…). In some crazy way, maybe because it just felt so realistic, it made me stop, read back, and then pay a hell of a lot more attention.

  • Giasone says:

    Correction to an earlier post – got the geography wrong. The Circle Sea (not “Circling” – can’t recall where that came from) encompasses Midderland, not the Old Empire. [Someone correct me if I’m wrong… Geography used to be one of my strong suits…]

  • ‘Event in History Z’ would be a brilliant title if you ever write a sci-fi B-movie script.

  • Steven Roe says:

    Before They are Hanged is my favourite book, it’s so darn good! Looking forward to see what you think of Last Argument of Kings after re-reading it.

  • Killeraoc says:

    The siege and Glokata’s actions in it are hands down the best things you have written IMO. It made the book.

  • cassander says:

    You earned my eternal fandom when you had the heroes go on a Quest for the macguffin of power and not find it. Words cannot describe how much I loved that moment.

  • […]  Not enough, not interesting enough, occasionally very cliche.  Some further thoughts on this in the comments to the post on Before They are Hanged, which I think continue to apply here.  I actually think Ardee and Ferro are both good characters, […]

  • […] Blade Itself Before they are Hanged Last Argument of […]

  • Nion says:

    You’re absolutly right, the world needs to read “Before They are Hanged”. It is my favourite one. And really broke my heart.

    Great to read that others share my opinion. 🙂

  • […] was widely acknowledged that this was a trilogy of increasing success. The consensus (that includes the author) was (is) that each book is better than the previous and now Abercrombie is not anymore the new […]

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