Publisher’s Weekly, that esteemed organ of the American book trade, was not entirely bowled over by The Blade Itself when it was published in the US back in September. They said, and I quote, though it hurts me to do it:
“British newcomer Abercrombie fills his muddled sword-and-sorcery series opener with black humor and reluctant heroes … The workmanlike plot, marred by repetitive writing and an excess of torture and pain, is given over to introducing the mostly unlikable characters, only to send them off on separate paths in preparation for the next volume’s adventures.”
Aaarghhh! The pain! Take it away! Take it away! I was expecting when they came to review Before They are Hanged, therefore, at best a little movement in the right direction, from awful to, say, quite bad. Well either my second book went to a different reviewer or I got a whole lot better:
“This grim and vivid sequel to 2007’s The Blade Itself transcends its middle volume status, keeping the reader engaged with complicated plotting and intriguing character development… Abercrombie leavens the bloody action with moments of dark humor, developing a story suffused with a rich understanding of human darkness and light.”
Starred Review. Yes, that’s right, STARRED REVIEW. Don’t look directly at me, mortals! You could be blinded!