mark monday's Reviews > Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
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Jul 25, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantastickal

okay enough with the reviews and comments from folks saying that there aren't any likeable characters in this series! what we have here are:

(1) a barbarian with a heart of gold. sure, he can turn into a mass murdering psychopath when pressed, but my gosh, that doesn't happen too often!

(2) an ex-slave who lives to destroy her former abusers. yes, she's grouchy & savage & suspicious of everyone, particularly white people. do you blame her? she was a former slave, abused and raped repeatedly. come on!

(3) a centuries-old sorceror, also very grouchy. hey, he's been alive for centuries. he's seen the rise and fall of men. he's trying to stop the world from ending. give him a break!

(4) a spoiled nobleman. he doesn't stay spoiled for long! the reader clearly sees him grow and discover new-found empathy, freshly-discovered understanding of the world and the people around him. a person can change, can't they?

these are all completely loveable and endearing creations; i understood their bitterness and suspicious nature and off-putting high-handedness, but i also cheered their slow movements towards understanding each other, towards kindness (of a sort), towards decency. their courage has always been obvious, but with this novel, they become much more recognizably human. reading about their journey was pure pleasure. and the end of that journey? a great bit of dark, dark irony. it is a rather a brave and surprising thing for Abercrombie to pull off. although i am confident more will come out of that journey.

also pure pleasure: the continuing misadventures of the torturer Glotka. i was pleased to see a decrease of his italicized snarkiness. it is still there, of course, but it is not everywhere and no longer functions as a kind of shorthand for actual characterization - it is just a part of who he is. was anyone reminded of Tyrion at King's Landing when reading about him seeing to the city of Dagoska? i was. Glotka remains a wonderful and unusual character. as do West and Dogman and all the rest. sure these are all some bitter folks, but they barely even qualify as anti-heroes. to me, they are heroes.

Before They Are Hanged is a great middle book. unlike many second novels in a series, it does not feel at all like it is treading water. if anything, this is where the action of the series truly begins. the description of the various travels, battles, and siege are all riveting and Abercrombie retains his status as a writer who truly knows how to describe action. the depiction of magic and of mythology remain compelling. the mysteries remain mysterious - but not in a confounding way; we learn more but just enough to keep things tantalizing. and the writing remains "muscular". i usually hate seeing that word to describe prose because i'm often not sure what it even means, but in this case, the word fits. the writing is tight, sardonic, self-aware, and muscular. this was more than a good read, it was a wonderful experience and i am really stoked to see how it all turns out in the third book.
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-33 of 33) </span> <span class="smallText">(33 new)</span>

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Stephen Great review, Mark. I will be very interested in your "character" profiles after you finish book 3.


mark monday uh oh....now i'm nervous.


Stephen One should always be nervous reading Abercrombie. It is what makes him so awesome.


mark monday Ninefingers will turn into the Bloody Nine and kill a sympathetic character! West will turn into Furious and kill a sympathetic character! Ferro gets pissed off and kills a sympathetic character! Quai (or whatever the apprentice's name is) will betray Bayaz! Glotka will torture a sympathetic character or be tortured himself! Ladisla returns as a vengeful corpse!

don't tell me if i'm right about any of this. hopefully i am not!


Stephen No spoilers...I will only say this about your guesses...Abercrombie is not that easy to figure out.


mark monday oh good, that is the kind of non-spoiler i like. now i'm not so nervous but even more enthused.


message 7: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Chavez Wow sounds like an interesting series. I haven't read Abercrombie, but now I want to. I love unpredictable stories and writers, and haven't read an unpredictable ending to story in awhile.


message 8: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Chavez I know Stephen said The Heroes was a great book by Abercrombie, that has been on my to-read shelf for a while. Now I'm wondering if I should start this series in the near future or read The Heroes first.


mark monday although it is not a part of the trilogy, i think The Heroes is #4 or #5 in the same world...i would start with the first book of the series instead.


message 10: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Chavez mark wrote: "although it is not a part of the trilogy, i think The Heroes is #4 or #5 in the same world...i would start with the first book of the series instead."

Oh ok, good to know. Thanks.


Stephen Anthony wrote: "mark wrote: "although it is not a part of the trilogy, i think The Heroes is #4 or #5 in the same world...i would start with the first book of the series instead."

Oh ok, good to know. Thanks."


I agree with Mark. I would definitely recommend starting with this trilogy first.


message 12: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Stephen wrote: "No spoilers...I will only say this about your guesses...Abercrombie is not that easy to figure out."

not that you are following this thread or anything, but hey Stephen, (view spoiler)


Melina whoever would want to read a book full of nice, positive, and sparkly characters? boring! In my opinion, characters need to have flaws, dark patches, and passions. That's what gives them depth and makes for an interesting read. Just like the Song of Ice and Fire books. I can hardly think of even one likeable character in the entire series. Yet, easily some of the best books I've read in the last years. And however "sacrilegious" this may sound, I like Abercrombie's character introduction more than G.R.R Martin's.


message 14: by mark (last edited Aug 27, 2012 08:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday interesting! can you be more specific? i'm not quite sure what you mean by 'character introduction' in Abercrombie vs. GRRM.

i totally agree with your points about characterization. and also about ASOIF.

oh... but Brienne is likable! loveable even. although very, very, very frustrating and repetitious at times.

and Tyrion is likeable too. sometimes. well, at least i like him!


Melina I love Tyrion! By far my favorite character. Though, if you think about it, he's sly, conniving, manipulative. Hardly the most likeable qualities. They do make for good plots, right?

Well, let me see if I can explain the "character introduction" more clearly. Abercrombie introduces his characters as part of the story. They just appear and their properties, both physical and character-wise are part of the narrative. He will not pause the plot to say "Arya looks more like her dad with her brown hair and eyes, unlike her siblings who take after their mother". The hair color will be introduced as part of a scene. And I like that. It makes for a faster-paced story and a cinematographic (is that even a word?) style.


message 16: by mark (last edited Aug 27, 2012 08:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday ah, i understand what you mean! and i agree. yeah, GRRM sure likes his details. lots & lots & lots of details. i saw the phrase 'detail porn' used somewhere to describe this tendency and that made a funny kind of sense. GRRM is very graphic and explicit in detailing every little thing about what someone is wearing and where their name came from and what the furnishing looks like and the names of all the people standing around them, etc.

i think the word you mean is "cinematic" and i also agree. i would say "kinetic" as well.


Nermin I also have the feeling that Quai is going to betray his master, but i haven't read the third book yet, so don't tell me just yet if it's true :)


message 18: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday no worries, i won't!


message 19: by Trish (new) - added it

Trish Mark,
I've read many of your comments, and as I'm new to goodreads, I'd like your advice. Is there any way you can contact me so I'll know you are contacting me without having to look back through this particular comments section?


message 20: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i just sent you a message and you can ask me your question by replying to that message.


Avatonqp am i really the only one that liked the first book better? the whole journey seemed to me meaningless.(except some woldbuilding knowledge that Abercrombie shares with us) Don't get me wrong i liked the whole series very much, but i like the second one the least.


message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday I liked them equally - but then I don't mind being depressed by a book!

for me, the first book was pure pleasure.

this second book was far from pure pleasure but I still thought it was super. it was a bittersweet experience: the sweet from the depth & potential for change that most of the characters slowly displayed, the bitter for the fact that both 'adventures' end in entropy and meaninglessness.

I think each of the three books has their own separate (but related) goals and I had distinctly different reactions to each of them.


Avatonqp Well,that's almost how i felt about this book too only that i wouldnt call it "super". :P the character development was super for my taste, in the whole series.The truth is Abercrombie's characters are the best gray characters i have read about,i look forward to read more from his books.


Manju Finished it last night and it was amazing. I liked it better than the first.


message 25: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday yep, awesome book! glad you liked it so much.


message 26: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will M. "there aren't any likeable characters in this series" ? This has to be the dumbest comment anyone has ever made. Glad you made your review, I myself love the characters! I'm halfway done with this one, can't wait to read the third. Awesome review, as always.


message 27: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks!

and prepare for some shocks in the 3rd book. everything turned over.


Robert Spencer Not likeable? NOT LIKEABLE?!?! Come on, Glokta is one of the best anti heroes around and what's not to love about Logen???


message 29: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday I know, people are crazy. but as I mention above, prepare for some shocks in the 3rd book. everything turned over...

such a good series!


David Fisher Excellent review. I like the characters in this series. Certainly the journeys into the mind of San Dan Glotchka were very enjoyable for me. I think he's right up there with Tyrion Lannister as one of the most interesting fantasy characters. I've finished the whole series now and am making my way through the Shattered Sea series which suffers from being aimed at the YA audience.


message 31: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday glad you enjoyed the review. you're ahead of me on the series - I've been drawing it out a bit because I love the world. so far have only read the trilogy and Best Served Cold. 4 great books! and 3 more to read.


Manju Mark: Please read Heroes soon. It is the best Abercrombie book in First Law world.:)


message 33: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday this year for sure!


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