I was up until half five yesterday morning reading intensely to finish off this story. I didn’t write the review then as it would have been a tired, mumbled mess with little to no eloquence and it wouldn’t have included any cool sounding words. Let’s see how I get on now after a good nights sleep. Prior to reading this, I had completed Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy and enjoyed it a lot. Where that was classic story focused fantasy with twists aplenty, this is best described as a macabre, dark and twisted character study of morally questionable individuals. This narrative takes place in a world that seems to be brimming with a blood-splattered past, interesting races and a heightened amount of warmongering aggression between the countries and factions. There is a lot going on in Abercrombie’s world yet, it is a shame that the two versions of this book that I have didn’t include any cartographed maps. I did get a little confused trying to compose a mental map of the world and distinguish where the action was taking place.
The greatest accomplishment achieved by Abercrombie here is the characters he has created.
The four main individuals are:
Jezal: A vain, selfish nobleman and talented fencer.
Logan: An infamous warrior.
Glokta: A tortured and crippled torturer.
Bayaz: A mage whose motives are mystical.
I will not go into any real details about them, how they intertwine, their opinions shared in monologues regarding the others (if they meet that is) but it is a pleasure to read about these characters that are, on paper at least, completely unlikeable. There are times that these characters surprised me with their thoughts. Glokta’s internal opinions are darkly humorous yet tortuous when relating to his past, and the womaniser and dashing swordsman Jezal actually having some weird emotions for only one lady are two fine examples. The players’ interactions had a Tarantino-like quality.
This book was a slow burner for me. It has many great qualities but whilst reading I occasionally had an internal dilemma about whether I should put it down and pick up something with more action. Two or three amazing setpieces excluded (such as a fencing contest and Logan’s old gangs’ antics), it doesn’t really include many all out adrenaline fueling segments. Towards the end, however; reading this was quite intense hence why I was up until stupid o’clock to finish the story. I reflect that this books main agenda was probably for the reader to get to know the characters because this is done extremely well. At the finale, the seams are brimming with reported conflicts and a bizarre proposed mission that the characters find out are their fates and destinies moving forward. To conclude, I have to admit that Before they are Hanged is set up phenomenally well and I am looking forward to shortly jump back into Abercrombie’s world.