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Before They Are Hanged

The First Law: Book Two

Joe Abercrombie

448 pp • ISBN: 978-1-59102-641-9
Trade Paperback (6" x 9") • $17
March 2008
Cover Illustration: © Laura Brett


Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It’s enough to make a torturer want to run – if he could even walk without a stick.

Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem—he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world.

And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters—if they didn’t hate each other quite so much.

Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven—but not before they are hanged.


"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."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"What Before They Are Hanged doesn't do is succumb to the 'middle of the series' syndrome as many second books seem to do. In fact, Before They Are Hanged is an even better book than the first. Everything that was good in the
first book (excellent story, fast-paced action, interesting characters) is honed to a fine edge here....I'm not usually a fantasy fan, but Before They Are Hanged
is one of the rare books that I didn't want to put down and pulled out to read whenever I could. It's certainly a worthy addition to the series and if you
like great stories, fantasy or otherwise, pick up this book and the first
if you haven't already. Four and a half stars."


"In the two-years-plus since we lost David Gemmell at an intolerably early age, nothing, absolutely nothing, has so reassured me about the future of heroic fantasy as Abercrombie's sequence The First Law.… All 3 white-knucklers are now available in the U. S. from the Pyr imprint of Prometheus Books.… I'm avoiding the word trilogy in connection with The First Law not only because the term has become such a punchline in any discussion of fantasy as a publishing phenom, but also because I don't think Abercrombie wrote one. He might not have pulled a Tolkien by writing one long novel in its entirety before delivering any of it to his publisher, but that's what his story reads like: one long-and-proud-of-it novel.... The First Law might appear overlong to some readers, especially those with a pulp-trained attention span, but as a prodigy of heroic fantasy storytelling the 3 books are not nearly long enough. Saying goodbye to Inquisitor Glokta and Logen Ninefingers aches like a bereavement.... With Joe Abercrombie our favorite subgenre is in good, and formidably sword-calloused, hands."

"Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie; say he writes good fiction….Say another thing for Joe Abercrombie; say he is funny. His twists on traditional fantasy tropes continue to entertain….Say one more thing for Joe Abercrombie; say he is a master of character development…. Abercrombie's debut trilogy (so far) is better than the work of many seasoned authors, and anyone widely read in the fantasy genre will enjoy his twisting of fantasy tropes. I continue to highly recommend The First Law Trilogy to all readers of fantasy, and many more readers besides. Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie; say his writing is worth the reading."
—Grasping for the Wind blog

"Dark, twisted, and full of subplots, the second of the First Law trilogy is a surprisingly strong follow-up to The Blade Itself.... Plenty of fast action and wit augment this complex, often dark fantasy with real world parallels that will leave readers anxiously awaiting the final installment. If Abercrombie continues this pattern of improvement, he will undoubtedly become a major voice in the fantasy genre."

"Abercrombie lulls you into complacency with his traditional quest structure (at least in one of the narrative threads) only to defy convention at almost every turn and leave you dangling in the end (again)…. A solid A, highly recommended for fantasy fans looking for something a bit outside the box."
—The King of the Nerds

"Before They Are Hanged is an excellent sequel from an author writing compelling, character-driven, adult fantasy, for readers who want to be entertained as well as challenged."
–SFF World

"Dark, deeply ironic and full of character gems that will appeal to your cynical side, Before They Are Hanged is as brilliant as its predecessor."
—SF Revu

"A tight little piece of fiction. Before They Are Hanged grabs you and drags you along."

"Joe Abercrombie has taken the tropes of high fantasy, the world threatened by evil and a daring quest to find the missing object that will save it….This is the middle book of the trilogy and I can't wait to see how it all works out."
Union City Review,

"The story is by turns darkly humorous and incredibly well observed. The sheer number of brilliantly drawn characters is a joy to read and Abercrombie once again proves he is deft at changing voice as he changes point of view."

Joe Ambercrombie

Joe Abercrombie (Lancaster, England), a 2008 John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award nominee, is a freelance film editor, working mostly on documentaries and live music events for bands from Coldplay to Iron Maiden. He lives and works in London. He is also the author of The Blade Itself: The First Law. and Last Argument of Kings: The First Law, Book Three.

Visit Joe Abercrombie online at

Author photo © Lou Abercrombie