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Summary

Bitter and merciless war is coming to the frozen north. It's bloody and dangerous, and the Union army, split by politics and hamstrung by incompetence, is unprepared for the slaughter that's coming. Lacking experience, training, and in some cases even weapons, the army is scarcely equipped to repel Bethod's scouts, let alone his elite forces.

In the heat-ravaged south, the Gurkish are massing to assault the city of Dagoska, defended by Inquisitor Glokta. The city is braced for the inevitable defeat and massacre to come... but a plot is festering to hand the city to its besiegers without a fight, and the previous Inquisitor of Dagoska vanished without trace. Threatened from within and without the city, Glokta needs answers, and he needs them soon.

And to the east, a small band of malefactors travel to the edge of the world to reclaim a device from history - a Seed, hidden for generations - with tremendous destructive potential. A device which could put a end to war, to the army of Eaters in the South, to the invasion of Shanka from the North - but only if it can be found, and only if its power can be controlled.

©2007 Joe Abercrombie (P)2010 Orion Publishing Group Limited

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tom
  • West Wickham, United Kingdom
  • 23-08-10

An EXCELLENT trilogy, BRILLIANTLY narrated

An excellent audiobook brilliantly narrated.

This is the second book in Joe Abercrombie's 'First Law' trilogy and it is important to read/listen to the books in order to get the most out of them.

The book picks up more or less when part 1 ended. There are now three distinct story lines involving Glokta, Major West and the Byas expedition and they are pretty much separate throughout. There is also a lot more action. But the main strengths of the first book continue: well written, excellent characters and plots and a tour de force of narration by Stephen Pacey, who brings the book brilliantly to life. Stunning is the only word to describe his performance.

A five star listen - I'm already onto to part 3!

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robyn
  • escaping to another world
  • 30-08-16

Excellent

I have just been hunting through my favourite authors, looking for some new releases from them, and realised that I hadn't rated this book yet!! When it comes to a Joe Abercrombie-Steven Pacey combination, I feel it part of my listener's duties to at least rate it, even if I don't write a full review.

Five stars it is. All round! Story, Performance, Overall! I've just re-read my review of the first book in the series, and realise how lukewarm it sounds. Clearly book one was just the warm up. Book 2 (and 3!) were outstanding. Steven Pacey brought it all to life with what must surely be an award-winning performance. Joe Abercrombie's writing is gritty, colourful, and positively alive. This is one of my favourite series.

When I'm trying to encourage somebody to try an audiobook for the first time, and if they're into fantasy, then Joe Abercrombie is always in my top three suggested! Always. And an Abercrombie-Pacey combination is hard to beat.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

How to apply dark comedy to a gritty fantasy


Joe Abercombie continues on top form with his second installment.

Story – 4.5/5

I did feel like a lot of the story was unnecessary to the overall aim, but what it did help to do was develop the characters, and this was clearly Joe Abercrombie’s intention, as he has set it up for one hell of a ride in the conclusion to the trilogy (which I have already read)

Each of the characters becomes even more likeable, and the dark comedy becomes even funnier as you learn more and the story develops. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect, and I found I couldn’t turn the audio book off.

This story has more action and violence than the first, concentrating on both the battles themselves as well as the politics behind them.

Performance – 5/5

Steven Pacey is one of the best narrators out there. His character acting was flawless, each having a distinctive and believable voice. His narration enhanced the dark comedy and whit of Joe Abercrombie’s writing

Music/sound effects between scenes/chapters was a nice touch as well

Overall – 4.5/5

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sarah
  • Bruton, United Kingdom
  • 10-06-12

These books are the reason I need more credits !!!

This second part of the trilogy is not the "mark time till the finale" filler usually found in fantasy trilogies. The characters are solid and the story makes turning off your mp3 player very hard.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Peter
  • Beulah, United Kingdom
  • 18-01-11

An excellent sequel.

This book continues the brilliant form of the first. There are some new characters introduced but mainly it continues the stories of the diverse and varied cast from the first book. It is bloodier than the first, with more battles and action, but retains the intelligence and humour of the first. A remarkable series of books so far, made all the more enjoyable by the narrator. An excellent effort all round!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

You have to be realistic - actually no you don't!

Logan Ninefingers often reminds us that "you have to be realistic", and normally in life that's fine advice especially when starting books that are getting such massively positive reviews. Sorry Logan, there are just some special occasions when you can forget realism and just escape it for a while. Judging by this series so far listening to an audiobook with the names Abercrombie and Pacey on it is one of those all too rare occasions.

There are few series out there that manage to deliver such incredible depth of characters, genuinely exciting storyline and yet still find ways to make you laugh regularly. Off the top of my head I can only think of one that has done this quite so well albeit with a very different storyline and in a completely different genre. Pacey here is the obvious link to Jussi Adler-Olsen's wonderful Department Q series but there's so much more to it than that.

The characters like Glokta for example, a twisted cripple, a husk of a man in constant pain, in turns deliciously evil and yet so human. The mingling of his thoughts with the main dialogue is a pure delight and no-one could do him much better than Pacey. He is portrayed so differently to the usual clichéd, pompous inquisitor types. He sees things for what they are and doesn't feign ignorance of things like the effects of rough treatment on a people. His assessments of the city of Dagoska and the people there demonstrate how well he is written.

The other characters too are richly drawn and I think that they are characters I will take to the grave with me, remembered long after others have faded back to the mud. Logan himself, Ferro, Giselle, so many to choose from and they take part in a much faster-moving and action-packed storyline in this instalment.

As for that comedy I mentioned, the sardonic and intimate thoughts of the likes of Glokta and Logan will keep the corners of your mouth twitching throughout. However something like two thirds of the way through the book is possibly my favourite ever "romantic encounter" scene of all-time. They aren't something I often remark upon but this is genuinely something a touch remarkable. I'll say no more but you'll see what I mean when you get to it!

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie he writes a good book. Say one thing about Steven Pacey, he reads a good book very well.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The narration is a delight

I have already read all of abercrombie's novels and I liked them so much I decided to get the whole series on audio.
The story is as wonderful as I remember it but what makes this so good is Steven Pacey's narration, he is brilliant. As soon as he starts talking you know exactly who is speaking and his accents are wonderful. Quite simply Pacey is one of the best narrators working today I cannot compliment him enough.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

awesome book

An excellent book with awesome narration. The narrator brings the book to life with distinct voices for every character. I laughed out loud in a way I likely never would if I'd have been reading this book myself. Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

somehow better than the first

seriously. just read (listen) to this. it's great fantasy with some of the best war scenes I've read (listened to). and I've read almost three other books so I know what I'm talking about. (one of them was a where's wolly book)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A good middle book to a well written trilogy.

Joe Abercrombie's "The First Law" trilogy is really growing on me (I have not read the 3rd book yet).

The second book in the series picks up where the first left off, upping the tempo on our journey of intrigue and danger, developing the main characters further and thrusting them deeper into the vortex of events which will leave the world around them forever changed.

The book has elements of surprise, and its only when you reach the end the that thing do not quite turn out as you expected.

The description of the war is realistic and portrayed in all it's horror. Let's be honest, war is ugly and this is where the author shows his great story writing skills.

Steven Pacey's narration is one of the best. He is soft, he is scared, he is dangerous, he is a man of many distinctive voices.

I would recommend this book to any fantasy fan.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 10-01-11

This is heaven

Abercrombie plays hardball. The moment you think you are getting ahead of the plot; as soon as it becomes obvious who is going to survive and who is not; an instant after you sigh with understanding and a knowing nod of the head, a new window opens, perspective changes, and everything in the room makes a new and different kind of sense. Finally you just quit trying to suss it all out, accept the fact that you are in the hands of a master, and listen--rapt. I have finished the first two books now and have no idea where this is going. I just know that I will be fascinated and satisfied when we arrive.
Steven Pacey is flawless. Exactly the narrator Abercrombie deserves. And all for less than ten dollars a book. This is heaven!!
Two caveats: under no circumstances should you read these books out of order, and if you have problems reading descriptions of brutality or tolerating common, sexually descriptive language, just don't bother starting.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Marcheta
  • 21-09-10

Great story, excellent narration

Joe Abercrombie is now on my list of writers to watch and Steven Pacey is superb. I've recommended this trilogy to friends, and the audio version is a must. Thanks to audible readers who mentioned Joe Abercrombie in their comments on other books or I would never have stumbled across this great trilogy.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lore
  • 27-04-13

Back to the Mud

Much like at the end of the first book in this series, I found myself completely caught by surprise when this book ended. Once again I was entranced by Joe Abercrombie’s characters and the life infused into them by Steven Pacey and it was jarring to abruptly be forced to return to real life. I say abruptly because there is no closure to the story arc with this book. If you decide to come this far then you will need to go further to sate your hunger for an outcome to the many story threads.

Book two follows Bayaz, Logen, Jezal, and Ferro on their quest to the edge of the world for a powerful artifact. Of course this is a volatile mix of personalities and the only time they aren’t close to killing each other is when someone else is trying to do the job for them.

The Union’s war in the North continues and Collem West finds himself entangled within a dysfunctional military leadership group facing a deadly enemy in Bethod and his assembled armies. With two Generals that spend more time opposing each other than the enemy and a useless, spoiled Prince the Union army is primed to destroy itself.

And finally, our old friend Glokta finds himself in the South tasked with preventing the Gurkish from taking the city of Dagoska. As a war starts up on a second, much less defended front, Glokta must fight his own demons from the past as a prisoner of the Gurkish in addition to the Gurkish themselves.

I was pleased with the increased amount of time spent with Logen’s former band of Northmen, which is now led by Threetrees. As with all of the other story threads I was always eager to find out what happened to them next and was always saddened anytime someone was sent back to the mud.

So if you enjoyed book one, I see no reason why you would not enjoy book two. As with book one, I am once again only handing out 4 stars overall because of how I was left hanging at the end. I was shocked when it was over and felt there should have been more to the book and more closure to the story threads before moving on to book 3. That being the case, I did not hesitate to fire up book 3 because I need to spend more time with my new friends, no matter how flawed they are. And I must know what happens...

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bronwyn Soell
  • 20-07-11

Continues an outstanding series

I am amazed once again by the high quality of this trilogy! Rather than disappoint, like so many sequels, Before They Are Hanged is even better than its predecessor! Joe Abercrombie's writing and characters are so interesting that I really have no 'favorite' parts. No matter which group of characters or storyline the plot is following, I am totally entertained and invested and can't wait to find out what happens next! Abercrombie's battle and fight scenes are particularly well written and evoke strong pictures in the mind- many better known authors would do well to study his style.
And Steven Pacey is a MARVEL. His vocal characterizations and accents are so solid, he brings each character to unique life, easily recognizable just by his voice. If you are looking for a new narrator to follow, look no further than Steven Pacey. I cannot give this book high enough marks for both story and reader!!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kevin
  • 04-07-10

Do yourself a favor and get this book

Finest author in the genre. This is not a novel for children, or for fans of unicorns and pixies. As fantasy books go, Mr Abercrombie writes his novels with an amazingly realistic portrayal of his many flawed but entertaining characters. Dark, gritty full of black humor, these books actually get better as the series progresses. Fantastic narration.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael J. Gibbons
  • 28-06-10

Previous Book Incomplete

Just finished The Blade Itself - the first book in this series.

Beware: The audiobook for Blade Itself does not include the entire book and is missing the last 3 chapters. Audible has removed, I'm assuming to fix the issue. If you have not read the first book I would wait until they fix the audiobook before starting this one.

With that said, I just started this book and am really liking the continuation of the story. The narration is fantastic (as in the first book) though read a little choppy during battle sequences. The narrator does a great job with the dialogue and infusing different character into each of the voices, especially Glokta. The writing style and dialogue is top notch. Anything Abercrombie has written to date is a treat. Note: not for the faint hearted.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Billy
  • 18-05-11

Amazing with GREAT narrator

Great, engaging story with a GREAT narrator. SO good I can listen to it on a stairclimber and get through an hour wanting to work out more so I can keep listening. Very gritty story, not for delicate audiences.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • 16-07-14

taken for a great ride

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

yes great story interesting compelling story

What other book might you compare Before They Are Hanged to and why?

game of thrones

What does Steven Pacey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

listening is a great time saver I would rather read and let my imagination create scenes but Steven does a marvelous job of painting a great story with his wonderful style

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

no but a great listen

Any additional comments?

give it a go if your a fantasy fan

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • donald
  • 02-01-13

The first law series, A MUST FOR FANTASY READERS

Any additional comments?

The first law series is an instant classic. GRR Martin fans are going to love it. The Performance is also top notch. The best of lists for the sff genre will put this series near the top. I am enjoying another Joe Abercrombie novel "Red Country".

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Craig
  • 30-11-12

Superior Fantasy for a new Century

I don't know where we're headed, but I'm LOVING how we're getting there! Joe Abercrombie does it again with the sequel to The Blade Itself. Another darker, grittier epic fantasy where the usual tropes and memes are turned on their heads, giving the same old chills and thrills we love of our usual epic fantasy, but with a more ominous and surprising edge. There are no pristine archetypes here, but rather a collection of flawed and fallible men and women struggling to do their . . . best . . . ? . . . worst? . . . well, definitely struggling, anyway. And as the story progresses you learn, organically and without chapters' worth of clumsy exposition, that some, if not all, of these characters aren't quite what they appear to be . . .

Can't wait to finish The Last Argument of Kings, which I downloaded directly the MINUTE I finished this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful