A Slightly Different Review : Before They Are Hanged (The First Law #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Today is another slightly different format for a review.   This is my fourth buddy read with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger and she’s incredibly patient – which is needed in abundance with my dithery nonsense at the moment.. Our first buddy read was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier which was good but not a total lovefest for us, our second A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab fell a little bit flat to be honest.  Then we moved on to First Law which was our most successful buddy read and a book we loved so obviously we wanted to continue.

Slight spoiler alert – this book was also brilliant.  I still can’t  believe that I left this series for so long but in a way I’m happy that I did because reading this with Mayri is a much better experience.  We bounce ideas off each other and it’s a good deal of fun.

Similar to our previous buddy reads this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round I will be posting the opening chapters and Mayri will be posting the conclusion – so don’t forget to stop by and see our concluding thoughts.

Also, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during our read this post will contain spoilers so if you’re planning on reading this series you might want to avoid  this post.

The conversation below follows weeks 1 and 2:

Before they are hanged

The Great Leveller to Bloody Company (inclusive)

(Pages 3 -158 in my copy)

Mayri: Turns out I couldn’t wait until the weekend to get my thoughts down now I’ve finished this first section, because …. Oooooooo, it’s good isn’t it?!  

Lynn: It really is.  I fell right back into it, no hesitation, no needing to look back at our notes from the last book to catch up – I just picked up as though there hadn’t even been a break.  And I love these characters so I’m never grumpy when I have to switch from one storyline to the next.

Mayri: Yes to both of these observations! 

I’ll try to keep my thoughts in order: Firstly, I love that we start with Dogman – I’m very fond of him! His POV is so … humble? He’s a man who knows his limitations.

Lynn: I liked that we started with the gang.

Mayri: Secondly, two promotions, eh? Major West to Colonel, and Inquisitor Glokta to Superior, and I don’t feel like either of these are going to be a good thing! West’s going to have to babysit the Crown Prince, which will be no mean feat because that lad’s an arse. 

Lynn: I do like Glokta – I mean, he’s not a nice person is he?  But I can’t help finding him funny with the stream of conscious thought that we’re privy to.  

Mayri: Yes! And I love his imagining the letters Vitari may or may not be sending back to Sult. His self-deprecation is definitely what keeps us on his side, I think.

I have a question: how do you feel about West now? I liked him in The Blade Itself, until he hit his sister, and now I find I can’t forgive him for that. Yeah, he’s been lumped with Prince Ladisla, but a part of me is thinking ‘you deserve it buddy. Suck it up.’

Lynn: West. I’m trying to reach a balanced position with him, so on the one hand, I was really annoyed with him but on the other I’m trying to understand him better – he feels very angry all the time doesn’t he? I don’t particularly think the promotion is a good thing for him, it definitely feels like babysitting and also a ‘gig’ that nobody else would want – the promotion just feels like a little sweetener, by way of ‘yes, we’re giving you the job that nobody else wants, but, look, you’ve been promoted’.

Mayri: Abercrombie still writes West sympathetically though, and I can’t hate him either. 

Lynn: Yes, Abercrombie does have a way of making you like people even when you feel annoyed with them. I feel ‘on the fence’ about West. He can’t undo what he’s done after all but I’d like to wait and see if this was a one off bout of losing control or it’s more his nature to behave in that way. Either way – gah – my head is messed up. It’s going to be bad no matter what.

Mayri: And Glokta has got an even less enviable task, although I really want him to succeed in holding Dagoska, just to rub it in Arch Lector Sult’s face. It’s such a set up. 

Lynn: Same as above, it’s like ‘when is a promotion not a promotion?’ When you’re being set up to fail I suppose. I think Glokta will surprise everyone though – I hope so anyway.

Mayri: Agreed. I don’t know who I have more sympathy for – Glokta, or Logen, trying to make friends with the absolute worst bunch of unlikely found family candidates … ever. I’m impressed that he’s decided to try! (And when are we going to learn more about his weird Bloody Nine episode? Argh, Abercrombie’s good at playing the long game).  

Lynn: Yep, it’s a tough call. I think at the moment I feel as though Glokta has the biggest task ahead, but, that’s probably because I don’t really know what Logen is going to be faced with yet. I’m loving his attempts to bring the group together and the fact that he intrinsically realises that this is a necessary thing if they’re all going to have a chance at survival. Did Bayaz understand that about Logen when he sought him out?

Mayri: I wonder. Bayaz definitely picked them all for Reasons.

I really like Logen’s character. I like that he’s badass, but also stupid sometimes (tripping over when he’s trying to be all stealthy; eating flower arrangements), that he’s intelligent, but good at appearing not to be, and that he thinks it’s worth trying to bring Bayaz’s weird group together, even if only for survival (none of them are dream companions, after all). 

Lynn: Logen is definitely my favourite character, I loved that he cocked up the stealthy creeping through the undergrowth, especially as he was trying to be so impressive. And Bayaz understands that here is a man that holds back. He doesn’t say a lot but what he does say is usually worth listening to. I mean, is he quiet because he has little to say or is he more switched on than he at first appears? I think with the whole bunch Bayaz has chosen this little ‘fellowship’ for a reason and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Mayri: Yes! So much anticipation!

Hmmm, also, is it just me, or is Quai suspiciously different to how he was in the first book? I could be jumping at shadows, but after the talk of enemies who can wear friends’ faces I’m feeling a bit freaked about how he’s all “quiet, hard, watchful” (and with a lot better recall than in the first volume) where before he was kind of sickly and a bit, well, wet. Nervous. Or perhaps I’m remembering him wrong?  

Lynn: No, it’s not just you. Well, I hadn’t had any thoughts about the face wearing convo so nice thinking with that, but he seems a lot more confident or perhaps capable would be a better word. In fact didn’t Bayaz make a comment about him during the story telling – I’m going to have to go back and take a look – yes, he interrupted his story telling about the fall of the Empire saying ‘your grip on the histories seems much improved.’ And, then he repeated something similar at the end of the tale. There was an exchange between Bayaz and Quai where Bayaz said something about being ignorant of the ways of magic – and Quai – “inclined his head and said ‘I live to learn.’” and Bayaz replied “and in that regard you seem much improved”. Now, in the light of your suspicions this whole convo now feels strangely sinister whereas I didn’t pick up on any of that at all. Now I’m going to be supremely paranoid about Quai and keeping my beady eye on him.

Mayri: You’re welcome! 😁

I’m intrigued by some of the history we’ve learned and how it relates to Ferro. 

Lynn: Yes, I’m loving finding out more about her background. She has something strangely feral about her doesn’t she. Definitely not someone you’d one to land on the wrong side of but I like her no nonsense approach.

Mayri: I hope for Great Things from her!

But, oh shoot, West has got a surprise coming! I … don’t know what to think about this. Along with everything else it’s like all the plans are going to go to crap! *claps hands gleefully* 

Lynn: Yep, he’s definitely in for a surprise. I feel like all sorts of things are going to start escalating very quickly now for all the storylines. Glokta is making many enemies. West has an army on his doorstep, and Bayaz and his gang are heading for Aulcus – which is the very place that no one visits now it’s been razed and is little more than a graveyard.

Mayri: I think you’re right, Abercrombie set the scene plenty in The Blade Itself, everything’s going to kick off now. (Looking forward to Aulcus).

Finally, I had never particularly considered the male nipple before. Sheesh, that was a heck of a scene! *sucks teeth* 

Lynn: Oh my, yes. It made my skin crawl a little. Like, ouch.

Section 2

Long Shadows to Heading North (inclusive)

(Pages 159 – 300)

Mayri: You gave me excellent advice when you told me not to read this section while I was prepping for my interview. Holy cow! So much happens!! 

Lynn: And you got the job so yippee!

Mayri: I did, thank you. ❤

Ah, but Ferro is just a lovely person underneath, isn’t she? *heavy sarcasm* The chapter Long Shadows starts with Logen still trying his best to be friendly, but by the end of this section she and he are in a kind of accord. Fighting side by side at least. I like how begrudging she is of any sign of friendship. And how frigging badass she is, almost without a thought. 

Lynn: Yep. Couldn’t agree more. There’s a section where one of them – I think Logen – mentions that everyone has fear before a fight, then he kind of looks round the group, eyes land on Ferro, and he says maybe she is the exception. We did glean a little bit more  information in relation to her perhaps having the blood of a demon, very diluted, but even so.

Mayri: I’m actually, finally, starting to like Jezal too. Like, he’s slowly realising he doesn’t know jack and that he should listen a bit more to Logen. I’m interested to see how he feels about his scar when he finally gets a look at it. *sniggers* (Because I still don’t like him that much!).  

Lynn: He’s not the pretty prince any more by the sounds of it. I like that Abercrombie makes him such a foppish character. But, at the same time his emotions are brilliantly explored. He has the good sense to seek advice from Logen, he admits that he’s terrified, he’s in fact paralysed with fear and unable to help the first time he’s caught up in a real situation and is then so angry with himself, and then finally he manages to pull something out of the bag only to turn his back too soon! He brings the comedy element to the book in a way. And now, he’s had his first real experience.

Mayri: Logen has achieved a lot in a short space of time with these two, and all of his bits have been so cool. Alternating between funny and tense.  

Lynn: I’m loving the way he’s bringing this group together. You can see why he was in charge of the Northmen gang of Named Men.

Mayri: And now Bayaz is out for the count, I wonder is Quai going to reveal his hand? That was creepy, what he said when Bayaz was lying in the cart. But I think maybe Quai is waiting for something? 

Lynn: Yes, I very much get the impression that Bayaz is aware that something is rotten in Denmark and is playing a waiting game. He seemed to be suspicious of Quai when he was telling his story round the campfire and in fact stopped him twice from revealing something that he doesn’t want to be aired. I thought it was interesting the way the magic works and that it takes a toll – hope Bayaz isn’t out for the count for too long and yes, that scene with him in the cart – creepy. I’m not sure what he’s waiting for, he must have something that he’s waiting for Bayaz to reveal, otherwise anything could have happened already by now. 

Mayri: Oooh, I just thought … they’re going to get something from Aulcus – I wonder if Quai is biding his time until the Something has been got?

Glokta’s adventures have been the most absorbing though – so many surprises (I mean, yeah, I should have seen it all coming, but I really didn’t), especially Shickel… that was soo creepy. Eaters – I want to know everything and never hear about them again at the same time!  

Lynn: Haha, yes. I totally didn’t see that coming. 

Mayri: What’s the deal with Valint and Balk giving Glokta the money he needs, do you think? I’m trying to remember what we know about the bank from the first book, but I can’t quite. Can you?  

Lynn: No, I was also trying to recall. Other than that they seemed to be the ones funding the guild of Mercers in book one – which was why Glokta was intent on looking into them more.

Mayri: And Yulwei’s visit to Glokta was interesting too. I’m curious about him. He gives Glokta some information, which is helpful, but ultimately I don’t think it’s going to save Dagoska from the Gurkish, so why? Why did he trouble himself? I don’t feel like Glokta is one of Bayaz and Yulwei’s chosen few (at the moment), but I can’t help but assume Yulwei was helping Glokta personally and not the city when he came to tell him about the Gurkish navy and all the troops flocking to take the city for the Emperor. 

Lynn: To me it felt like Yulwei appeared to give information to Glokta simply as a means of forming some kind of trust between the two of them (but I’m probably wrong) so that the next time (if there is a next time) that Yulwei appears Glokta will be inclined to believe him. 

Mayri: It’ll be interesting to find out. 

And Khalul is sending his own soldiers too, which means more Eaters, right? *shudder* 

Lynn: And those eaters are so strong.  It took three people to bring Shickel down after all.

Mayri: Finally, poor West. I almost feel sorry for him, what a shitty position he’s now in. 

I so wanted the Prince to get killed, the useless sod. But no, we’ve got to suffer him a bit longer. Although I think it’ll be more fun now Threetrees and company are in charge. 

Lynn: Definitely a bit more fun and they’re not going to take any crap are they? They know what they’re about and they’re not going to let the Prince give them away. I can’t imagine they’ll have a lot of patience for his shenanigans.

Mayri: Dow needs a kick in the fruits. 

Lynn: Yes he does.

Mayri: Have I mentioned before that I love Dogman? I love Dogman. His memory of Shari was touching, and I think he’s quite like Logen – rough looking exterior, but more going on inside than people know. He’s a good character. I hope he stays that way. 

Lynn: Yep,I feel myself becoming strangely attached to these characters which makes me feel apprehensive about all the danger they’re in. I think my one hope is that this strange band of Northmen and their new companions will eventually meet up with Bayaz and his crew – or more to the point Logen. That’s a reunion that will be worth reading.

Mayri: Heck yes! That’d be so cool! *crosses fingers and toes* 

I also really want Dogman to find out that Logen isn’t dead like he thinks he is. I don’t know why that’s important to me, but it is.  

Lynn: Exactly.

So, that completes our thoughts on weeks 1 and 2 – now stop over to Bookforager to check out our final feelings.

We should be picking up book 3 very soon.


A Slightly Different Review : The Blade Itself (The First Law #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Today is another slightly different format for a review.   This is my third buddy read with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger. Our first buddy read was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, our second A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab.  .

Slight spoiler alert – this book was brilliant.  All I can say – to myself that is – is what was I thinking leaving this so long before picking it up.  Obviously it has rave reviews and loads of love – I sometimes think I’m simply afraid to be happy.  This is now corrected though because I loved this and can’t wait to continue.

Similar to our previous buddy reads this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round I will be posting the opening chapters and Mayri will be posting the conclusion – so don’t forget to stop by and see our concluding thoughts.

Also, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during our read this post will contain spoilers so if you’re planning on reading this book you might want to avoid both posts.

The conversation below follows weeks 1 and 2:


Week 1 – The End to An Offer and a Gift (inclusive) 

Mayri: And everything about this book grabs my attention! Logen’s frying-pan-to-fire beginning, our introduction to Glokta and his work, even Jezal’s utter shittiness. I think it’s the humour that makes Logen and Glokta kind of likeable even though evidence suggests they’re not. As for Jezal, I’m enjoying laughing at him (especially now that we’ve encountered Ardee!). 

Lynn: Yes, I feel like I’ve totally fallen on my feet with this one already,  I think, all things being equal I’m going to like Logen, but here’s the funny thing, I equally think I’m going to like the others – which is really weird considering one of them is a torturing so and so. 

Mayri: Yes, yes, yes! I agree!

I’m kind of aware that a plot is brewing in the background, but have been enjoying just meeting everyone, so I’m really hoping I haven’t missed anything vital so far. I’m intrigued by Logen’s ability to talk to the spirits and why Bayaz wants him/what Bayaz wants him for. I’ve got Foreboding Feelings about Glokta’s work for Sult (although maybe I should be more worried for Sult?) And Bethod’s emissaries are bloody terrifying – I think the Union is seriously underestimating the King of the Northmen. But then it wouldn’t be very interesting if they weren’t, would it? Ha ha!

Lynn: Yes, I don’t think I could confidently discuss the plot at this point. Clearly something is ticking over nicely and I feel like there are going to be various strands that eventually pull together but I don’t think you’ve missed anything *she said confidently, hoping all along that she hasn’t missed anything!* The spirit-talking is fascinating and especially why there are less spirits – well, not really I suppose, there’s already been a discussion on how there is less magic in this world so clearly the spirits are giving up the ghost! (hah! I’m here all week).  

Mayri: *laughing so hard over here*

Lynn: I like Bayaz already, the way he sent that snivelling Princeling away with his tail between his legs (take that).  I literally have no idea if I’m supposed to like these guys or not but the brain wants what the brain wants I suppose.  

Mayri: Yeah, Bayaz is incredibly satisfying so far – wonderfully un-wizard-like, tells it like it is, bit of a dude. I hope we’ll get lots more of him.

Lynn: I think Sult is scary in his manipulative scheming way, but I think Glokta is more scary in his totally dispassionate ability to carry out orders to the letter no matter how distasteful they might be – I wonder if he will rebel at some point? 

Mayri: This is exactly what I’m hoping for! I feel like he’s being set up as a scapegoat, but I think Sult is seriously underestimating our friend Glokta! A dangerous man to be on the wrong side of, methinks.

Lynn: It was interesting that he was dreaming about his earlier life and in particular Ardee – I wonder if she will be a particular weakness for him?  Speaking of Ardee – what do you think she’s got tucked up her sleeve (apart from a clean hankie).  She’s definitely a clever one and seems to be working her womanly wiles on Jezal.  She literally has him wrapped around her little finger nail.

Mayri: I’ve no idea what Ardee might be up to (yet), but I think we’re going to really enjoy finding out!

Lynn: Those emissaries – well, they certainly stopped everyone in their tracks.  Wow.  Just wow.  I am scared – and they’re fictional characters!

Mayri: Heck yeah! Terrifying! Abercrombie writes incredibly well, don’t you think? He had me feeling sorry for Logen’s cook pot when he left it behind at the lake side and I was all like, whoah, this dude can write! Dagnabbit! 

Lynn: Oh yes. I love his writing. He just has this incredible ability to pull you in almost from the first page – how on earth can he make you have feelings for a cook pot!  It’s ridiculous but it felt like he was abandoning a newborn pony instead of a shaped iron pot.

Mayri: *snort giggles*

Lynn: Basically, so far so good. I have such a good feeling about this one. Can’t wait to start week 2.

Mayri: YASSS! All signs point to awesome so far! Onward!

Week 2 – The King of the Northern to Barbarians at the Gate (inclusive)

Mayri: OK, so wow, tons to unpack in this next section *rolls sleeves up*:

Logen has history with Bethod; Bethod has a witch; Dogman and company survived and I don’t know about you but I like them a lot, but they think Logen’s dead *sad face*; Jezal is getting mixed messages from Ardee, and meets the decidedly odd Yoru Sulfur; Glokta brings down the Mercers guild and we meet a couple of new characters: Ferro and Yulwei, who I’m bursting to know more about! Oh, and Bayaz, Malacus and Logen have reached the Agriont, thanks to fancy dress costumes! 

Lynn: (I loved the fancy dress).

I’m so happy that I’ve read these chapters again.  Obviously – all the above – then on top of this I just adore the banter and the dialogue.  It just makes me smile.  I recall reading the chapter where Jezal and Ardee have an argument.  She gives him a good dressing down for being a whining kid (which has partly been brought on by boredom on her part and also being snubbed by the other nobles and their wives, etc), as Jezal storms off he’s thinking in his head that she’s a bloody commoner who should be grateful that he gave her any attention – it’s only a small thing but it makes me smile because he’s thinking exactly what Ardee has just accused the other nobles of – he either wasn’t listening (highly possible) or he just didn’t understand her point (also highly possible). Also,  I can’t help seeing this guy whenever I’m reading about Jezal (I’m sorry it’s just stuck in my brain now and I can’t unsee it):


Mayri: Yeah, this book is totally my cup of tea!  

Lynn: Me too

Mayri: I love Glokta’s new base of operations and his relationship with Practicals Severard and Frost (they got him a chair and a stool. With a cushion. Aww!). In fact, I really like Glokta in general – his internal voice is just so perfect – dry, sarcastic, occasionally self-mocking, unflinching. He’s a horrible, terrible man and I love his story so far!

Lynn: Yes, such a strange character – I mean he’s a torturer, and he seems by all accounts to enjoy his work!  I feel like I should be absolutely repulsed by him but his internal thoughts are so intriguing.  

Mayri: And I’m so glad we get to meet Dogman! And Tul Durham Thunderhead, Black Dow, Grim, Three trees and Forley the Weakest – all names to conjure with, eh? – I really enjoyed this brief introduction to Logen’s crew and thought Abercrombie did a great job of very quickly sketching in their relationships to one another and the gap left by Logen’s “death”. Yet more evidence of Abercrombie’s masterful style.

Lynn: Again, spot on. Abercrombie seems to be able to draw a character – or a few characters to be fair, within one fairly short chapter and give you a good feel for them. It’s remarkable really. This meeting of Logen’s crew was also a really great way of giving us more food for thought about Logen. Clearly he had the respect of these men – some of them very tough by the sounds of things – and this tells it’s own story.

Mayri: Nicely put.

Lynn: I loved the chapter with Logen, Bayaz and Malacus sat round the campfire discussing plant names and properties – and then Logen asks what potion Bayaz is cooking in the fire pot – only to find out it’s tea! (And Logen thinks it smells like feet! How very dare). I was also really happy that this chapter gave us an explanation for the name of the series – the First Law – that it is forbidden to speak with Devils. 

Mayri: Hmm, I’ve a nasty feeling Bethod is going to be far more dangerous than I first thought. I loved the way Bayaz handled his meeting with the King of the Northmen, although Logen’s fear had me worried. The bit later with Blacktoe also made me uneasy – Logen used to be Bethod’s champion? The Feared was possibly created by the witch Caurib? And Blacktoe now works for Bethod – there doesn’t appear to be anyone resisting Bethod and I’m not sure the Union will stand up to the Northmen. These people are … brutal.

(Blacktoe’s death actually brought a tear to my eye too – although that’s happening a lot at the moment,  so I might just be particularly squishy at the moment!)

Lynn: That scene was a bit gutting to be honest.  

Mayri: Wow, Bayaz’s magic! That was frigging awesome!

Lynn: Yes, and I was particularly intrigued that Logen could sense the magic before it struck – does this mean he has magic abilities, obviously we already know he can speak to the dead but this feels new.

Mayri: Ooo, I didn’t notice this, but have just gone back to reread it and yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s very intriguing!

I’m interested in Ferro and Yulwei 

Lynn: (also known as Old Bastard – lol)  

Mayri: lol. I can’t help but wonder about the similarities between these two and Logen and Bayaz. Two fighters and two magicians … what are the odds on them being on the same side, I wonder? 

Lynn: That’s such a good point – and I seriously hope they’re on the same side.  It feels like things might be going in that direction or I could just be reading that wrong or I’m putting my own hopeful interpretation on things – because I think they would make an awesome crew.

Mayri: Heck yes! They’d be unstoppable! 🙂

Also, what’s an Eater? I suspect we’re not going to want to know.

As for Jezal, I still like him the least, but I like seeing him mucked about by Glokta and Ardee … and Glokta has reflected on how he was once in Jezal’s position. I don’t know why, but that unsettles me. It doesn’t really suggest that Jezal will improve with time, does it?

Lynn: Yes, I think this storyline is perhaps not quite as gripping – but then in other ways I wonder about Ardee and where that particular train is heading.  She’s clearly clever and it feels like she’s definitely up to something.  I guess we’ll see.

Mayri: Yeah, I’m very curious to see what Ardee is up to!

Finally, I really didn’t like seeing Logen in the city, being seen as stupid and brutish. I hadn’t realised how fond of him I am, but I feel quite protective of him and Jezal’s image of him gawking at the fountain made me so angry. (Won’t be sorry to see Jezal squashed under Logen’s little finger!) I  was also shocked that Logen’s so big – I thought he’d reflected on his own comparative smallness back in the first few chapters (can’t find it now), so having him seen as a great hulking brute by Jezal ruined my mental picture. 

Lynn: As you said above, I loved the way they got into the city in fancy dress. Too funny.  I also hadn’t thought of Logen as big – or tall – I’m not sure why that is because as soon as he reaches the city he definitely stands out and some of that seems to be that everyone thinks he’s a huge northern brute.  I’m waiting for the moment that Jezal realises that Logen has a brain inside that thick looking skull and that he knows how to use it.

Mayri: Ah, that makes me feel a bit better! I shall anticipate Jezal’s embarrassment!! Ha ha!

(and as for Malacus Quai, he really is a useless drip isn’t he?) *shakes head in despair* 

Lynn: lol – I loved the scene from above where he’s on a horse running away from capture and he’s described as ‘bouncing’ – I could picture him so vividly just with that one word and it does lend itself to his overall ‘uselessness’ – although it does give Logen somebody close to hand who constantly needs rescuing.

Mayri: Ha! Poor guy – ‘your role in this story is to make the other guy look good. You will be rescued regularly!’

So, that completes our thoughts on weeks 1 and 2 – now stop over to Bookforager to check out our final feelings.