Before They Are Hanged is the second novel in The First Law Trilogy and was Joe Abercrombie's second novel. It was first published in March 2007 by Gollancz in the UK, with an American edition following from Pyr Books.
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.
Main Point-of-View Characters
Other Influential Characters
Plot Summary Edit
The second book in the series continues to follow the six point-of-view characters established in the first book, in three parallel arenas. The year is 575 and in the north, Colonel Collem West and the Dogman find themselves allies as the Union Army face Bethod’s rampaging army in Angland. In the south, Glokta is sent across the sea to help fortify the besieged city of Dagoska against the Gurkish. And finally in the west, Logen Ninefingers, Jezal dan Luthar and Ferro Maljinn follow the ancient First of the Magi on his journey through the wild Old Empire to the Edge of the World.
In the north, Bethod has managed to forge the unruly Northmen into powerful fighting force. After a bruising defeat, Colonel West, Prince Ladisla and a young Union woman called Cathil find themselves isolated from the rest of the Union Army. As Threetrees and Dogman lead them back to the rest of the army, West quickly begins to fall for Cathil. When he catches Prince Ladisla trying to rape the girl, West tosses Crown Prince Ladisla off a cliff. West eventually regroups with the Union Army. Thanks to the rebel Northmen's knowledge of the Bethod’s deployment, they manage to drive Bethod's army out of Angland in the battle of Dunbrec. However the cost is high, with Threetrees and Cathil going "back to the mud".
In the south, as Glokta prepares Dagoska for the ensuing siege, it quickly becomes clear that there is a traitor within the city ruling council. However, he finds unlikely allies in Nicomo Cosca a notoriously unreliable mercenary commander, and the mysterious bank Valint & Balk who provide a sizable contribution to the war effort in return for unspecified future favours. When a Gurkish emissary arrives demanding a peaceful handover of the city, Glokta takes the opportunity to torture the names of the traitors out of him; Carlot dan Eider and the Governors' son. This victory is a pyrrhic one, as the Gurkish forces begin to breach the city and Glokta almost gets murdered by an Eater. Glokta barely escapes with his life, though he is credited with defending the city for much longer than expected. Back in Adua, Glokta is next tasked with investigating the murder of Crown Prince Raynault. Under pressure from the Arch Lector, he is forced to extract a confession from an innocent man. Now with both heirs to the throne dead, the next High King of the Union will be elected in Open Council.
To the west, Bayaz journeys across the vast broken land with Ferro, Jezal, Logen, Quai, and a navigator called Longfoot to retrieve an ancient magical relic called The Seed from the edge of the world. The long and arduous journey sees the group accosted by bandit, and cross the desolated splendour of the ancient capital where nothing lives, except for Shanka. The adventure raises some intriguing questions: why do so many of Bayaz’s Order hold him in such contempt? Would Logen and Ferro actually be happy together if they could only spit the words out? Is being forced away from his cocoon of luxury making a better man of Jezal? And what is going on with Quai and his brooding silences? The quest ends on distant shore where the supposed relic turns out to be a simple stone; Bayaz has been tricked.
Chapter Summaries Edit
- “The skies make no special dispensation for Magi, boy, they piss on everyone the same.” Bayaz
- “Honour, eh? What the hell is that anyway? Every man thinks it's something different. You can't drink it. You can't fuck it. The more of it you have the less good it does you, and if you've got none at all you don't miss it.” Cosca
- “Very well, Practical Vitari, if you really can’t resist me. You’ll have to go on top, though, if you don’t mind.” Glokta
- “Fearlessness is a fool's boast, to my mind. The only men with no fear in them are dead, or the soon to be dead, maybe. Fear teaches you caution, and respect for your enemy, and to avoid sharp edges used in anger. All good things in their place, believe me. Fear can bring you out alive, and that's the very best anyone can hope for from any fight. Every man who's worth a damn feels fear. It's the use you make of it that counts.” Logen
- “Strange, isn't it. Big men, small men, thin men, fat men, clever men, stupid men, they all respond the same to a fist in the guts. One minute you think you're the most powerful man in the world. The next you can't even breathe by yourself.” Glokta
- “I loved to sit at the top of the fire, to look at men and see their fear, to have no man dare to meet my eye, but it got worse. And worse.” Logen
- “I have a conscience, but it’s a feeble, withered shred of a thing. It couldn’t protect you or anyone else from a stiff breeze. You could not even guess at the things that I have done. Awful, evil, obscene, the telling of them alone could make you puke. They nag at me from time to time, but I tell myself I had good reasons. The years pass, the unimaginable becomes everyday, the hideous becomes tedious, the unbearable becomes routine. I push it all into the dark corners of my mind, and it’s incredible the room back there. Amazing what one can live with.” Glokta
- “Rising early. Of course. The second greatest virtue. It comes just behind ruthlessness.” Sult
- “The Open Council, voting for our next king. A few hundred self-serving halfwits who can’t be trusted to vote for their own lunch without guidance.” Sult
- “Rudd Threetrees, Rock of Uffrith, they called him. No bigger name in all the North. Great fighter. Great leader. Great friend. Lifetime o’ battles. Stood face to face with the Bloody-Nine, then shoulder to shoulder with him. Never took an easy path, if he thought it was the wrong one. Never stepped back from a fight, if he thought it had to be done. I stood with him, walked with him, fought with him, ten years, all over the North. I’ve no complaints.” Grim
- The title references a quote by Heinrich Heine: "We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged." Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. The full quote goes: "I am the most peaceable of men. All I ask is a humble cottage with a thatched roof, a good bed, good food, fresh milk and butter, flowers before my window and a few fine trees at my door; and if the dear Lord wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees. Before their death I shall forgive them all the wrongs they did me in their lifetime. One must forgive one’s enemies – but not before they have been hanged."