top of page

Triage of a Novel: Before They are Hanged

Across the Room: The second instalment of the "First Law Trilogy" is a dark and gritty masterpiece that continues to follow some of my favourite antiheroes in literature. Sprinkled with just the right amount of comic relief, I am still shocked it took me this long to discover Abercrombie in the first place.


Temperature: Normothermic, on the low side: A "hypothermic" tone is not always detrimental to these reviews. However, I’m giving this one a low normothermia, simply because of the magic and humour that’s sprinkled throughout this tale.

Heart Rate: Regular Rate and Rhythm. I never got bored reading this book. However, it’s so dense with detail and content, I couldn’t just read it in one sitting. While it was one of my slower reads, it was worth it (more of a savouring the meal than scarfing-down). The slow parts were perfectly slow, and the action fast paced. My heart was thumping as though I was actually in the battles!

Blood Pressure: Normotensive: While there are quite a few POV characters, and several storylines to follow, they were all easy to meld together. I love how Abercrombie is able to make seemingly unrelated scenes/events mesh together so you can get an overall feel for the sheer size of the world he’s created.

Respirations: Regular rate and rhythm: These characters are so deeply flawed, it’s a shock I root for them! However, the way that Joe is able to use their backgrounds and experiences to create such deeply dynamic characters is second-to-none. They feel like real people to me, though I don’t think I’d want to meet *any* of them in person.

Oxygenation: Well-oxygenated: I just love Joe’s style with his prose and settings. The way he’s able to describe everything based on the POV characters *and* their current moods is so much fun.

Work of Breathing: No Shortness of Breath: I had no problems staying immersed in this story.


Family: Fantasy (most folks would call this "Grimdark")

Medical: I notice a bit of a crutch on the use of adverbs throughout the story. However, it’s not so glaring that it distracts me from staying immersed.

Psychiatric: The way that these characters can establish friendships and camaraderie despite their circumstances is intriguing. Watching each character’s biases get challenged through their forced proximity to each other makes for some clever comedy as well.

Socio-economic: Marketed to "Trade" adult audience. Definitely fits.

Head to Toe Assessment

Head and Face: When I bought the box-set of the trilogy, I was expecting the US black-text-on-white covers. So, when they were delivered with the UK covers, I was pleasantly surprised. Either way, the covers are beautiful, the blurbs are intriguing, and I would have likely walked home with them from the bookstore anyway.

Neck: I like how this instalment picks up where the previous left-off, but not in such a jarring way that it was the middle of the closing scene from book 1.

Chest: Each subplot has its own inciting incident, and the stakes are risen to a level that I don’t have a whole lot of hope for these characters. I have enough to keep rooting for them, but…not a lot.

Abdomen and Flanks: This is where I was most immersed. Glokta’s plight in Dagoska, West’s struggles in Angland, Bayaz’s rag-tag team on their journey to the edge of the world, and Dogman’s journey with his Northmen comrades. I was invested every step of the way.

Perineum: Each character’s breaking point was about as high-stakes as you can get. In fact, I have a bad feeling about some of them that makes me question my desire to want his victory (except Glotka. He’s the best character in the trilogy. You can’t change my mind.)

Extremities: I really don’t know how Joe will be able to up the stakes, but I don’t have a doubt he’ll make it happen. There was so much to unpack in the climax of this instalment, I would have gotten lost if I’d tried to read the whole thing in one sitting. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. It’s just something I know about myself.

Backside: The stakes are already higher. Dang. I just love how both books 1 and 2 end with Glotka and his "Why do I do this?" attitude.

Prognosis: Excellent (5 stars). This middle book definitely didn’t suffer from the dreaded "Middle Book Syndrome" like some trilogies do. I can’t wait to read and triage book 3! Again, how did it take me so dang long to discover Joe Abercrombie!?

As always,

Stay safe. Stay sane. Keep healthy. Keep smiling. Much love!

6 views0 comments


bottom of page