One of the common issues for the second book of a trilogy is how it will keep the plot going and develop the characters ready for a good ending in the third book. Often you see the cause of good suffer a number setbacks so that the odds are really stacked against them for the end of the trilogy – think Two Towers and Empire Strikes Back for instance.
Joe Abercrombie’s Before They Are Hanged continues the plot lines established in the first book and does a good job of bridging the gap for the third book. However, I think there is a clear case that probably only one of the plotlines narrated in this book is really necessary. The other two feel like padding. The events of the narrative do more to build character, which is important, but very little actually really seems to happen that changes anything for the overall story. I’m not going to give any more detail on which plots accomplish this or don’t as that might necessitate too much description of what happens at the end of the book. I’d like to say now that this is still an immensely enjoyable read. Abercrombie again is brilliant at characterisation of his main characters and describing very tangicble and dangerous scenes for them. In the context of a trilogy I’m just not sure how strong the book is. However, I suspect that this is quite a common problem for any story that has to be wedged into the trilogy structure by unimaginative publishers.
So what plot lines are continued in this title:
Bayaz and his party venture to a new continent and across the steppe via ancient ruined cities looking for something that will defeat the rogue Magi who threatens the world. The most interesting part here is the development of the Luthar character and the relationship between Logen Ninefingers and Ferro. Say one thing about Logen Ninefingers, say he’s a memorable character.
In Angland Union forces fight against the invasion of Bethod’s forces. This chapters featuring this plot contain some excellent battle scenes and is probably my second favourite part of the book.
But probably the best features Glotka who arrives in Daroska to find out what happened to the last Superior and get the defences sorted out in preparation for attack by the Gurkish. He does well in pulling things into shape although he annoys the ruling council in the process. All the while he is worrying about his possible fate if he fails, providing his own commentary nearly everytime he speaks to another character. “Found floating face down in the docks” is how he imagines his death being reported if he puts a foot wrong with his superior, Arch Lector Sult.
All in all a good book and a good read, but not sure if it was all really necessary in the grand scheme of things.