Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie continues right from where The Blade Itself left off; in this book, the story starts rolling. While all characters converged in Adua during the prequel, they now scatter in almost all directions. Collem West travels aide to Lord Marshal Burr, the army’s commander-in-chief, into the north; Bethod has finally moved his armies into Angland and forced the Union to fight back. They lead mostly untried lads, the only experienced troops under the command of two generals who put their rivalry before military sense. As if that was not bad enough, pampered Crown Prince Ladisla tags along, his mind set to harvest glory for himself.
Inquisitor Glotka heads in the opposite direction; he has reveiced a delicate mission from the head of Inquisition himself: He is to return to the country of his downfall. The city of Dagoska, won from the Gurkish during the last war, threatens to fall to its old master. Glotka is to make sure the city holds no matter what and solve his predecessor’s mysterious disappearance while he is at it.
The rest of the cast including Logen and Jezal is dragged to the far west by suspicious magus Bayaz. Their goal is to obtain a powerful magical relic with which to fight Bayaz’ former colleague Kalul who draws the strings behind the Gurkish war effort. Not exactly role-models and trusting traveling companions, the party has to meet more than one challenge on their trip, a fair number of them between the members themselves.
If volume one was a book of introduction, this one is of transformation. Most characters are pushed outside their comfort zone, have to cope and come through changed. This is most notable in Jezal, of course, who gets his first impression of real life. In others like Glotka or West, changes are more subtle with them actively questioning themselves. Bayaz and Logen appear more settled, almost fixpoints. I am not sure why Bayaz keeps Logen around but he sure as sunset as a big plot going with none the wiser.
Oh but I like these books. I am not sure I follow all praise out there to the letter, but more on that after I finished the series. There is not much to say about this book on its own—without spoiling, that is—as it builds suspension and potential that is bound to be released in the series’ final volume. Can’t wait!