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Before They Are Hanged  - Joe Abercrombie While Superior Glokta holds Dagoska against the Gurkish, Collum West endures untold hardship in the north in the companion of the Prince and Logen's six barbarian friends. Meanwhile, Bayaz, Logen, Luthar, and Nessa head toward the edge of the world for something that should best be left buried...

As Elizabeth said in her review of The Two Towers, middle books in a trilogy are tricky business. While you occasionally get one the literary equivalent of The Empire Strike Back, most of them are more like Temple of Doom. This one is way closer to Empire in terms of quality. It even has an ending as shocking as "Luke, I am your father."

Where do I start? How about Glokta? Glokta is the Tyrion Lannister of the First Law trilogy as far as I'm concerned. He's crass, crippled, and very complicated. His protectiveness toward Ardee and dedication to the hopeless task of defending Dagoska against overwhelming odds won me over. More Glokta in the next book, please!

As for the other characters, I love how Bayaz keeps trickling out details of the history of the Magi, all the while not being completely trusted. The friendship between Logen and Nessa seemed fairly natural and I love what's going on with Luthar. The events in Aulcus were gripping page-turners. It was really hard to put the book down at the end of my lunch break. Qwai and Longfoot could be fleshed out a bit more but you can't have everything. Where would you keep it all?

Colonel West and the barbarians enduring the hellish Northern winter made King Stannis' march toward Winterfell seem like a breeze. West pushing the Prince off the cliff was one of my favorite parts of the book.

The ending was better than my highest expectations. I wonder how Bayaz and company will rebound from that, as well as Glokta and the mess he's found himself ensnared in.

In closing, no sophomore jinx here! Before They are Hanged was even better than The Blade Itself. Five gore-spattered stars!