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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Before They Are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie "Anyone can face ease and success with confidence. It is the way we face trouble and misfortune that defines us." I thoroughly enjoyed this book. BTAH continues to follow the troop of reluctant heroes, including Ninefingers, Jezel, Bayaz and Ferro; Inquisitor Glokta, defending a besieged city and hunting for a traitor; and Colonel West working to defend Angland against the Northman, along with a small band of Northmen with grudges of their own. In that sense, it's very much the second book in a trilogy, and I don't think it would stand as well read on its own or out of order. However, there is largely a complete story arc for each of our groups, so while the larger issues of the invasions and political maneuvering continue to grow in complexity, I didn't feel as if it was a complete cliffhanger ending. I can't say enough about how well Abercrombie writes characters. They all feel so real, layered, and different. When plugged into a quest plot, there is a risk of them turning into stereotypes, but that is adroitly avoided by the depth and feeling given to them. It's interesting that we get the inner thoughts of our select few characters, but then leaving some such as Quai or Baya, devoid of any hints except through actions or the interpretations of others. It creates tension during the quest, as Quai almost seems to be baiting the mages and more of Bayaz' role in creating the conflict becomes apparent.Plotwise, the quest of the troop seemed unremarkable enough in the epic fantasy tradition--the questers entering the dead city flashed on several scenes from Terry Brooks and David Eddings--but it was still well done. Using the guise of telling stories while they journeyed, the questers and the readers are familiarized with the mythical back-story to the quest. It works well, maintaining interest in the background while avoiding the info-dump syndrome. The siege itself is not particularly unusual either, but is gritty, and the process of Glokta shoring defense of the city while rooting out the traitor is interesting and full of tension. Letter updates between Glokta and the Arch Lector are an interesting way of updating the story.The tale is full of detailed fight scenes. If that's your taste, you'll have all the more reason to love it, but if its not, don't let it put you off, as there is so much more worth reading. One quibble is the author's tendency to use both first and last names of a character, even within the same scene, which leads to unnecessary name confusion. Small complaints, however.I find this series engrossing, and am glad I have the next book ready to go.