I Recently Finished Reading: Before They Are Hanged

before-they-are-hangedI’ve been thinking about this book for a while. The book is good, probably better than the first one, but it suffers a bit from middle-book syndrome. I’ll get back to that a little later, though because I want to start by going through the things that I liked about the book.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the complexity of the characters. Some of them seem to be rather straight-forward, almost two-dimensional, but then something happens and in a single scene they expand. In the first book, this is what happened with West. In this book, I felt like it happened with Ferro and Luthar. Every character is a little different in how they grow. The Dogman continuously grows throughout the story. Rather than having one defining moment, he moves from scene to scene, and each one adds a little more to his personality.

The growth of the characters also impacts the story. At first, it seemed like several of the storylines were standard quests. West needed to fight in the North and see to it that the Union was victorious. Glokta was a kind of sympathetic villain who would need to be dealt with by the protagonists, and Bayaz was the righteous mentor who would bring Ferro closer to humanity. All this changes throughout the book. West is shown to have a dark side. Glokta moves from being a villain to a kind of anti-hero, and I finished the book being completely unsure of his role in the story, while simultaneously knowing that he’ll be vital to it. I also really started to question Bayaz’s motives. I finished the book thinking that Bayaz not only has ulterior motives, but that his cause may be more harmful than the villains.

That uncertainty is where it became obvious that this was a middle book. There were almost no resolutions. The three main storylines, those of West, Glokta, and Bayaz, all became more defined, but they were no closer to intersecting. This was a book where pieces were being moved, but that’s about it. Even the plot points that come to an end (like Glokta’s mission in Dagoska) leave more questions than answers. For the most part, I don’t mind the middle books, but I always worry that there won’t be enough time or space in the concluding book to wrap up all the threads that have been started.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to this series. I know I want to finish it, and I’ve really liked what I’ve read so far.

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