Saturday, May 2, 2009

The trouble with time

The trouble with time is that there is never enough to accomplish all the things I intend to. Perhaps that's merely an excuse and I simply haven't enough discipline, doing the things I want to, rather than the things I ought to. Whichever. Though I have long since finished Before They Are Hanged, only now do I arrive with the review. Indeed, the review itself is something I have long since thought through and only now commit to typing. Ah well, here it is.

A gerbal on the wheel. An expenditure of energy without any distance travelled. This is my only complaint rearding the second installment to the First Law Trilogy. A great deal transpires in the story, but by the end, the plot progression remains where it began. Usually, it's the first book in a series that is employed as the set-up piece. This is why I can only call it a complaint, and not a criticism. Clearly, Abercrombie has tinkered with the "normal", or formulaic, flow of things. Abercrombie has proven, time and again, to be unpredictable. While I (the reader) may yearn for further development of the storyline itself, I respect how the author has uniquely approached the matter.

With that minor road bump out of the way, let's get down to the goodies. There are many, so I'll be as brief as I know how in listing them. There is a significant maturation of the character Jezal dan Luthar. Jezal begins to understand that his own life, as well as the world-at-large, do not occur in a vacuum. These are not static phenomena, but dynamic and inter-related in nature. The dawning of this revelation has the young dandy developing a significant degree of self-doubt.

There is the genesis of a relationship between Logen and Ferro. It's a relationship with which many, if not all, can identify with. It's subtle in the fact that each party is less than honest with each other, as well as themselves. In a tough world, trust is never easy and the author is in firm command of that fact.

In that same tell-tale fashion, Abercrombie is subtle with the development of the history of the wider world he has brought us to. It is becoming increasingly uncertain that Bayaz is all he claims to be. The reader begins to suspect that perhaps Bayaz's past actions, and justifications therefor, aren't as transparent or honest as Bayaz would lead his companions to believe. Clearly, Bayaz's own apprentice makes remarks that insinuate as much. Thoughout the story, Bayaz's apprentice develops an increasing level of antipathy towards his master.

The story also has a little bit of everything for fans of the genre. There is a mini-epic quest for "The Seed." There is constant mystery and intrigue to uncover, which Superior Glokta finds himself confounded by at every turn. There's even a hybrid blend of heroic and military fantasy, in the best traditions of Glen Cook and David Gemmell. In the far north, Colonel West is the chief of staff to Lord Marshal Burr who has fielded an army to combat Bethod, titular King of the Northmen. With West are remaining members of Logen's merry band of Named Men.

This installment to the First Law Trilogy seems aimed at inducing the impulsion to discover more and read more, in the reader. Mission accomplished.


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