Within a year of the release of The Blade Itself, its sequel, Before They are Hanged was released and this was where the series really got good.
Like the previous book, it follows along three different storylines that deal with the characters that were introduced in The Blade Itself. The first of these deals with Logan Ninefingers, Jezal dan Luthar, Ferro Maljinn, and Bayaz as they journey west to retrieve a weapon that will allow Bayaz to defeat his rival who threatens the Union Government. In order to find this they must cross the anarchic territory of the Old Empire, through warring factions, ancient cites full of monstrous creatures, and across freezing and barren mountains. The biggest problem, however, is that they all hate each other and it's up to Logan to try to form some kind of fellowship between the three before they all kill each other out of ignorant, bigoted hatreds.
The second deals with Collem West, now a Colonel in the Union Army, as he tries to keep the Union army from falling apart in the war with the barbarian North Kingdom. With him is a band of barbarian champions once led by Logan Ninefingers, a few clans of disgruntled barbarians who have no love for their king and army of raw solders who have no experience fighting in the north. Against him, is an entire army of battle harden barbarians with unnatural creatures supporting them and a seemingly invincible giant fighting as their champion.
The third deals with Glokta who has been promoted to Superior Inquisitor of Dagoska; a fortress city on the edge of the Gurkish Empire. He is assigned to discover what happened to the previous Superior while trying to repair and defend the city from an inevitable invasion by the Gurkish Empire and root out spies within.
All around, it was a great improvement over The Blade Itself. Abercrombie quickly rooted out the problems that existed in it, gave more depth to the characters and made the battles more epic in scale and I have nothing negative to say about it. So check it out after you read The Blade Itself.