- Paperback: 639 pages
- Publisher: Pyr (September 23, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591026903
- ISBN-13: 978-1591026907
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 664 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #618,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Last Argument of Kings (First Law: Book Three) Paperback – September 23, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The sword & sorcery trilogy that began with The Blade Itself (2007) and Before They Are Hanged (2008) comes to a violent, sardonic and brilliant conclusion. The shaky Union, menaced simultaneously by rampaging Northmen and by Gurkish invaders from the south, now must contend with intrigue and treachery in its capital, Adua. Summoned to play parts in a devastating confrontation between magical forces, conscience-ridden berserker Logen Ninefingers and honest, weary Union commander Colonel West come down from the north to meet painfully self-aware torturer Glokta, revenge-obsessed female warrior Ferro, pliable young adventurer Jezal and scheming, unscrupulous mage Bayaz. All these people are believable, especially as they dabble in grimly convincing magic and struggle to hear their consciences through the roar of carnage and betrayal. Abercrombie is a fresh new talent, presenting a dark view of life with wit and zest, and readers will mourn the end of this vivid story arc. (Sept.)
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"Abercrombie is a fresh new talent, presenting a dark view of life with wit and zest, and readers will mourn the end of this vivid story arc."
"You should always end with the best... Last Argument of Kings is the textbook example of this theory in practice. The third in Joe Abercrombie’s debut fantasy series, The First Law, reveals everything a finale should: conveys some answers, ties together the loose ends from various plot strands, knocks over pieces painstakingly set up in the preceding stories, and in the aftermath delivers the character development that surprises as well as delights. This series was always a swords-and-sorcery sequence that rejected the overwrought Tolkienesque myth building in favor of wry dialogue and tough, interweaving plotlines. Although it’s never a comedy, the author’s tongue lurks inside his cheek as he re-energizes the fantasy staples. "
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The rising action begins about a third of the way through and never really tapers off. Battles, duels and remarkable events eventually wrap up, but dramatic tension persists until the very last page. Regardless of how you feel about the characters and the specific endings they achieve, there can be no arguing that each character arc is suitably finished. Not all survive. Some are rewarded. Some are punished. Others merely go on. What made the book so eminently enjoyable was the fact that it didn't end with the last big battle or combat sequence. Instead, a non-trivial portion of the book is spent detailing the aftermath of the world-changing events (arguably considered the 'climax' of the main story). This post-mortem examination of the world and it's impact on the remaining characters was entirely welcome and most refreshing.
TLDR: Normally, a 600+ page book would take me 10 or 12 days to read. I finished this one in 4. Two thumbs up, all day long.
“First it is done to us, then we do it to others, then we order it done. Such is the way of things.”
“Banks,” grunted Marovia. “They are made of air. They spin money out of guesses, and lies, and promises. Secrets are their currency, even more than gold.”
“I did a good thing, and so, of course, there is a price to be paid.”
“It can be a fearsome weapon, patience. One that few men ever learn to use.”
“Cleverness is no guarantee of sensible behavior.”
In most ways, though, Last Argument of Kings continues the threads we’ve seen for the other books. The wars we’ve been setting up on both sides of the Aduan kingdom – that with Bethod to the north and the Gurkish to the south – finally break loose, in all of their horrific violence and cost. And as those wars play out, our various “heroes” (put in quotes because, as anyone who’s read these books knows, calling any of these men pure heroes is a stretch of the imagination) find themselves in positions of surprising power over the events unfolding. Logen Ninefingers – a.k.a., the “Bloody Nine” – reunites with his old group of men, and does his best to turn the tide in the North, while continuing his internal debate of whether he could ever undo the damage he’s done in his old life. Sand dan Glokta – cripple, torturer, cynic – finds himself torn between two very demanding masters, and with the power to quite possibly save the kingdom – or maybe destroy it. And Jezal dan Luthar finally realizes exactly why Bayuz, the First of the Magi, has been following him around for so long.
More than anything else, though, this is the book where we finally see Abercrombie’s full design, and just how elegantly he’s been putting all of this together. I’ve commented about the previous books that one of their joys is the sense that we’re not quite sure what the endgame is – just what, exactly, is the common thread of this trilogy? By the time Last Argument of Kings ends, you’ll realize exactly what’s going on, and see that what we’ve been watching play out has been far more controlled, manipulated, and shaped than what we expected. And our assumptions about our characters are going to take some serious blows.
What Abercrombie seems to be fascinated by, overall, is the blurred line between good and evil, and that’s something that gives the ending its brutal punch. Characters we like, and even admire, turn out to be something less than heroic. Cowardice turns out to have its benefits. The cruelest, in some ways, show themselves to be capable of the greatest kindnesses. And more than anything, the question of power and survival hang over everything. Exactly how far should we be willing to go in order to survive and succeed?
These are thorny questions, and Abercrombie doesn’t give us easy answers. Nor does he make the book an easy read, as he displays a Martin-like willingness to butcher and maim characters, to turn them on their heads, and make us question their motives. It’s a bravura performance by Abercrombie, and while the end can be a painful, heartbreaking read at points – one character’s fate, in particular, is truly awful in ways that I never dreamed of – I’m also floored by what he accomplished here. Each character developed, changed, evolved, and shaped over the course of the series in incredible ways, giving you a complexity and depth that many authors just dream of, and setting up moral shades of gray without ever betraying our assumptions. More than that, by the time you finish Last Argument of Kings, it becomes evident just what a grand scope Abercrombie was working on, and just how intricately structured the entire series has been from the beginning.
In short, it’s a fantasy trilogy that I absolutely loved. It’s darkly funny, shockingly violent, richly written, beautifully rendered, thoughtfully constructed, and brilliant. And I’m thrilled that there’s more stand-alone books to come – I don’t plan on waiting long to jump into them. If you like George R.R. Martin and haven’t read these, you’re missing out, plain and simple.