At the beginning of the month I reviewed Before They Are Hanged (review here) and promised to finally get around to finishing up the Joe Abercrombie’s quite amazing First Law Trilogy. Now, with Last Argument of Kings read that’s done, and let me tell you, it was good. If the middle book in trilogies often lags a bit, just as often the third book packs the biggest kick yet; Last Argument of Kings does just that. In this novel, Abercrombie brings it home epically and finishes off his first trilogy with some of the best writing I’ve encountered.
Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him, but its going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there is only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend and oldest enemy. It’s past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.It’s near on impossible not to be completely overcome and immersed in an Abercrombie book. For me with Last Argument of Kings, it took even less time than with his other books to reach that point. From then on I was taken on a simply amazing journey through the breathtaking final events of the First Law Trilogy. It’s hard to say how he does it exactly, it might be the ruthlessness, the honesty of his prose or the flawed, yet oh-so-loveable characters, but if there is one thing I can promise it’s that he will get to you.
With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glotka is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no-one is safe, and no-one can be trusted. And as his days with a sword are far behind him, it’s a good thing blackmail, threats and torture never go out of fashion.
Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful a process, and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the women he loves. But love can be painful too – and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.
While the King of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. Yet no-one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the very heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi has a plan to save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, after all, than the breaking of the First Law…
Last Argument of Kings picks up very shortly after where we left off in Before they Are Hanged. Setting-wise, this book sees very much a return to the places of the first book in the trilogy, The Blade Itself (review here). So, there is a strong sense of familiarity while after having followed our characters to various different lands in the previous book, there is also an ever present sense change. That we go back to the “beginning” geographically adds to the closure and the finality of the events that take place. Without a doubt, Abercrombie brings the story to a satisfying (if not better) end. This book, more so event than its predecessors, is filled with twists and turns. Even once the epic battles and terrific confrontations are out of the way, Abercrombie still leaves some hundred pages to unroll the last of his unexpected twists.
The characters change a lot in this book. Where in The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged they had a nice steady evolution, in this novel they take forty-five and ninety, in some cases one hundred and eighty, degree turns. Some characters I’d grown to love in the first two books I came to loathe in this one, but it was fine since the reverse also happened. In most cases theses changes in personality reflect the ongoing conflicts a lot of these characters had been having with themselves through the whole series. I remember most looking forward most to Glotka’s bits in Before They Are Hanged, but in Last Argument of Kings he was replaced, slightly strangely, by the parts featuring West and Jezal. In truth, the only character I never acquired a taste for was Ferro, neither in this book or the others. Thankfully, she was less represented than the others.
It’s an advantage to start a series once all the books are published since it is then possible to read them all at leisure (I took my time, I know). The First Law Trilogy stand out to me as one that should, without exception, feature on every fantasy fan’s bookshelf. It is everything an epic fantasy should be: exciting, grand, funny at times, action-packed, gritty and, of course, epic! If you haven’t yet given this a try than I fully throw my support behind the following plan: you exit wherever it is you are, you run to the nearest bookstore and you buy all three of the books. All three because if you start you’ll find it difficult not to race to the end. While you’re out of breath standing in that bookstore you might as well grab a copy of Abercrombie’s other gem of a book, Best Served Cold; after all, you wouldn’t want to have to run to the store a second time…
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Joe Abercrombie's website: http://www.joeabercrombie.com
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