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Last Argument of Kings (First Law 3) (Bk. 3) (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Joe Abercrombie

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1,845533,762 (4.2)54
Member:enikra
Title:Last Argument of Kings (First Law 3) (Bk. 3)
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Gollancz (2009), Paperback, 704 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie (2008)

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English (50)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Awesome finish to one of the best fantasy series I've ever read. ( )
  Me-chan | Jun 19, 2014 |
I will miss The First Law trilogy. This book, the third part, was as good as the previous ones. Can't think of another author who mixes so well fantasy, magic, action, blood, politics, violence, humor, sarcasm and suspense. Joe Abercrombie: you have a new fan! ( )
  chaghi | Jun 1, 2014 |
I really hoped this was going to end differently but i guess it leaves room for another round of trilogies. One of the best action fantasy novels out there a definite must read for fantasy fans. ( )
  seaofsorrow | May 20, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Say one thing for this reviewer, say she's a weak-minded sucker.

She really enjoyed the first two books of Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy. This story was original, had a unique style, fascinating characters, and a darkly cynical style. She liked it. It was fresh. But she was kind of hoping, even daring to expect, that the last book, Last Argument of Kings, might have an ending that was, if not perhaps exactly happy, at least somewhat satisfying.

Unfortunately, Last Argument of Kings was more realistic than happy. Hooray, some might say -- a realistic ending! But realistic is not what this reader reads fantasy for. For three books she read about people's heads being chopped off, painful body parts clicking, toothless gums being sucked at, pain, wasting disease, bodies being cleaved in half, more pain, betrayal, torture, treason, tyranny, loveless marriages, abusive fathers and brothers, miscarriage, alcoholism, prejudice, more pain. Lots of pain. It has to get better, right?

Alas, no. There just wasn't enough redemption to balance all of the pain. A couple of characters became more noble (they couldn't have become less so), but their triumphs were outweighed by the degradation of other characters. It was all just kind of depressing.

Besides that, there really wasn't anything new in Last Argument of Kings. The story ends (for better or for worse), but there was none of the freshness that was so exciting in The Blade Itself. The writing is well above average, but not brilliant, and it certainly wasn't pretty.

What she's trying to say is: The First Law is an entertaining and well-written story for someone who is more the cynic than the optimist. But it left this reviewer feeling icky. Very icky.

Read more Joe Abercrombie book reviews at Fantasy Literature . ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
I didn’t overly enjoy the first two volumes of Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, but finished it off because I like to finish what I start and because I already had access to all three books. Last Argument of Kings is probably the strongest of the series, because it actually has a sense of importance and urgency, and brings the plot to a close. But this is hardly high praise.

Abercrombie is merely competent as both a writer and a storyteller – not bad, but not particularly good either. The thing which generally annoyed me most about this series (apart from the fact that Abercrombie badly needs an editor, but that’s par for the course with fantasy) is how irritatingly self-aware it is. Abercrombie said he set out to “turn the fantasy genre on its head.” He does so by having a Northern barbarian, a dashing young warrior, a wildling, a wizard and his apprentice go on a quest for a magic stone. Now, granted, you can argue that he merely set this up in such a cliche manner so that he could then upend it and present what he thinks is his unique twist: that the world is a horrible place, bad things happen to good people, and happy endings are for fairytales. This still means you’re wading through more than 1,500 pages of fantasy that is, on the surface, mostly stock standard.

In the previous book, Before They Are Hanged, the “grimdark” angle largely annoyed me in the dialogue and narration. The same little bits of wisdom and supposedly sage observations about the reality of the world come up over and over again. I was especially surprised that Logen and his Northmen didn’t fucking drown in their own world-weary stoicism. This is all still here in Last Argument of Kings, but it works its way into the plot itself. The novel runs about 100 pages beyond where another fantasy author might end the story, turning what appears to be a fairly standard happy ending into something a little more grim.

And I had no problem with that at all. The “grimdark” notion has been roundly criticised in many quarters, but although I ultimately disliked these books, that wasn’t the reason why. Firstly, Abercrombie maintains a sense of humour throughout, preventing the books from dropping into sheer horror and misery. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s a perfectly valid take on the genre. The last hundred pages are the best in the book and the series – certainly better than the infinite number of battle scenes and Glokta’s inner narrative that preceded them.

The problem is that this isn’t nearly as original as Abercrombie thinks it is. He winks at the reader far too often. Take this, for example:

“I’m trying to get through this damn book again.” Ardee slapped at a heavy volume lying open, face down, on a chair.

“The fall of the Master Masker,” muttered Glokta. “That rubbish? All magic and valour, no? I couldn’t get through the first one.”

“I sympathise. I’m onto the third and it doesn’t get any easier. Too many damn wizards. I get them mixed up with one another. It’s all battles and endless bloody journeys, here to there and back again. If I so much as glimpse another map I swear I’ll kill myself.”


Fifteen pages later:

The sun glinted on raised sword and lance, on shield and full armour. Banners streamed and snapped in the wind. It was quite the display of martial grandeur. A scene from a lurid storybook with a muscular hero in which meaningless words like honour and righteousness were often repeated.

The book is scattered with these self-referential moments which go far beyond being tiresome and begin to actively hurt the tone of the novel. (That second segment also gives you a taste for Abercrombie’s adjective addiction.) It’s too clever for its own good, and not really clever at all – as I pointed out in my last review, George R.R. Martin had already been writing grim, realistic fantasy for ten years at this point, and I doubt he was the first. You can no longer write a “grimdark” story and stand on that alone. Neither Abercrombie’s story nor his writing is strong enough to compensate for this.

The First Law trilogy is perfectly competent fantasy, and if you’re a regular reader of the genre you will probably enjoy it. If, like me, you’re seeking out the best the genre has to offer, then give it a miss. ( )
  edgeworth | Apr 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
The author's "voice" feel and read smooth. The world building and character development is masterful. The character development is so good that they feel like old friends at this point. And then the ending broke my heart! It is "not really" a “happily-ever-after” (HEA). Those characters that the author is so good at creating? Some of them did not have a HEA. But on the other side of the coin, maybe I got so heartbroken because the author is so good at weaving the story that I felt it deeply. Gotta give the author a lot of kudos for that! It gives you pause to wonder though if some of the “good guys” might not really be good and some of the “bad guys” might not really be bad. The whole trilogy is just a long sad tale where I couldn't find much of a meaning to the heros' struggles. Is it even a fight of good versus evil? So at the end of it, what were all their struggles for? All their trials? All their hardships? For what? The answers to those questions were not very satisfying to me as a reader. I also find the writing style using multiple threads to be slow going, annoying and feels discordant to read. So despite the masterful author’s “voice”, I don’t think I would be buying anymore work by this author.
 

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Joe Abercrombieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Preuss, AlexanderCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.—Paul Gauguin
Last Argument of Kings—Inscribed on his cannons by Louis XIV
Does the devil know he is a devil?—Elizabeth Madox Roberts
Dedication
For the Four Readers

You know who you are
First words
Superior Glokta stood in the hall, and waited. He stretched his twisted neck out to one side and then to the other, hearing the familiar clicks, feeling the familiar cords of pain stretching out through the tangled muscles between his shoulder-blades. Why do I do it, when it always hurts me? Why must we test the pain? Tongue the ulcer, rub the blister, pick the scab?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575084162, Paperback)

The end is coming. Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him ' but it's going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there's only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. It's past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home. With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no-one is safe, and no-one can be trusted. His days with a sword are far behind him. It's a good thing blackmail, threats and torture still work well enough. Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful, and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman 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 deathbead, the peasants revolt and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No-one believes that the shadow of war is falling across the very heart of the Union. The First of the Magi has a plan to save the world, as he always does. But there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, after all, than to break the First Law ...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:32 -0400)

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The King of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks.… (more)

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