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Last Argument of Kings (First Law 3) (Bk. 3)…

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

by Joe Abercrombie

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Title:Last Argument of Kings (First Law 3) (Bk. 3)
Authors:Joe Abercrombie
Info:Gollancz (2009), Paperback, 704 pages
Collections:Your library

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Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie (2008)

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Fans of Martin and Mieville will find the trilogy of which this is the final volume well worth a try. Last Argument rushes relentlessly to its conclusion, with seperate threads of tangled intrigue and spectacular violence. The plot comes neatly, viscously into its own and all the characters, some of whom were damn near likeable by the end of the second volume, start to curdle a little as their true natures come to the fore. The main surprise is that the cynicism is actually slightly less bruising than the battles, of which there are a few, all more or less running together. Nobody gets what they deserve, only one person really gets what he wants and we all get a glimpse of how power is truly exercised. There’s no ambivalence about the ending, though it’s not as bleak or hopeless as it could have been if the author was just being a thoroughgoing bastard purely for the sake of it, which leads me to suppose that though Abercrombie is clear-eyed and honest about cynicism, he is not necessarily himself a cynic. One possible lesson to take from the book is that the only happy cynics are the sociopaths, and they’re the ones to truly watch out for. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
This was the third and final book in the First Law trilogy, although there are three more standalone books set in this world. I have a lot of random and somewhat unrelated thoughts swirling around in my head after reading this, so I apologize in advance if this review is disjointed. Most of my review will be behind spoiler tags so I can type freely, but first I have a few generic comments.

There were things I loved about this book, things I didn’t care for, and even things I disliked. There were some great moments that made me laugh, and moments that just seemed so perfect that I had to put the book down and smile into space for a couple minutes. There were some payoffs that I had seen coming, but which were no less enjoyable for being anticipated, and others that caught me completely by surprise. For the most part this was a fast read, but I got bogged down for a little while in the middle when certain aspects of the story started to feel a little repetitive.

The ending was a mixed bag for me. It really didn’t feel like the end-of-series wrap-up I was expecting. We were given answers to most (but not all) of our questions, and the main danger was over for most (but not all) of our characters, and we had a general idea of what was in store for most (but not all) of our characters in the near future. But, aside from finally getting answers to some long-standing questions, the end of this book felt more like the end of another installment in the series rather than the end of the series itself.

I know there are three more standalone books written in this world, but I’ve avoided reading anything about them for fear of spoilers. I don’t know yet if they will pick up on any of the loose ends or if they will go off in a different direction altogether. I don't know if they'll feature the same characters, or if they're even set around the same time frame. They could be prequels or else set in the distant future for all I know. I just hope that, if they do provide answers for some of the loose ends, that they do so in a thorough way and not just as an “oh, by the way, this is what happened 50 years ago” sort of thing. That wouldn’t be very satisfying. I plan to start the first standalone later tonight, so I guess I’ll have a better idea what to expect from the standalones soon.

Ok, the rest of my thoughts will have to go behind spoiler tags. There are some major spoilers here. Please don’t click unless you’ve already read the entire trilogy or unless you don’t care about the spoilers.

Anybody who’s been following my reviews of this series knows that Logen has been my favorite character. Early on in this third book, he is finally reunited with his old crew and I was very happy to see that. However, I found that I didn’t like Logen as much when he was with his own people. Later on in the book, Logen actually echoed my own thoughts when he thought to himself that he liked himself better when he was with his previous traveling companions. They didn’t have any preconceptions based on his past behavior, nor had they learned to fear the Bloody Nine. He also didn’t have a reputation to live up to and he didn’t have to be on the defensive against potential enemies quite so much, so he wasn’t as on edge with them.

This book made it clear that the Bloody Nine’s reputation was well-earned -- he did some pretty horrible things in this book, and we learned that it was Logens’ ambition that was at least partially responsible for driving Bethod to become the person he became. I especially hated the part where the Bloody Nine killed Tul Duru. Early on, I thought Logen showed wisdom when he told Dogman to continue as the leader of the Northmen because he knew his own leadership would cause too much conflict. I thought he should have made a similar decision after he defeated Bethod and was proclaimed king. Things would have turned out better for him, but I guess then he couldn’t have upheld his end of the bargain to help the Union fight the Gurkish.

I had mixed feelings about the way things ended up for Logen. There was some appeal to the way he went full circle – in the first book, he starts off by falling over a cliff into a river. At the end of this book, he ends up jumping out a window into a river. We don’t know if he lives or dies at the end, but I feel pretty confident that he’ll live. I just wanted more from his story. Considering how much of the series was invested in his part of the story, there was an awful lot that went unanswered. Why could he talk to spirits? Why did he go berserk during battles? Was it just a battle rage thing he was born with and, if so, did he inherit it from his father? Was it triggered by some event in one of his early battles? Was it tied somehow to whatever it was that also gave him the ability to talk to spirits? It seemed to only happen during battles when his body had been subjected to extreme trauma and exhaustion. Not only did I want more answers about all this, but I was also rather hoping that learning the cause of it might lead to him learning how to better control it. Also, how could it possibly be that the people he’d fought alongside for so long didn’t know better by this point than to approach him during a fight until they were sure he was fully himself again? Tul Duru tried to help him during a battle and paid the price for it, and Dogman almost found himself in the same situation. Overall, I didn’t feel like the level of interest I’d had for this character was sufficiently rewarded.

I was happy to finally find out what had been going on with Malacus Quai. I really, really should have seen that one coming, especially after we learned that there were beings who could change their form, but I never suspected he wasn’t really Quai until the very moment when Bayaz asked him who he was and what he’d done with his apprentice. I was sorry that the funny and likeable character from the first book was dead, but I was also happy that it hadn’t really been Quai who turned out to have evil intentions.

I loved the moment when Jezal was made king. I had seen that one coming from early on, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I kept laughing at the way it came about and at the different characters’ reactions as they found out about it. I was annoyed to see him backslide into his old, weak-willed, arrogant self though. At the beginning of the book, I started to hate him all over again. However, he did become more likeable again during the crisis and he seemed to have matured a bit more permanently by the end of the book. He’s still a coward, as Bayaz makes quite clear, but he’s also developed compassion and has learned to think more about others instead of focusing entirely on himself. If he weren’t stuck being Bayaz’s puppet, I imagine it might be possible that he could turn into a decent king.

I hated that we ended up with Bayaz still in control of everything. He had manipulated everything from the very beginning and, in the end, we’re pretty much back where we started. It wasn’t just Logen’s story that went full circle. In the beginning, although we didn’t know it at the time, Bayaz was controlling events from afar. In the end, the same is still true but with different pawns. I want to know if Jezal and Glokta will find ways to circumvent Bayaz’s wishes. Really, he just needs somebody to defeat him altogether! I think maybe I had a Gandalf-style expectation for him in the first book. I initially assumed he was a kindly wizard, maybe a bit temperamental but surely tempered by wisdom and good intentions. It wasn’t until near the end of the first book that I started to see him for who he was – a vindictive and self-righteous man with more power than sense. In many ways Bayaz is a lot like Jezal was at the beginning, but with the power to cause far more damage. He's oblivious to and uncaring of the plights of others and he sees everybody else as beneath him, only useful insomuch as they can help him further his goals.

I did really like the way things ended up for Glokta in the series. Of all the main characters, he actually seems to be in the best place. Of course he too is stuck under Bayaz’s thumb, so it isn’t all good, but he’s certainly in a better place than he was at the beginning of the story. He had some great moments in this book. I particularly loved the conversation he had with Ferro about Bayaz, after she got done shoving his head in the bathtub. Very funny. I hated that both of his practicals betrayed him, though. I had guessed that Severard was the source of the leak from the beginning, although I kept hoping I would be wrong through the interminable wait until the part of the book where the culprits were finally revealed. Frost, on the other hand, caught me by surprise – I realized it only moments before Glokta did.
( )
  YouKneeK | Sep 27, 2015 |
So satisfying. "No one gets what they deserve." Would love to read a graphic novel of Ferro claiming her vengeance in the South. ( )
  dandelionroots | Aug 26, 2015 |
Wow. No happy ending here. I was expecting one because as far as I know this was the last book of the series. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe a sequel series? Or it could be that Abrocrombie just wants to keep the story realistic and unfair. I feel bad for these characters. And the first of the Magi? I guess I kind of expected that, but still, it was kind of a shock. Usually the great wizards are the good guys. This one is something else. Beware. Good epic fantasy though. I’m looking forward to more of Abercrombie’s work. ( )
  Kassilem | Aug 10, 2015 |
"Power is always dangerous. It attracts the worst and corrupts the best….Power is only given to those prepared to lower themselves to pick it up" – Ragnar Lothbrook.

Joe has a real talent for disappointing a reader in a way that lures them deeper and deeper into the world he has created as opposed to cutting them off and it's a skill he wields it as well as the Bloody Nine does a sharp edged weapon. We should know better by the third book but you cannot help but get your hopes up as character after character tries to be better than what they have previously been, often finding only disappointment and turmoil when they either achieve their goals or find them torn from them at the very last second. The amount of times I found myself saying “Oh no...just no” is countless and all the more meaningful for the fact that the “Oh YES” moments I could count on one hand. This is a very dark and unfulfilling landscape, punctuated by rare moments of brightness that you cannot help but be elevated by in in the hope it will lead to a lovely wrapped up moment of complete fulfilment. I held that desperate hope that every sacrifice made would turn out to be worthy and actually mean something but sacrifices don’t always mean something and more often the not the difference between one man going into the mud and another was just time and place.

I read the First Law series in just under a month and I have to say that it reads so fantastically well as one complete book that I have to imagine it is better done this way than in three individual instalments. I know many readers would not have had this choice but the whole thing read like such a rollercoaster that I’d have hated to had a year between volumes. Blade Itself felt like an entirely upward climb, the first leg to get to the top, a small dip to deceive you and then a resumption of things building up and up. It did not have the conclusion I wanted but as I was able to jump straight into the next book that did not matter so much. Before they are Hanged starts with a continuation of the ascension with the tension and stakes growing ever higher and than about a third of the way through we hit the first massive downhill and things just go ape shit with twists, turns, corkscrews and moments of weightlessness that thrust us into the middle of Book three. By now we should be down low but for some unfathomable reason we are higher than we ever were and we realise the rush down to the ground is just beginning. The Last Argument of Kings and the way Joe tied up all his threads was a truly impressive feat.

I cared most for the Northmen and so the moments of horror were plentiful as they brutally despatched their enemies, their friends and most sadly each other. Having read Heroes a few years ago, Dogman, Threetrees, Black Dow, Grim and Thunderhead all felt so familiar I at first thought they would all make it. I wish this was the case but Joe does not pull any punches and lets us feel little in the way of straightforward joy. It’s strange that those that say so little can feel like the cruellest loss and leave the biggest hole when they are no longer able to even bear witness.

I genuinely enjoyed the paths of Jezel and Ferro, and by enjoyed I mean I only felt sorry for them for about 90% of the time. Bayaz is a prick I never liked, but, you have to be realistic. Glotka is somehow a hero and a criminal and one of the most divisive characters I have ever encountered. Logan is a testament to the fact the still waters run deep and his journey is the most fleshed out and the most desperate and I simply loved the way his story wound up.

The first book in the series was a 5 star read for me but I have no doubt Joe’s writing improved throughout the series so I wish I could give it a higher recommendation. If you get the chance to have all three books in front of you at once do so. I’ll be taking a break and opening myself up to something a bit lighter before tackling Best Served Cold.

Half the World, the second book in the Shattered Sea series, recently released and you can find my review for it and others at www.areadingmachine.com ( )
  areadingmachine | Jul 6, 2015 |
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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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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joe Abercrombieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Preuss, AlexanderCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
For the Four Readers

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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:00 -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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