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Last Argument of Kings (The First Law…
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Last Argument of Kings (The First Law Trilogy, 3) (original 2008; edition 2015)

by Joe Abercrombie (Author)

Series: The First Law (3)

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3,5941092,956 (4.16)78
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...… (more)
Member:JoeFieldWriter
Title:Last Argument of Kings (The First Law Trilogy, 3)
Authors:Joe Abercrombie (Author)
Info:Orbit (2015), 656 pages
Collections:Your library
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Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Summary: A war threatens to engulf all the nations of the north and south. A bunch of atypical 'heroes' are drawn into the conflict and will never be quite the same as a result. This is a review of the trilogy.

Things I liked:

The characters: Their deep, they change dramatically across the story, even the extras drip with style and depth.

The style: is varied taking some of my favourite elements from genre's such as classic fantasy, western and spy thriller.

Things I thought could be improved:

It's one big story masquerading as a trilogy. You don't really get much closure as the end of each book. If I'd had to wait for the next book I would have been a bit peeved by that.

Not much of story. By that I mean the story doesn't really involve a lot of change (IMHO) to the world where the story is set. That said, the characters change quite a bit (in their outlook) but I still would have enjoyed a bit more setup and resolution, as it was I feel a bit like everyone just ran around in circles for a bit until the story stopped.

Highlight:

Lots of candidates, if I had to pick I'd probably say where 'the bloody nine' stabs Tul I had to read the passage twice to be sure I'd read it right (not because it was badly written but because it was a such a twist for the characters involved).

( )
  benkaboo | Aug 18, 2022 |
There are so many battles in this book. I understand why, but battle scenes aren't my favourite to read (except when the Bloody-Nine is involved. He has the best action scenes). So, that means I was bored in certain parts of the story. Still, the good outweighs the bad and I never read anything with an ending like this.
The characters are still fantastic. I find it fascinating that there is some character development, but at the same time they did not change much by the end. They are so incredibly human in a way I haven't seen done before with main characters in fiction. Attempting to be better but ultimately failling at doing that. It's dark, but it happens sometimes.
The general plot that culminates with history repeating itself is also fantastic and, once again, very dark. I finished this book with a feeling of hopelessness and this thought from Glokta sums up the trilogy nicely: "How things have changed. And yet, how they have stayed the same."
An incredible experience and I am sure I will reread these books in the future. ( )
  elderlingfae | Aug 11, 2022 |
While the title doesn't demand attention to the same degree as [b:Before They Are Hanged|902715|Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2)|Joe Abercrombie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1179318094l/902715._SY75_.jpg|2116927], it's certainly the most accurate. With the journey to the Edge of the World having ended in failure, Bayaz' company parts ways; Logen returns to the North to aid the Union army and whatever old friends he's yet to alienate in the effort against Bethod. Bayaz exerts and expands his hold on the Closed Council, and begins to show more interest in the career of Jezal dan Luthar than ever before. Also in Adua is Inquisitor Glokta, whose loyalties become increasingly conflicted while trying to curry favour for the Arch Lector, and whose subplot continues to function like a crime fiction novel that somehow got caught up in an epic fantasy series.

The characters remain as antiheroic as ever, but with the benefit of hindsight and rereading Jezal stands out more than ever because he undergoes the most change out of every character, beginning as a classist, egotistical twat, and becoming a slightly less classist, egotistical twat, though that isn't to sell everyone else short. Glokta remains the most enjoyable POV character to read; no one is spared from his dry humour, and I especially enjoy his interactions with Ardee; every conversation they have is a highlight. They really seem to be meant for each other; they work off each other well, and they both provide astute observations of Union politics. They also have different but oddly similar backgrounds that parallel each other, on reflection, both of them being pariahs for different reasons; Glokta being a veteran who's been rejected by the "polite" society that once gave him nothing but the utmost respect, and Ardee being a commoner who got left behind by her social climber of a brother and lives in a city that cares nothing for people of her standing.

Logen's also equally compelling, albeit for slightly different reasons than before. Returning to the North changes him a great deal, although it's not really a change so much as a reversion; he seems to be a significantly better person whenever he puts as much difference between himself and the North as possible (though [b:Red Country|13521459|Red Country (First Law World, #6)|Joe Abercrombie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1333663008l/13521459._SY75_.jpg|19082135] throws some doubt on this). As soon as he reunites with his old allies in the North, however, he more or less reverts to the barbarian with flexible morals that he's always been storied to be, if only out of a believed obligation to uphold his reputation as the Bloody-Nine. It's especially obvious during that chapter where Bethod rightly takes Logen to task for his many transgressions, a chapter which gutted me the first time and somehow had the same effect the second. Which is why I've always found it strange that some people apparently consider Logen a sweetheart who just happens to have a possible split personality that brings violence and death with him wherever he treads, to which I say... well, he's not necessarily without good qualities, but I take issue with that description because of that chapter where he kills some allies and fails to admit guilt and assume responsibility for it. With that in mind, I strongly encourage such people to carefully reread the chapter "Leaves on the Water", or failing that, read the short story "Made a Monster" from [b:Sharp Ends|26030742|Sharp Ends (First Law World, #7)|Joe Abercrombie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1456696097l/26030742._SY75_.jpg|45956909], which outlines in detail how and why Logen deserves every bit of his reputation as a capricious, homicidal, indiscriminate, and elemental force that regards his fellow man as target practice.

While [b:Best Served Cold|2315892|Best Served Cold|Joe Abercrombie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1347732723l/2315892._SY75_.jpg|2322406] might have a bit of an edge over this book in this regard, [b:The Last Argument of Kings|944076|Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)|Joe Abercrombie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1302062699l/944076._SY75_.jpg|929012] has easily the best action in the entire trilogy (yes, I know that's not technically its real title, but sod off, it doesn't feel complete without a definite article). The violence can be over the top, but it also feels oddly downplayed because as chaotic as battles can get, the book never loses sight of whatever character we're seeing through the eyes of at the time.

For me it reaches its peak with the siege of the High Places; it's kind of like Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings, in that Logen, Black Dow, Harding Grim, and the Dogman are four of a pitifully small army that's vastly outnumbered by a far better organized and nourished belligerent, holding out for several days waiting for reinforcements that might never arrive. There are a couple of key differences, though; the fortress is in severe disrepair, and where Helm's Deep lasted only for one chapter, the siege takes up approximately a third of the entire book, and it's significantly bloodier because... dark fantasy, I guess. Sure, it doesn't hold a candle to the almost apocalyptic scale of the climax, but I find it far more tense because of the steadily depleting supplies and mounting opposition. Of course, there is also the small matter of the Bloody-Nine.

Then there's the ending, which features several injustices and recursive arcs. As far as I can tell, this is easily the most divisive aspect of the entire trilogy, if only because everyone's favourite characters get fucked over, and they get fucked over hard. And look, I get it, it is anticlimactic; purposefully so, and it's the most oddly conclusive (and also the most weirdly rewarding) anticlimax I've yet read, but it's still anticlimactic. You don't have to like it, but it is the right ending for the story Abercrombie tells. Yeah, I hate Bayaz as much as the next guy, and I wish upon him the worst possible setbacks in the Age of Madness trilogy, but it makes sense for him to get what he wants, because why would anyone in their right mind try to spar with someone who can blow someone up and burn down entire forests with a single thought?

Having finished rereading the trilogy as a whole, the ending has also taken on some new context; at first I thought the point of the First Law was to ask "what if a typical high fantasy world was full of realistically flawed people?", but now I've realized I was probably asking the wrong question. It's not that so much as "what might happen if the world was inhabited by realistically flawed and hubristic people like Bayaz and Khalul who see the world not as the place they both live in, but a life-size chessboard that us peasants are just living in?" Keeping that question in mind, this trilogy has taken on far more fridge horror now than it did the first time I read it, but it's a hypothetical scenario that Abercrombie explores to its fullest.

While the recursion of the character arcs seems like something I'd probably take any other book to task for, it's executed in such a way that it makes what should be static characters not feel static in the least. Not only is this because the casual dialogue is decently written and half the fun is just watching everyone work off each other, but it also ties into the larger point [a:Joe Abercrombie|276660|Joe Abercrombie|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1421267339p2/276660.jpg] tries to make, which is, "they are what they are, and that's most likely all they ever will be." Of course, this does bring up the question of why I'm so invested in these books when I know full well that Abercrombie's crushed my hopes and dreams again, and that's something I often ask myself. But then it occurred to me that I was probably so immersed because it felt like a real journey; it's a journey that ends in disappointment, true, but it actually seemed to matter at the time, and I guess that's what really matters.

Having said that, don't let that dissuade you from seeing the trilogy to its completion; it has all the same strengths as its predecessors, and hones in on everything that was good about them, to the point where I think I can safely say Abercrombie's truly mastered his craft. This is something I've said for every book, but the only problem I have with these books is that I wish they did more to differentiate each POV. That's not to say it doesn't do that, there are several subtle differences between them all, but Glokta's written in such a strikingly different way from everyone else that not awarding everyone else the same attention to detail strikes me as a missed opportunity. Other than that, I feel perfectly justified in considering the First Law trilogy second only to Discworld. If you want closure, then do check out the standalones; none of them are necessarily sequels in the most literal sense of the word, and I find them more variable in quality, but they pick up some (though not all) plot threads this book left dangling, and they do much to explore the world beyond the Union. The Age of Madness is also off to a strong start with [b:A Little Hatred|35606041|A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness, #1)|Joe Abercrombie|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1558367199l/35606041._SY75_.jpg|57338685], and I look forward to the release of The Trouble With Peace this September. ( )
  collapsedbuilding | Aug 10, 2022 |
Amazing character voice. Plot really dragged. Good ending. ( )
  TheGalaxyGirl | Jul 15, 2022 |
The First Law trilogy was nothing short of genius. The character development throughout was amazing. ( )
  NicholeReadsWithCats | Jun 17, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joe Abercrombieprimary authorall editionscalculated
Borchardt, KirstenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García Bercero, BorjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pacey, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preuss, AlexanderCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruth, GregCover 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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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...

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