Paperback: 536 pages
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Thank you to Orbit Books & Hachette Audio for my review copy of the audiobook.
Say one thing for The First Law trilogy: say it’s as real as fantasy gets.
I’ve had to sit and unpack this one for a while, I finished it nearly a week ago. I didn’t really understand the gritty/grimdark label people put on this series until I finished Last Argument of Kings. This book is the culmination of The First Law trilogy, and all the things people love about trilogies are there. Big, tumultuous final battles. Long-sought showdowns. Important, dangerous, devastating decisions. Uncovered mysteries, and some deep, deep drama.
Last Argument of Kings has all of this, but it’s not easy. Like Logen Ninefingers says, you’ve got to be realistic about these kinds of things.
This book is not going to end how you expect it to. Nothing goes according to plan. A whole hell of a lot of people die, often for no reason. Heroes you grew to love in The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged try and try, and despite their efforts and their “hero” status, they sometimes fail when it matters most. The people you’ve grown to love – Jezal, Logen, Glokta, Collem, Dogman, Ardee, Ferro – have redemptive qualities, but they also have their pitfalls.
Glokta’s story is worth reading the whole book for. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I love how his weaknesses became his strengths through the series, and how certain people were able to see through them. I’ve rarely read a character as achingly deep as Sand dan Glokta. Easily a top three characters of all time for me.
Everybody likes Logen Ninefingers, right? What a chum! Jezal practically idolizes the man. The Dogman and the rest of his northern gang respect him with great deference. But does their love for Logen overshadow their fear for The Bloody Nine? Logen’s story in Last Argument of Kings left the biggest wound for me. I loved reading Logen and his easygoing nature, trying to befriend everyone despite his own lurking demons. The dynamic between his two personalities and what happens because of him is the toughest thing about LAOK, in my opinion.
Jezal was a prick. But he got hit in his pretty-boy face with a mace, and now he’s respectful and demure. Did the lessons he learned on his journey to the end of the world with Bayaz change him, or is he still the same as before? Personally, I thought Jezal dan Luthar had one of the shallower character arcs in LAOK, but I still enjoyed it. Especially near the end.
With the seed discovered missing, Bayaz has to result to different tactics to stop the Ghurkish army and the Eaters. Ferro is hungry for vengeance, but is she patient enough to wait for Bayaz before she can spill blood? All while an army of northmen bears down on Adua.
This book is a punch to the guts, but it pays off in big ways. I’m not saying don’t read it. I’m just saying to leave your expectations at the door. Do our heroes get what they deserve? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Regardless of the details, Joe Abercrombie has written a compelling story here that turns fantasy on its head.
If you were able to stomach the bittersweet ending of The First Law, you’re in luck! Joe Abercrombie is here with some more blood’n’guts fantasy to feed your masochism.
Best Served Cold is the next book from Abercrombie, a standalone novel set in Styria. As far as I’m aware there are new POV characters, but there are likely some references to the happenings from The First Law sprinkled in. It sounds like a killer revenge story so I’m definitely going to check it out.
Review by Griffin