Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Format: Audio (downloaded from Audible)
Narrated By: Steve Pacey
Original Publication Year: 2008
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: The First Law #3
Awards: None but should have some!

The Last Argument of Kings left me feeling bemused, manipulated and sucker punched…but mostly in that good way books can do. It’s a pretty excellent conclusion for this overall excellent trilogy. The only thing that tempers my enthusiasm about the book is the somewhat odd rambling ending.

All the plotlines that developed in books one and two come to a head in this book. The war in the North ends in time for Adua to absorb an attack by the Gherkish which brings all the major characters into one place at the same time. While the conclusion of all the various plotlines, and the reveal and explanation of who has been behind it all, is satisfying, the thing that really makes this book and the entire series special is what Joe Abercrombie does with the reader’s preconceptions about the story and the characters.

What he does is actually kind of mean but it’s done so well that it’s hard not to appreciate what it adds. With his plots, he uses some standard fantasy tropes but twists them. In this book we get the culminating battle of a war that’s been brewing through all three books. The good guys win but are they really the good guys? And was the war even about what it seemed to be? Also there is a lot of book after the war is resolved and it never really ties things up into a pretty bow.

In regard to the characters, Abercrombie spends much of book two making the reader like them only to turn around in book three and pull the rug right out from under them and the reader. Particularly with Jezal, Logen and Ferro, he seems to be making the argument that you can run but you can’t hide from your true nature. You can try to change for the better, and sometimes even succeed, but when it comes down to it you’ll revert to your default settings. It was sad to watch and it missed the mark in some cases (i.e. I think he made Logen too likeable so his reversion and his friend’s response is a little off) but overall it adds to the interest of the plot. One lovely little detail was the character of Qwai. I felt like Abercrombie had started writing this character differently in book two vs. book one and thought it was just sloppy writing. In fact, all is explained in book three.

I was always being surprised and most so by realizing that Glokta was my favorite character. He’s one of those deliciously gray characters who does despicable things but for some reason doesn’t seem despicable. And shockingly, he is really the only character that gets any approximation of a happy ending though calling it happy may be a stretch.

Overall thoughts: This was a pretty good ending to a thoughtful and entertaining series. I found it endlessly surprising and it definitely messed with my mind but in the very best of ways. He is a writer with a purpose and a plan so this was a well done culmination of all that was laid out in the earlier books.

I think this goes down as a favorite series for me?  What are some of the best series you've read recently?

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