Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The First Law (Book #3 of 3), First Law World (Book, #3 of 10)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy
Pages: 704 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 20th March 2008 by Gollancz (UK) & 8th September 2015 by Orbit (US)
Abercrombie has been titled as Lord Grimdark for years now; I truly believe that Last Argument of Kings is majorly responsible for this.
“Round and round in circles we go, clutching at successes we never grasp, endlessly tripping over the same old failures. Truly, life is the misery we endure between disappointments.”
Last Argument of Kings is the third—and final book—in The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Every plot lines from the first two books lead to the revelations and ruthless conclusion in this installment. The story picks up immediately from where Before They Are Hanged left off, and it has come full circle. Depending on your perspective, the Last Argument of Kings is either bittersweet, depressingly bleak, or in between; I personally think it’s the latter. Abercrombie writes as if he’s a maestro of death and hopelessness. If you’re hanging on the edge of a cliff, Abercrombie will give you a dangling rope to save you but when you use that rope to save yourself from falling, he annihilates your hopes by using that rope to strangle you when you’re at the top. Yet, I must say that it is precisely for this unforgiving realism that I end up considering Last Argument of Kings as my favorite book in the series.
Picture: Last Argument of Kings by Alexander Preuss
By this point of the series, I think it’s safe to assume that you—like me—have grown very attached to the utterly memorable characters. Although some of the side character’s story continues in the next standalone trilogy of the series, this is where the main story arcs for the six main POV characters ended. Abercrombie has expertly weaved a tale that exhibited a harsh truth; despite insanely hard works and virtuous intentions, things may not go in our favor just because of one cruel reason: life isn’t fair. If you’re reading this review, and you haven’t started The Blade Itself, I’ll suggest you to not expect that a happy conclusion will be reached; you’re not getting one. In my opinion, none of the main characters attained what readers usually consider as a satisfying/happy ending; what they do get, however, is an ending that fits the narrative of the series. Expect an unflinchingly vicious finale, and it’s highly probable that this trilogy will go down as one of your favorite series; it’s certainly one of my favorites. What Abercrombie does well, he does extremely well.
“I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.”
Speaking of the things that Abercrombie does well, the action scenes in this book were top-class. Out of all the grimdark fantasy series I’ve read, when it comes to close-quarter combat, Abercrombie’s First Law and Jeff Salyards’s Bloodsounder’s Arc are always the first to come to mind. Abercrombie has conjured tempestuous war and battle scenes within this finale. We’ve seen glimpses of the deadly magic of the series in the previous two books, but in Last Argument of Kings, Abercrombie displayed the cataclysmic potential of the magic and why they became forbidden to use. The action sequences were bloody, violent, and downright merciless. This is by far the most action-packed and explosive installment in the trilogy; even if I were to include all the books published in the series so far within my assessment—this includes The Heroes—I’d still put Last Argument of Kings above them all, both in quality and quantity.
“Travel brings wisdom only to the wise. It renders the ignorant more ignorant than ever.”
The war scenes were incredible, but if I were to choose one main highlight of the book, it would have to be the duel scene. If you’ve read this book, you’ll know which confrontation I’m talking about. Back when I first read this duel three years ago, I immediately thought that it was phenomenal; on my reread, I still feel the same way about it. It’s terrifying to me how vivid it was; it honestly felt like I was there. I could hear the sound of swords singing, and I was able to see blood and gore poured from the heart-hammering trade of skills and deathblows unleashed that made the decisive duel unforgettable. Abercrombie has seriously outdone himself in this particular scene. Abercrombie painted a devastating scene that’s incredibly easy to visualize within this circle of death where chaos and the Great Leveller reigns. I’ve read many fantasy novel that features amazing duel scenes, and I can easily vouch that the mighty clash of death here, together with the one in The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang, are indeed the best duel scenes I’ve ever read in a novel; it was THAT good!
“You can never have too many knives, his father had told him. Unless they’re pointed at you, and by people who don’t like you much. ”
It suffices to say that Last Argument of Kings is grimdark fantasy at its best, and it is one of my favorite books of all time, simple as that. I loved this book on my first read, and I’m gratified to say that I still absolutely love it on my reread; maybe even more now. Abercrombie is a fantastic writer and storyteller; his characterizations are masterful, his prose is compelling, and his capability in creating vivid cinematic scenes that are brutal, intense, philosophical, and at times hilarious established him as one of the finest authors in the genre. For years now, The First Law have often be recommended as a must-read series for A Song of Ice and Fire fans and grimdark fantasy enthusiasts. The longevity and the assurance of high quality in this recommendation can exist only if a specific series has received a world-wide qualification and praises from readers around the world. And this is a crowning achievement that Joe Abercrombie, the Lord of Grimdark, has indisputably claimed from this trilogy. If you—somehow—haven’t read this series yet, consider fixing that mistake by reading The First Law trilogy. Now. You have to be realistic about these things.
“If you want to be a new man you have to stay in new places, and do new things, with people who never knew you before. If you go back to the same old ways, what else can you be but the same old person?”
The Blade Itself: 4.5/5 stars
Before They Are Hanged: 5/5 stars
Last Argument of Kings: 5/5 stars
The First Law trilogy: 14.5/15 stars
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)