I’ve read some dark stuff in my life, but I believe that Last Argument of Kings is the bleakest, most brutal book I’ve read, ever. Joe Abercrombie undoubtedly earned his title as the King of Grimdark. If it wasn’t for the humor Abercrombie had been deftly layering into the story since The Blade Itself, I don’t know that I could’ve finished this final installment. I joked with my fellow Novel Notions bloggers that I felt like I needed to bathe in kittens and rainbows when I read the last pages, and that honestly wasn’t far from the truth. I started half a dozen or more books in the aftermath of this book, only to put them down again because they weren’t bright enough. I finally settled on rereading a Nora Roberts trilogy that I’ve read over and over since my teenage years. Nora’s charming descriptions of Ireland could not be further removed from the Union and the North as Abercrombie detailed them.
“I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.”
“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”
I am astonished by how much I loved this book. I went from thinking that grimdark wasn’t for me to being an unapologetic convert to the genre. Whatever the cause for my change of heart, I’m insanely glad it happened, because Before They Are Hanged is absolutely fabulous. Brimming with humor and overflowing with compelling characters, the second installment of The First Law quenched a thirst for high stakes and long odds that I didn’t even know I had.
“Honour, eh? What the hell is that anyway? Every man thinks it’s something different… The more of it you have the less good it does you, and if you’ve got none at all you don’t miss it.”
The Blade Itself is exactly why I believe in second chances. When I first read this book four years ago, I had very little adult fantasy under my belt. I had read Elantris, Mistborn, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Kingkiller Chronicle. That’s pretty much it. I think I just wasn’t mentally prepared for something like The Blade Itself. Even ASoIaF, by far the darkest of the fantasy novels I had read up to that point, had a number of characters who were mostly moral. Even if I wasn’t sure how long said characters would live, I knew that there was good even in this dark world. Then Abercrombie entered. While even on my first reading I appreciated how fleshed out and unique his characters were, there was a part of me that was horrified to find a core of darkness within those I had thought were basically good. My little brain didn’t cope well with that.
“Every man has his excuses, and the more vile the man becomes, the more touching the story has to be. What is my story now, I wonder?”