“The question was meant to be rhetorical.”
“Rhetoric? In a sewer?”
** may contain slight spoilers and some cursing **
Many, many, many months ago (last year before we moved to WV) I purchased Last Argument of Kings, the 3rd in The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. Some of you may recall my reviews of the first two novels in this trilogy. And many, many months ago I started reading it. Then we moved and it got stuck on a shelf, and then there was an unfortunate liquid accident, and to quote my pal Brooke, “You can’t come back from that.”, leading to the book being thrown away. Last month, I got around to calling Taylor Books, in downtown Charleston, WV., and ordering the book. Taylor Books is one of those great indie bookshops, in an old brick building, but their sci-fi/fantasy section is about a 4′ space. Book came in, I picked up and took it to work with me, promptly flipping through the first 100ish pages to remember where I had left off. That same week I worked two overnight shifts at my work, during our semi-annual floor strip/scrub/wax. I sat in an office chair, in a space not much bigger than the office chair, tried to get comfy and opened said novel. I read 335 pages that night.
Reviews of this novel have been mostly great, a little harsh, and a few idiotic. Some people were completely! unhappy with the ending, as none of the main characters get happy endings … maybe not none. 🙂
Maybe it was the middle of the night, being a person who likes to go to bed around 10pm, or maybe it was the music I was listening to on my iPhone, or perhaps the ammonia fumes from the floor wax, but I thought Last Argument of Kings was Hi-Lar-Ious. And tense. Super tense. It takes off, like the second, without back story or interruption in the happenings, and doesn’t really let the reader relax much. Battle after battle happens, right in a row. There’s more betrayals, murder, revenge and snarky dialogue. I read one review where a guy had a negative comment about the dialogue, but I’m a fan. I think the biggest thing to remember when thinking of these characters is that they are all ASSHOLES. Giant, unrelenting, unforgivable, and though mostly likable assholes. These are not good people.
Glotka, while trekking through the sewers with Ardee West, asks “Why?” and her answer about him being a villain was hilariously unexpected. When Black Dow splits Caurib’s skull with his axe and says, “That bitch talks too much.” I about died laughing. While it’s not a line one would think was funny, she was evil, and while he’s not much better, I had inhaled quite a lot of floor wax fumes by then! (The floor crew did leave the front door halfway open to give me some fresh air, which I thought was rather nice.) Logen, the Bloody Nine, turns out to be a bigger bastard than you thought, and maybe his enemy, Bethod, isn’t quite the one responsible for all the warring in the North. Bayaz is as cold and calculating throughout this book as the other two, Jezal … he’s a man who doesn’t change.
The worst happens to Collem West. The poor guy suffers through three books. He’s not perfect, but his fate is the one that bummed me out the most. (Sorry, mom). Glotka, ever reprehensible yet strangely sympathetic, doesn’t suffer the worst of endings, and one might say his is business as usual but with added perks. He must be one of my favorite characters of the trilogy because he’s graced the title of all three posts. I figured Ferro was going the route of “The Yellow Wallpaper” after Bayaz destroys half the city, but she seems to come out as okay as she can be, thirst for vengeance renewed.
This book takes its title from actual quotes, like the first two.
The Blade Itself: The blade itself incites to deeds of violence. -Homer
Before They Are Hanged: We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged. -Heinrich Heine.
Last Argument of Kings: Inscribed on the cannons of King Louis XIV
All in all, I’m a huge fan of the series, despite all the failings and horrible actions by these characters. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys good, solid fantasy writing.