Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie


Lemming of Discord
Jun 4, 2006
Here's a review of the much-anticipated concluding volume to this author's debut trilogy.

Last Argument of Kings is the third and concluding volume of The First Law Trilogy, following on from The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged. Those who have not read the first two volumes may wish to skip the plot summary as it does contain spoilers of events in those books.

In the frozen wastes of Angland, the army of the Union and its allies continues to wage war against Bethod and his forces. The Gurkish, having retaken Dagoska, now develop new and more bold plans to continue to wage war against the Union from the south. And, having failed in their quest to the far side of the world, Bayaz and his companions return to the city of Adua to make new preperations for the conflicts to come. But in this struggle it becomes clear that different factions are scheming for power, that those who are allies one day may be bitter foes the next, and that the price of victory may be far too high...

The First Law has attracted a great deal of praise since the publication of The Blade Itself a little under two years ago. Abercrombie's clear style delivered an apparently 'straightforward' fantasy tale with some interesting ruthless edges to it. Before They Are Hanged forced the reader to revise a lot of what they thought they knew whilst putting several key twists into the story that were unexpected. Last Argument of Kings delivers exactly what this trilogy needed: a no-holds-barred war story in which secrets are exposed, mysteries are explained and the author resolutely refuses to pull any punches. Those expecting a gloriously happy, neat ending to this trilogy best look elsewhere.

Instead, we get huge battle sequences, including one that threatens to displace the supremacy of Steven Erikson's siege of Capustan from Memories of Ice as the greatest epic fantasy battle this century. We get more intricate, devious politics. We get more torture, courtesy of our friend Glokta (whose character arc remains the most vivid and engrossing of the series). The deepening of the character of Bayaz, who first turned up looking like a jovial Belgarath-style wizard and is now revealed to have a lot more going on to him than just that, is also tremendously satisfying. To those who have taken part in debate on various fan forums some plot elements may emerge as rather predictable, at least until Abercrombie pulls the rug out from under your feet and, just for giggles, does it again a few chapters later. Best of all is the way quite small storyline elements from the previous two books are revisited and minor charaters of no great significance are now revealed to have their own important roles to play.

The ending is superb, particularly the tremendously satisfying epilogue and the final scene. Enough loose ends are left that Abercrombie could revisit the storyline in future books or series, but not to the extent that it is a necessity. Life goes on, albeit in a manner which some characters (and perhaps some readers) find criminally unfair. We also get enough clues laid about other, hitherto undeveloped parts of the world such as Styria that the news that the author's next novel, Best Served Cold, will be set there is most welcome. However, for the time being at least, we must bid a fond farewell to Superior Glokta, the redoubtable Jezal, the secretive Bayaz, the proud Ardee, the solid Colonel West and, of course, the Bloody-Nine. I look forward to the day when we catch up with them and their adventures once more.

Last Argument of Kings (****½) is a more than worthy conclusion to this trilogy. The novel will be published by Gollancz in the UK on 20 March 2008 in hardcover and trade paperback and by Pyr Books in the USA in September 2008.
Ooh... thanks for this Werthead - is it your review?

I can't wait... I wish I had a copy now... :(

I have to get a copy of "Before They Are Hanged" first :( I hope I won't have trouble finding a copy in the bookshops.

Am looking forward to reading these two last books in the Trilogy :D
I didnt read the review because it talked about spoilers, but I'm interested in knowing what this trilogy is about. Just googled him and the covers of the books look cool so that got my attention too. Is it like traditional epic fantasy or what kind of style would you guys say this trilogy is like?
It starts off as a traditional epic fantasy. Barbarian 'hero', noble warrior, feisty noblewoman, band of grim-but-loyal warriors, cantankerous old wizard mentor and so foth. As you go through the first book a few things happen that make you question this. The nobel warrior is a bit of a tool, and doesn't really improve as the story continues.

When you get to Book 2 you start realising that nothing is as it seems. The characters don't turn out the way you expect. The 'journeys' they go on don't automatically redeem them or forgive them their past sins. The friendly old wizard turns out to be a bit of a moody old git with some quite unlikable habits.

Then Book 3 overturns the cart altogether and shows you how completely you as the reader have had the wool pulled over your eyes about these characters, about the plot and about the backstory. The ending is completely true to the characters and the story but is absolutely not the ending anyone was expecting.

In summary, The First Law is the most satisfying, completed epic fantasy trilogy I've read since at least Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Law (and The First has better characters and a far more satisfying ending than that work). Having finished Book 3 I'm seriously considering going back and re-reading the whole thing in light of the revelations in later books. I suspect it will add much more to the experience.
Thanks that sounds really interesting. I'll probably pick up his first soon.
I was so anxious that I've preordered from Amazon UK. Can't wait for the US to get it. can do that? (sorry I'm not very savvy at all)

I reread the first again last night and strongly recommend not doing so; it only makes you more ungry for the next book.:D can do that? (sorry I'm not very savvy at all)

I reread the first again last night and strongly recommend not doing so; it only makes you more ungry for the next book.:D

Yes, if you're willing to pay a little more. Although I've found that books purchased in the UK are better made. This is the way I got most of the Erikson books. If you go to Amazon US, go to the bottom of the page. That's where the Amazons in other countries are listed. Just click on the UK.
I finally have it... it's killing me not reading it but I am determined to finish War of the Flowers by Tad Williams...

I'm not sure my will power will hold out until the end of War of the Flowers but I'm gonna try! Oh the temptation to peek...

Read the first two novels, have to agree; excellent debut series. The concluding chapters of the of the second (Before They Are Hanged) left me breathless...Now waiting 'patiently' for the third novel to arrive, I just hope its not a let down (fought off the temptation of reading Werthead's review).:)

Cheers, DeepThought
Thanks to other Chrons posts, I picked up the first two books about a month ago and read them back to back, really good story, am loving the Bloody Nine and especialy Sand Dan Glokta, nice to read a book with a bit of humour.
anyway, was near the end of BTAH and checked the release date of LAOK, found that it was out this month and recieved my copy on Friday, just as I finished BTAH. So I've jumped straight into it, am now 194 pages in and must say the excellent writing continues, (although was a bit predictable at a certain part), can't wait to finish it.
Keep up the good work Joe.
Almost pre-ordered a copy from but pre-ordered it from my naffing book club instead :mad: needless to say it still hasn't arrived and if it turns out to be a stupid BCA edition I'll be very, very :mad::(:mad::eek:
whew, finished. Really enjoyed all three boks and must say i enjoyed the ending of LAOK's, not what i expected from any of the main characters. Hopefully we'll get to read more about the Union, Northerners and the other races of Joe's world in the future.
Got my copy and it is a BCA publication grrrr. However I have been so waiting to read this that I couldn't bring myself to send it back. Apologies to JA but I've done him out of royalties by lending the first 2 books to my brother in law. However given the state my books usually come back in I shall no doubt be buying them again when I want to re read.
Finished Last Argument of Kings. Have read Werthead's review and completely agree; great set of books and this last one is just brilliant. Saying that Glotka, Logen, Bayaz et al. are great characters would be a huge understatement...The action never lets up, not a single boring moment in this huge novel.This last installment of the trilogy is despairingly bleak and grim but nonetheless a very satisfying conclusion IMHO. I find it astonishing that this is Abercrombie's debut series and to be honest, I haven't enjoyed a fantasy this much since GRRM and Eriskson. Hope he writes more books!

Cheers, DeepThought

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