First Law Along #3: Last Argument of Kings

After finishing Before They Are Hanged I just couldn’t wait to continue with this series. According to the schedule of the First Law Along readathon the third book is to be read by the end of June, but I already finished it in April.

Since this is the third book of the first First Law trilogie, it’s quite possible that there are spoilers in my review. Just so you’re warned!

Joe Abercrombie – Last Argument of Kings (The First Law #3) ★★★★

Genre: Dark Fantasy

The end is coming. Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him but it’s going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there’s only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. It’s past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no one is safe, and no one can be trusted. His days with a sword are far behind him. It’s a good thing blackmail, threats and torture still work well enough.

Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful, and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman he loves. But love can be painful too, and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.

While the King of the Union lies on his deathbead, the peasants revolt and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No one believes that the shadow of war is falling across the very heart of the Union. The First of the Magi has a plan to save the world, as he always does. But there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, after all, than to break the First Law…

Wow, this was a very unexpected, but actually rather apt ending of this trilogy.
Admittedly, this one read a lot slower than the previous one and sometimes I needed something lighthearted to balance it out, so in the end it took me twice as long to read compared to the previous part. Which is not to say that this was not good, but it did play on my mood.

Even though this series turned out to be a lot more humorous than I expected for a so-called grimdark fantasy, it was still very grim, bloody and depressing. Especially in this last part we have to process a couple of blows and the number of action scenes was increased exponentially. Because of this I sometimes needed a little break to catch my breath.
In the end, I did find that this this was a really clever and unique ending to the trilogy, one that at the same time satisfies me and leaves me hungry for more.

“You have to be realistic about these things.”

As with the previous volume, this book continues right where book 2 ended and ruthlessly races through shocking revelations to end on dark somewhat hollow conclusions.

Of course, with a genre ominously called “grimdark” I knew not to expect a light, happy ending, but still I couldn’t help hoping. And Abercrombie plays so well with that hope, feeds and nurtures it, only to then cruelly and inexorably throw it off a cliff.

“Round and round in circles we go, clutching at successes that we never grasp, endlessly tripping over the same old failures. Truly, life is the misery we endure between disappointments.”

This finale closes the circle of the story in every possible sense, which is both frustrating and genius.
We learn more about our characters’ motives, we’re privy to some shocking secrets, and we witness both the rise and fall of characters.

However, much remains unanswered or vague, but in the end this has little influence on the final message of the story, which for me actually mainly reflects how futile and unimportant the individual is.
It does make me curious about the other books in the overarching series, which will hopefully answer even more questions.

“Travel brings wisdom only to the wise. It renders the ignorant more ignorant than ever.”

Ultimately, even though this last book felt a bit hollow and very desolate, I still loved it.
Yes, it would be easy to say I hated it because it didn’t deliver what I usually want from an ending. There are no great victories (except for the great manipulator), no happy conclusions, no triumphant heroes. And yet it was so fitting and perfect. A truly cheery and happy ending would probably have felt like a bigger betrayal than the despondent ending we were presented with.
And I have to say, that final scene was both endlessly brutal and hilarious. And clever too.

“ Because the vast majority of men would far rather be told what to do than make their own choices. Obedience is easy.”