Ah! Last volume of a trilogy, the final page is always turned with a sense of accomplishment, not that it was a long hard road getting there, Joe Abercrombie's writing is a breeze to read, though the breeze can be damn uncomfortable! Having read three longish books by him now with pleasure I can declare myself a fan. The last couple of books I read prior to this one were strong on plot and ideas but they failed to engage me on an emotional level because the characters were not rather flat and uninteresting. Coming back to character-centric The First Law trilogy is a refreshing change of scene, even if the air smells a bit fetid at times.Last Argument of Kings
naturally carries on from where the second volume [b:Before They Are Hanged|902715|Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2)|Joe Abercrombie|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1179318094s/902715.jpg|2116927] left off. Most of the book is concerned with warfare between the Union against both the Northmen and the Gurkish Empire. The individual stories of the skillfully developed central characters from the previous two volumes are (sort of) concluded here as well as the epic main story arc that affect all of them. I keep coming across reviews of First Law books that mention "unlikable characters", I could not disagree more, I like almost all of them, and even the ones I dislike are interesting to read about. The protagonists are all complex and believable, some of their story arcs remain open ended and there is room for sequels, but as far as I know Abercrombie's subsequent books set in this world are focused on secondary characters instead.
The previous page turning fantasy epic I read was [b:The Desert Spear|6736971|The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle, #2)|Peter V. Brett|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320389818s/6736971.jpg|6527274] by Peter V. Brett, it was a very good and compulsive read but it pales in comparison to books in this trilogy, the wit, charm, and intelligence of Abercrombie's books are seldom matched in the sf/f genre. The prose style is generally visceral but occasionally the author slips in unexpectedly lyrical passages like "Their deaths were written in the shapes of sweet blood on the bitter ground. Their deaths were whispered in the buzzing of the flies on the corpses beyond the wall. Their deaths were stamped on their faces, carried on the wind, held in the crooked line between the mountains and the sky. Dead men, all."
and"It’s hard to be done a favour by a man you hate. It’s hard to hate him so much afterwards. Losing an enemy can be worse than losing a friend, if you’ve had him for long enough."
These more profound thoughts tend to be from the perspective of the melancholy barbarian Logen Nine Fingers.
While I love how all the myriad characters converge for the grand finale, I find the fate of the individual protagonists a little too inconclusive, and some of them deserve a better fate than the author gave them, though I suppose that is a reflection of real life. As Logen Nine Fingers.(master of catch phrases among other things) likes to say "You have to be realistic" and "Nobody gets what they deserve". Still, even though the intent of the author is to create a gritty, visceral and believable fantasy saga I feel the actual ending need not be so bleak, I followed the lives of these characters and I like them enough to wish for a happy or at least optimistic ending for them. Not all tropes need to be turned on their heads I think, happy endings leave a better aftertaste. That said it is the journey, not the destination (to trot out another cliche), and many readers are fine with the book's ending as it is. Just a personal quibble from me then.
I look forward to catching up with all the Abercrombie fantasy fiction in 2013.
4.5 stars (5 stars for the trilogy as a whole)