Abercrombie, Joe. Last Argument of Kings.

(The First Law, Book 3) Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2008.

The third volume of a trilogy is where all the crises are resolved, and all the questions answered, and all doubts settled. Often, almost by tradition, it’s also where the final battle is won, and the prince and princess are married, and the medals handed out. But Abercrombie has shown — repeatedly — that he doesn’t care much about tradition, not unless there’s a good reason. And he definitely doesn’t do “happily ever after.”

Our crew of protagonists are back from their far-flung adventures in the previous volumes, and their problems have only grown worse, although several of them also suffer surprising promotions. Logen Ninefingers, having returned from the failed expedition to the literal ends of the earth, has gone back north and rejoined his crew of Named Men in the struggle against the self-declared King Bethod. Inquisitor Glotka, now a Superior, had managed to hold off the forces of the Emperor, at least for awhile (and at considerable cost to himself), but now the imperial hordes are invading Midderland itself. Capt. Jezal dan Luthor is thinking seriously about resigning his commission and seeking out some peace and quiet with the girl he left behind him, but Bayaz, the First of the Magi, has other ideas about that. Col. West, the loyal and long-suffering spear-carrier, has a chance at true heroism and pulls it off rather successfully, and what’s his reward? Just about what you’d expect. Ferro Maljinn hates the city and feels justifiably betrayed in her eternal quest for vengeance against the Emperor, but Bayaz isn’t finished with her, either. In fact, Bayaz shows his true ruthless, elitist, megalomaniac colors at last, and the Union is going to suffer mightily as a result.

And that’s about all I can say without spoiling the continuing adventure for its anxious readers. Except that I have seen complaints from reviewers about the “darkness” of the story. And their judgment that none of the characters is sympathetic is, I think, incorrect. Actually, I found Jezal and Glotka and (especially) West and Ardee to be quite sympathetic. Even Logen, trying to deal with the effects of his own history as a berserker. They all have tried to change in various small ways, to be better than they were. (They just haven’t succeeded much.) In fact, everyone has a good side, or tries to develop one, except Bayaz, who is the only player who gets exactly what he wants.

With this debut epic, Abercrombie has joined the ranks of sword and sorcery masters in a single leap. When I finished the last bleak page, I knew I would come back and read all three volumes again in a few years. They have a permanent place in my personal library.

Published in: on 13 January 2013 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  

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