July 22, 2019

Last Argument of Kings

I did something in the reading of this book that I have neverknowingly done before. It is book three in the triology named “The First Law” authored by Joe Abercrombie. This is the first book I’ve read of this trilogy.  That’s right. I started with the last chapter, as it were.

One reason was that this book is the only book of the three that I had in my possession. Another reason was curiousity. I have always, always, always started at the beginning, because it is usually a very good place to start. I do have to note “Star Wars: A New Hope” as the one obvious exception I can call to mind…

If you’re one of those, like me, who wouldn’t consider reading Book Three before Book One, take the leap! This book most definitely stands firmly on its own. Our cast of characters — and there are several key players — are introduced in the first chapters just as though we already know them and their lives are continuing from a previous point, which of course, we would if we’d started at the beginning and they are.  Two books worth of previous points, in fact. Right off the bat, our curiosity is piqued with regard to prior events…

First, we are introduced to Superior Glokta of the Inquisition, a seriously crippled but very obviously savvy individual who is procuring votes for an upcoming election. References to the enormity and expanse of his physical discomfort cause us to wonder what has happened to bring him to this state. As subtle references are made, our sympathy for this man builds.

Secondly, we meet the balance of the players, by turn, as questers for ‘The Seed’ returning from said quest, as soldiers, as mercenaries, as dark mages. The demeanor of each is revealed right off — none really has  a disposition that I would call ‘sunny’. Then, each goes his or her own way, for the nonce, with hints of past adventures and life-altering events being tossed into the text. Of course, anyone who’s read the story starting with Book One knows of which they speak. Those of us who have not, become more and more curious to know more of the past details. Clearly all are or have been warriors and are strong in their own rights.

Slowly, a series of unexpected and for the most part, unpleasant, events brings these people back together in a fight the winning of which is in all their best interests. There are battles fought along the way, dark magic spent, enchanted weapons employed, painful pasts revealed, and politics played. Mostly, there are relationships built and destroyed by means of these devices.

The battles merit just a little extra press, I think, because I found their descriptions memorable. They are remarkably vivid and realistically described. War is neither pretty nor glamourous, and Abercrombie makes absolutely no attempt to make it so. The fighters always come away scarred, either physically or spiritually. I like that in a description of battle, speaking for myself. That description is particularly intense in his descriptions of the one-on-one scores settled throughout the story.

The climax is both a victory for our crew, and it is a loss. Some lose their independence, some their lives. Others lose their freedom; still others their dreams of what life should be. At least one loses that sense of self that defines a person.

The only person who ends this book satisfactorily is Glokta. Don’t think I’m giving anything away, here, because I am not. Satisfactory is not necessarily good. It is just marginally better than status quo…

By the time I finished this book, I had had the opportunity to get my hands on the first book of the The First Law trilogy, “The Blade Itself”, and cannot wait to sink my teeth into it. I want to know a lot about Glokta in his younger days. I don’t know, but I hope that more of that has is covered in the first two books.  I want to know more about the colorful secondary characters that, it is clear, have been part of this series before this book.  I can’t say ‘from the beginning’, but it may be so! I’ll be sure to offer in this venue my 2 cents on the subject when I finish “The Blade Itself”.

To close, I believe — and I will test this theory — that any competent author will want to write subsequent installments of a story so that each stands alone, but invites the appetite to more. Honestly, it had never occurred to me before this book, to read the finish before the start…  Joe Abercrombie is a fine writer, and this is a really good read for lovers of the fantasy genre.

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  1. [...] amazing first novel. In April of this year, I came to have the third book in this trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, and I decided to read it as a standalone and not wait ’til I could acquire Book One.  It [...]

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