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The First Law, Book Three: Last Argument of Kings
Joe Abercrombie
Gollancz, 512 pages

Last Argument of Kings
Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie is a freelance film editor living in London. The Blade Itself was his first novel.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Before They are Hanged
SF Site Review: The Blade Itself

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

Last Argument of Kings is the final book of Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy. I finished it one afternoon, freezing my fingers off as I tried to read while waiting for the bus. It's good, gripping even. I just couldn't put it down. However, good as it was, I couldn't bring myself to like it. And for this reason I've been putting off finishing this  review. However, as Logan Ninefingers says, "It's better to do a thing than to live with the fear of doing it."

The book starts with all of the main characters: Ninefingers, Glotka, West, and Jezal as well as some of the supporting cast: Ardee and Ferro looking at their current position and thinking that they had their moment to escape and they missed it. Each one pauses to examine their situation before moving on and think "If I just turned around now, I could leave it all behind." While reading, I couldn't help but wonder if this is something that is also paralleled in the author's life. Now that I've finished, I'm wondering if maybe the message was meant for the reader.

Once finished with this introduction and recap, the book pushes forward like an avalanche through to the bitter end of the various events taking place from the wars in Angland and with the Gurkish to the internal secret wars of the ruling Closed Council. Like the avalanche, it is powerful, mesmerizing and unstoppable. However, also like an avalanche, the only way things can end is in a crush at the base of the mountain with luck being more likely than skills or bravery to save you.

There seem to be two main messages which, while then can be seen in the earlier books, are presented with all of the subtlety of the aforementioned avalanche in this one. The first is the notion that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and any attempt to combat this power will lead you down your own damning path although some follow the path with more enthusiasm than others.

The second is that the cycle will always repeat for as long as the same powers are in control and no one has the will to change it. This where the book ends, with the world cycled back to where it started, ready for the story to repeat again. This is the reason I could not like this book. No matter how brilliant the dialogue, how engaging and sympathetic the characters, how fascinating the mythology, or how clever the writing, a story needs to provide an ending that leaves room for hope and change, if not in the lives of the characters, then at least in the world itself.

A world without hope is one I can leave behind and not look back.

Copyright © 2008 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.

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