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Publisher's Summary

The final novel in the First Law Trilogy by New York Times best seller Joe Abercrombie.

Logen Ninefingers might have only 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 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. As his days with a sword are far behind him, it's fortunate that he's deadly with his remaining weapons: blackmail, threats, and torture.

Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is too painful an undertaking 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.

The king of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible than to break the First Law....

©2015 Joe Abercrombie (P)2015 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Exhilarating.... Abercrombie's knack for wit and grit holds your attention throughout, and his eye for character means that there's heart as well as muscle." [ SFX (UK)]

What listeners say about Last Argument of Kings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Anti-Genre within the Genre

Any additional comments?

OK, on the down side, this remains really, really long. As much as I enjoyed it through the end – and I did – I was also wishing it were over. I know it’s the genre, but I think we could have gone without 300-500 pages (of the trilogy) here and still gotten all its many virtues.

Still, that aside, this really does hold up. Abercrombie may not be challenging the structures of the genre, but he is very much going after its implicit values. This is dark and apocalyptic. There’s no Tolkien-esque sense of a fundamentally benign universe. Instead, like George R.R. Martin, he is upending the conventions and giving us a universe that does not particularly love us back.

At the heart of all this is Bayaz, the aged, sometimes gentle-seeming wizard. As it turns out – in ways that Abercrombie has been hinting at from the start – the entire story here is a showdown between powerful wizards. This is not about the bravery or politics of ordinary humans, not even of humans as extraordinary as Logen or Ferro. Instead, people are a kind of “cattle” to Bayaz, and he is willing to sacrifice any and almost all of them in his millennium-long showdown with his rival.

In other words, Bayaz is not Gandalf. He’s like Jaffar from Aladdin except that he has no desire to wear the crown himself. He’s even more like Henry Kissinger or Dick Cheney or Steve Bannon. He’s an advisor wedded to realpolitik. He sees the world in terms of power relationships and, in a world of wizards, no one has any real power except him and his ancient adversaries. He’s an autocrat of the worst kind, philosophically opposed to the tendrils of democratic representation and equitable distribution that Jazel (modestly) and High Justice Marovia (tangentially to the plot) put forward.

[SPOILER] In that light, it makes perfect sense that Bayaz is the only one who sees anything like a “happy ending.” He gets to return to his library where, presumably, he can recruit a new apprentice who may or may not survive – an outcome of only minor significance to him.

I’ve seen some reviews that bemoan the way everything ends, but I say respectfully that I think people who feel that way don’t see what Abercrombie’s been up to from the start. This has always been about an indifferent history, an indifferent universe.

None of the apparent couples wind up together. Once Ferro discovers that some of the seed’s powers have remained part of her flesh, she pursues her vengeance without a thought for Logen. Once Jazel acknowledges the truth of Bayaz’s charge – that he is a coward at heart (a truth the novel bears out from the beginning) – he settles into his marriage with the Princess, unable to distinguish the sex Glokta has extorted from her from anything like real love; and, with him losing all thought of Ardy (who is wonderfully drawn at the beginning of this volume), she accepts Glokta. And Glokta, who’s loved the spice merchant from the start, returns to his heartlessness long enough to terrorize her into becoming his informant. Things don’t even work out for West who, briefly, seems to survive with the promise of marrying his old comrade’s wealthy and beautiful cousin; in the end, though, he’s another casualty of Bayaz’s arrogance, sickening under the Nagasaki-like aftermath of the wizard’s boundless self-centeredness.

And none of the characters escapes his or her worst traits. Logen never finds the way to become a peaceful, better man. Instead, he keeps on pushing for revenge until he finally finds a battle that even he can’t win. Jazel never finds anything like an authentic self, but gives in to Bayaz’s bullying and realizes how much he has always been clay in the wizard’s hands. Even Glokta, who ‘gets’ the girl and discovers a full-blown apprentice/protégé in the closing pages of the novel, remains miserable – remains wedded to a life he’d prefer to see ended.

It’s an axiom of high fantasy that we get to escape our 20th or 21st century world to spend time in a universe where secret bravery gets recognized. Abercrombie breaks that “First Law” and breaks it mercilessly. It’s as anti-genre as is possible to imagine, with bravery, decency, and ‘goodness’ all utterly irrelevant terms. Still, the whole work remains rooted in the form and tone of that same genre. I admire this as an experiment and mostly enjoy it as a written work. I wouldn’t have given this much time to something like this if I didn’t, bottom line, enjoy it, and Abercrombie does a fine job of redeeming his purpose at every turn. Full of surprises and characters going against type, this is ultimately a lot of fun.

42 people found this helpful

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A bit of a let down.

Any additional comments?

I was excited to listen to the final book of this trilogy, but was disappointed. The ending seemed flat and inconsequential.

9 people found this helpful

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Poor Ending

I listened to all three books. Terrific performance. Great characters, plot, sub plots. The fighting scenes were wonderful. After a bit some things became repetitive. The killer for me was the ending. It left me empty and unfulfilled.

24 people found this helpful

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Unremarkable Story; Great Performance

Out of the 3 books this one really drags on. certain characters' story lines become one dimensional and boring. And it takes a long time after the climax of the story for it to simply peter out.

6 people found this helpful

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Terrible ending

This would have been 5 stars all around but the ending was so bad. I seriously loved listening until the end. It totally seems unfinished.

17 people found this helpful

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Back to the mud (do not bother buying it)

Pathetic ending to the story. There was a lot left unfinished by the end of the story. The pointlessly added sex scenes like the previous entry were cringey at best at worst like a erotica written by a virgin. Numerous characters stories are left unfinished with lazy ambiguous endings. Other characters get snuffed out sent back to the mud as it were. Even the most enjoyable aspects of the Northmen felt hollow for the end of Logan's storyline.

If you are reading this review before you buy any of the series save yourself the time and don't. If you want to get disappointed by a shit fantasy story just rewatch Game of Thrones final season and you will get the same feel.

4 people found this helpful

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So wait, that's it?

This has been a fantastic story arc, but the conclusion leaves me wanting for more. The tone is dark, which in itself is fine, but the conclusion makes you wonder why take the journey at all? Ultimately what has been built up to an epic story involving several nations and storied heroes ends in a fizzle that doesn't really leave an outcome that's significantly different than the beginning.

4 people found this helpful

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* Inscribed on His Cannons by Louis XIV

I decided to keep with the pattern of review titles I had adopted in the first two books; that of completing the quote used in the name of the book. But here are some great quotes from this novel that would have made great review titles:

Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.
The good thing about every step being an ordeal: You learn to tread carefully.
Life is a series of things we would rather not do.
You’re never alone if you bring laughter with you.
Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.
In war the only crime is to lose.
God smiles on results.
You have to be realistic about these things.

There are many small surprises in this last book in the trilogy. Some of the behind the scenes maneuvering is revealed and I like the long range planning involved. The strong suit of this series is characterization. I will long remember Logan, Jezel, Bayez and the twisted Glokta; all of whom undergo significant life changes, and all of whom are forced to do some serious soul searching. All the people are flawed, just like real life. All the people have something to contribute to one’s own introspection. This is an excellent series. I liked each book more than the last as the story grew in the telling it grew in my estimation as well. This is good enough to revisit again in the future.

And in the end Logan is…

Stephen Pacey gives a performance worth of an Audie award. He was great in the first two books and is even better here as the story builds toward the conclusion. He is adept at the variety of characters here. His voice for Superior Glokta is so deliciously sarcastic. He does a fine job at portraying Jezal dan Luther, the selfish dandy that has greatness thrust upon him. He is even great in voicing the female characters. This is one of those books that I will be listening to again just to hear the one-man-show that is Stephen Pacey.

The above was written after my first listen to this book. I have now listened to it two additional times along with the First Law World books—Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country Joe—two more times each as well. I only listen to a book twice when I enjoyed the first experience immensely and know that a repeat performance will help enhance my enjoyment. I can unequivocally state that Joe Abercrombie is a top shelf storyteller and that Stephen Pacey is in the first rank of narrators. These audiobooks I now consider to be among my absolute favorites.

9 people found this helpful

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So sad it's over

Amazing... As good as game of thrones, easily. Steven Pacey's reading is nothing short of brilliant.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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No happy ending

Pretty depressing ending. I guess that I'd part of grim dark. The narrator is amazing and the story well written, it just leaves you feeling empty at the end.

3 people found this helpful