the Little Red Reviewer

Last Argument of Kings, by Joe Abercrombie

Posted on: December 2, 2010

If you haven’t already, take a gander at my reviews for the previous books in this series, The Blade Itself, and Before They Are Hanged. Or don’t, and this can be one of the most confusing blog posts you’ll read all week!

Like the previous books in the series, Last Argument of Kings knocked my head off, in a good way. Abercrombie continues to do what he’s best at – taking your favorite fantasy tropes and bashing the living hell out of them. As this is the last book in the trilogy and I don’t want to wreck anything, I’m going to keep this vague.

Remember my complaint that Before They are Hanged suffered from “inbetweenness”, that quintiscential quality known to many middle books in trilogies? Lots of travelling, lots of relationship building, lots of quests of sorts, lots of set up for things to come.

And it was a big set up, but not at all for what I thought it was. Abercrombie takes the art of misdirection to entirely new levels, leading the reader to believe one plot line or the other is where our attention to should be, when what we should really be paying attention to has been staring us in the face all the time.

If you have been paying any attention at all, much of what happens in Last Argument of Kings won’t be a surprise. You’ve been expecting certain characters to end up in certain places at certain times, and most people do end up about where you expected. But the mastermind behind the curtain? Maybe who and what you expected, but certainly not why you expected. That’s nice, it is.

I shouldn’t have to tell anyone that this isn’t a story about good guys versus bad guys or good vs evil. In this story, you’re either a bad guy, or you’re a hypocrite. And who would ever admit to being a bad guy? it’s all for the greater good, right?

Some of these folks have been to the end of the world, some of them have been victims of multiple governments. Have they learned anything?? Jezal is still a lazy spoiled brat who thinks he knows the way of the world. Logen wants even more to be a better person, but when his dark side takes over you better not be standing in front of him. For all we know, he killed his own family. Bayaz knows exactly what he is, and it’s not “bad guy”. Ferro simply wants revenge, no matter how empty she feels once she gets it. And Glokta? For someone who gets paid to torture people, he’s a pretty nice guy. If I were to choose a favorite literary character from the 2000’s, Glokta would most certainly be in my top five.

Abercrombie excels at the witty dialogue and fighting scenes, but I wish he’s expanded the ending more. Things came together fairly quickly for me, but that may have been because I read the last 250 pages in one evening because I couldn’t put the book down.

Are there unanswered questions? Yup. Life just ain’t fair, is it?

5 Responses to "Last Argument of Kings, by Joe Abercrombie"

I am looking forward to reading this series! Thanks for the non-spoiler reviews!!


Woo, LaoK! (I’ll also try to be vague to avoid spoilers…)

“In this story, you’re either a bad guy, or you’re a hypocrite.” Agreed; I find this one of the most distinctive features of Abercrombie’s writing and one of the key components in his worldview. I certainly would not want EVERY story to be this way, but it does make for a refreshing break…

The misdirection was a big reason why I liked the series; I think I would have enjoyed it a lot less if it had worn its colours on its sleeve from the beginning. (Contrast, say, Richard K Morgan – from page one you know you’re in one of those ultra-bleak worlds where ‘life sucks and everyone is out to get you’, but I don’t find that to be a particularly meaningful message to take away from his books.)


I am a HUGE fan of misdirection, and the less I see it coming, the better.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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