Say one thing for Kat Hooper, say she’s a weak-minded sucker.
She really enjoyed the first two books of Joe Abercrombie’s THE FIRST LAW trilogy. This story was original, had a unique style, fascinating characters, and a darkly cynical vibe. She liked it. It was fresh. But she was kind of hoping, even daring to expect, that the last book, Last Argument of Kings (2007), might have an ending that was, if not perhaps exactly happy, at least somewhat satisfying.
Unfortunately, Last Argument of Kings was more realistic than happy. Hooray, some might say — a realistic ending! But realistic is not what Kat reads fantasy for. For three books she read about people’s heads being chopped off, painful body parts clicking, toothless gums being sucked at, pain, wasting disease, bodies being cleaved in half, more pain, betrayal, torture, treason, tyranny, loveless marriages, abusive fathers and brothers, miscarriage, alcoholism, prejudice, more pain. Lots of pain. It has to get better, right?
Alas, no. There just wasn’t enough redemption to balance all of the pain. A couple of characters became more noble (they couldn’t have become less so), but their triumphs were outweighed by the degradation of other characters. It was all just kind of depressing.
Besides that, there really wasn’t anything new in Last Argument of Kings. The story ends (for better or for worse), but there was none of the freshness that was so exciting in The Blade Itself. The writing is well above average, but not brilliant, and it certainly wasn’t pretty.
What she’s trying to say is: THE FIRST LAW is an entertaining and well-written story for someone who is more the cynic than the optimist. But it left Kat feeling icky. Very icky.
I just finished The First Law, Book 3: Last Argument of Kings and I can’t remember the last time I read a series this exciting, if ever.
My biggest complaint of modern epic fantasy is that too many series consist of tombstone-sized doorstoppers by authors who don’t have the discipline to complete books in a timely manner or the gahonas to even finish the story. Finally, a trilogy comes along during which I don’t grow older waiting for the next installment and is truly only three books long… Then, I only find myself not wanting it to end.
The Blade Itselfand Before They are Hanged consistently build the momentum of The First Law trilogy with the determined speed of a freight-train unknowingly headed for a washed-out bridge. The story does conclude in Last Argument of Kings but only after several jaw-dropping twists that you’ll never, ever, see coming. But, like every great legend, it leaves just a few things unfinished, so this story does end, but you can always hope for more.
I found the characters to be so unique, interesting, and brutally believable, that I could not do them justice by describing my favorites briefly enough to keep this review at an appropriate length. The action is both savagely violent and undeniably realistic. It’s scary to think that the intrigue and ruthlessness of the story’s ruling powers may be all too close to reality.
I loved everything about The First Law. From the clever writing, the beautifully done covers, and even the real quotes used at each part’s title page — they all combine to enhance the experience of a truly original and thrilling fantasy epic. My only criticism is that I would’ve liked just a tad more visual descriptions, but Abercrombie’s genius for dialog and character narrations easily makes up for that, and then some. I can’t wait to see what Joe Abercrombie does next.