Review: Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Last Argument of Kings

Joe Abercrombie

Pyr, 2008

Fantasy fans listen up!  Read this series.  Period. If that isn’t enough of a review for you I suppose you could look after the jump for the rest of the review.

Still here?  *Sigh* Why don’t you people trust me? OK, here goes:

In a genre that, fan as I am I must admit, has a tendency towards a pretentious air these books are a breath of fresh air.  Logen Ninefingers, Superior Glotka, Ardee West, and Abercrombie’s sordid and sundry cast are as classic and timeless as  Aragorn, Frodo, Rand al’Thor, Jon Snow, Conan and the vast nameless others that populate the fantasy genre.   Sure those characters borrow from the classics, though I think Abercrombie might be loathe to admit as much, but they twist the genre character cliches into new, and frequently wholly unique, forms.

Last Argument of Kings brings the events set rolling in the first two books to gigantic climax.  I haven’t done the math but I venture to guess that more stuff happens in this final volume than in either of the first two novel and all the things you’ve been waiting to see (Ninefingers’ return to the north, the final confrontation with Bethod, the Gurkish invasion, the culmination of all Bayaz’s manipulations, etc) are there and they are as exciting, tragic, and frequently humorous to read about as you would expect.  Oddly enough, despite being my favorite characters, I felt the book focused a bit too much on Ninefingers and Glotka and suffered (slightly) because of that.  Not enough for me to rail against completely, but I certainly missed some of the banter from the previous book (namely the Ferro/Logen bickering).  But that is a small complaint amidst what is otherwise a near pitch-perfect conclusion to what is undoubtedly one the best works of fantasy in recent history.

Abercrombie places an emphasis on character and action that is wholly at odds with the “traditional” approach to fantasy (at least of the “epic” variety) as it exists today but at the same time stems directly from the sword and sorcery fiction prevalent in works of Howard (Conan), Leiber (Lankmar), Moorcock (Elric), and others.  What is most interesting about this book (and the others before it) is how it manages to stay fresh despite its sword and sorcery traditionalism and accessible despite its constant subversion of traditional fantasy tropes.  A delicate line to walk but one that Abercrombie skates with unparalled grace.

So to reiterate my initial point do yourself a favor and read this series.  Fin.

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