“You have to be realistic.”
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Category: High Fantasy
Publication Date: March 20th, 2008
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The final installment in the trilogy, where all of the plot-lines come together for a grand finale.
Only…not so much.
The story-lines that followed Logen Ninefingers, Superior Glokta, and Collem West do come together but in a kind of underwhelming way.
First off, the characters have been a highlight of the series and continue to be throughout this finale. The depth and complexity of the characters in this series has really been the driving factor.
The MVP of character development for this final book has to be Jezal dan Luthar. In The Blade Itself he was nothing more than a pompous nobleman’s son that was kind of good with a blade. Before They Are Hanged saw him facing hardship that he never in his wildest dreams thought he would face and this sends him into a bit of an existential crisis as he reflects on the person that he has been. Last Argument of Kings throws him back into the setting of the first one where he was a pompous prick so a part of him starts to slide back into old habits. He tries to catch himself at it and this is the real conflict for him: maintaining the good man that he has determined to be even when it is easier to not.
Second place would have to go to Ninefingers. He has been facing a similar struggle in the series. Once a man whose first response to anything and everything was to spill blood, he has made an effort to be a better man. And it isn’t going well. Despite his efforts, when confronted with battle or other violent life or death situations, Logen is overcome by a sort of blood rage. In this rage, there are no allies and no enemies. Only people that aren’t dead yet.
There are a few deaths because of this that seem like they should have some really big repercussions. One of them has some far-reaching consequences for Logen but none that we really get to see. The other, the arguably worse death, has almost no repercussions whatsoever and that was ridiculously disappointing. It almost seemed like the death was entirely to demonstrate to the readers what kind of monster Logen becomes under this blood rage. This is fine and all but since it didn’t end up having any impact on the story it just seemed excessive and pointless.
But the really disappointing this with this final book in a trilogy was the way it ended.
The ending made sense but it felt like there was so much wasted potential. The climatic point of the book, the big battle at Adua and Bayaz’s magic was just so damned underwhelming.
Maybe part of this is due to us having little to no investment into the backstory and Bayaz himself. But the magic that he uses in the battle felt a little bit dues ex machina because the magic that Bayaz used felt somewhat random. The item that was used in the magic, the Seed, was somewhat explained at the end of Before They Are Hanged but how it was used really was not explained, leaving the climatic moment of the story feeling like it was missing something.
Then there was all of this built up with Bethod and the Eaters and Bayaz’s feud with other Magi from the world’s mythology. This was all present but felt under-utilized. They were there in the story but not in a way that took advantage of the potential that bad been built up. Two books of not knowing exactly where this series was headed, what it was building up to, trusting that it was going somewhere epic and it lead to….a single fight to end Bethod and a single (albeit, very large) battle over a single city that was ended with dues ex machina magic. Even Ferro didn’t feel like she got the ending she was hoping for!
Then to top it all off, the book needs an extra 150+ pages just to tie up loose ends. That is a lot of book space to come after the climax of a story and still have your reader invested.
A very good chunk of this last section is exposition that would have been better being revealed during the story somehow. Reveals about the bank of Valint and Balk, a reveal about Ardee West, among other things are just sort of either dumped or wrapped up in the easiest to tie, neat little bow that doesn’t fit will with the dark tone of the rest of the story.
As with the first two books, the characters are my favorite. This is some of the best and simultaneously the darkest characterization I think I have read. While I find the story lackluster, I think these characters will stick with me for a while. I am really frustrated with this series now so any points/stars given are 100% for the characters.
I was already not a fan of this series. The story feels generic, the bad guys feel generic, and the overall plot is just okay. As we have already said multiple times, the character development saved this series. They are realistic and believable. One thing I loved is spoilery but I will say is that it is fitting to the story and I enjoyed that last little bit. This was not a series for me and not one I will be returning to.