Last Argument of Kings is the third and concluding novel in The First Law Trilogy and was Joe Abercrombie's third novel. It was first published in March 2008 by Gollancz in the UK, with an American edition following from Pyr Books.
The end is coming.
Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him but its 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. Its past 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. His days with a sword are far behind him. Its a good thing blackmail, threats and torture still work well enough.
Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful, 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.
While the King of the Union lies on his deathbead, the peasants revolt and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. No-one believes that the shadow of war is falling across the very heart of the Union.
The First of the Magi has a plan to save the world, as he always does. But there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, after all, than to break the First Law...
Main Point-of-View Characters
Other Influential Characters
Plot Summary Edit
With the old king of The Union on his deathbed, and with no heir, the Open Council must elect a new king. However, the process is not clear cut as the Closed Council, and the nobles squabble over who should be elected to the throne, with each faction fighting to gain control of the vote. Superior Glokta, under the orders of Arch Lector Sult, has been using a combination of threats and promises to gain votes. He finds himself competing with High Justice Marovia and his subordinates. When the King dies it becomes clear that despite both his and Marovia's machinations Lord Brock will be elected. It is at this point that the Magus Bayaz reveals that Jezal is the illegitimate son of King Guslav and uses tales of his supposed heroics in The Old Empire and the quelling of a uprising among the commoners, revealed to have been started by one of Bayaz's apprentices for this exact purpose, to convince the open council to elect Jezal.
In The North, Logen Ninefingers returns to settle his score with Bethod. Not everyone is happy to see the Bloody-Nine, if Bethod doesn’t kill him, maybe someone from his own side will. A plot is concocted to lure Bethod into a trap in the High Places, but when The Union fail to spring the trap, a bloody last stand ensues. Finally, the Union Army arrive under new Lord Marshal West and rout Bethod's forces, but not before the Bloody-Nine has unwittingly killed his close friend Tul Duru. After his defeat, Bethod takes refuge in Carleon. To end the siege, Logen has to defeat Fenris the Feared in a duel in the circle, which he does thanks in part to Dogman, Grim and Dow killing the sorceress Caurib. With Bethod's champion felled, Logen kills Bethod and is declared himself King of the Northmen.
In Midderland, the Gurkish invade and lay siege to Adua. Despite things looking dire, Sult and Valint & Balk refuse to end their machinations. Caught between a rock and a high place, after discovering that both his Practicals had betrayed him, Superior Glokta determines to bring down the Arch Lector. He leads a ragtag band of mercenaries to the House of Questions and then to the University, to end Sult’s diabolical experiments to send Demons against his enemies.
Meanwhile, the whole purpose behind the war is revealed to be a century long personal feud between two ancient Magi. Khalul’s Eaters come for Bayaz in the Square of Marshals, only to discover that Bayaz has discovered The Seed in the House of the Maker. Bayaz summons forth the power of The Seed, and blithely sweeps away Eaters and Union men and buildings alike. The Battle of Adua ends with the Gurkish army utterly routed, at massive cost.
In the end, our six main characters each have their own bittersweet endings. Glokta is installed as proxy on the Closed Council for yet another malevolent master, Bayaz. Jezal lives disillusioned and resigned to being a puppet King at best, knowing that Glokta has married the only woman he ever loved. West has fallen victim to the wasting disease caused by the use of The Seed. Ferro has been altered by The Seed and goes off on her own to murder the Gurkish Emperor. Dogman stands amongst the graves of his friends wondering what it was all for. And, Logen returns to The North to claim his throne, only to be betrayed by Black Dow; it is unclear whether he survives.
Chapter Summaries Edit
- "Rules are for children. This is war, and in war the only crime is to lose." Bayaz
- "Proof is boring. Proof is tiresome. Proof is an irrelevance. People would far rather be handed an easy lie than search for a difficult truth, especially if it suits their own purposes." Glokta
- "It's hard to be done a favor by a man you hate. It's hard to hate him so much afterwards. Losing an enemy can be worse than losing a friend, if you've had him for long enough." Logen
- "Chose? If you believe that I chose any part of the pitiful shadow of a life you see before you, you are very much mistaken. I chose glory and success. The box did not contain what was written on the lid." Glokta
- "It always amazes me, how swiftly problems can be solved, once you start cutting things off people." Glokta
- "People like to watch the pretty puppets, Superior. Even a glimpse of the puppeteer can be most upsetting for them. Why, they might even suddenly notice the strings around their own wrists." Bayaz
- “What is it about power, that it has to be higher up than everyone else? Can a man not be powerful on the ground floor?” Glokta
- “Having fucked the groom is really no excuse for missing a wedding, you know." Ardee
- “Because you’re a ruthless, plotting, bitter, twisted, self-pitying villain?” Ardee
- “Trust. It was a word that only liars used. A word the truthful had no need of.” Ferro
- The title refers to the words Louis XIV ordered cast on every cannons of his armies, Ultima Ratio Regum, which is Latin for "The last argument of kings" i.e. the act of declaring war.