Ending Like an Avalanche

April 3rd, 2008


If you ain’t read my books, best read no more of this, for it may spoil the (wonderful/shocking/deeply moving) experience somewhat. Certainly don’t read the comments section of this or the previous post, which are sure to BURN YOUR EYES LIKE THE BREATH OF THE BALROG OF MORIA.

What’s that you say? You’ve read all my books so far, and I’m talking mostly about the third one, Last Argument of Kings? Then we may continue…

I’m not that hot on foreign languages if I’m honest, and my Danish? (Finnish? Swedish? Norwegian?) is slightly rusty, but I’m interpreting the headline of this review as:

“Abercrombie’s Last Argument of Kings is Tolkein with a Magnum 44”

That’s all I need to understand. Although I also see, in the way you sometimes do in the midst of a paragraph of incomprehensible foreign words, some English springing out lower down. The words “Hollywood-Ending.” I’ll take a wild guess, and assume he’s pointing out that there isn’t one.

Peadar O’ Guilin (aplogies for the lack of appropriate accents on those Irish letters), author of The Inferior, has been musing on the subject of the great importance of endings over on his blog. The man makes some good points about how it’s very hard, once you’ve finished a book, for one’s opinion not to be entirely coloured by the ending.

I think this is particularly true of epic fantasy, in which series often start with great promise, but seem to lose focus, bloat out in the middle, and often end with a bit of a disorganised and predictable whimper (apologies, of course, to the many important exceptions). I was very keen when writing the First Law that it should a) stick to three books of roughly the same size, b) build steadily so that scale and pace mounted with each part, and c) have a satisfying end that had some twists, was unusual within the genre, and (hopefully) said something about real life too. Now I hope people won’t think I’m just tooting my horn if I say that I’m very happy with the way it turned out. But everyone has different tastes. Some in the english-speaking world found the ending just a bit too dark, even if they liked the book. Ben from the Deckled Edge:

“When I read other reviews saying Abercrombie took the fantasy tropes and completely tore them up in Last Argument of Kings, I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant. I have to admit I was shocked at how events turned out. The battles were amazing, the character machinations and revelations even more so. What really surprised me was how the reader’s preconceptions of the characters and the world were totally turned on its head. Thus, The only complaint I have of Last Argument of Kings is that the world-view is too cynical for my tastes, but I think that’s Abercrombie’s point.”

‘Tis indeed the point, my man. I like my tea dark and strong, and my endings the same way. If you’re comfortable with it all, then it ain’t really worked. But for some, and I suspect there’ll be more of these as time goes on, the end was … just too much. John Enzinas over at SFSite was pretty keen on the first two books. He seemed almost … wounded by the third, though:

“Like the avalanche, it is powerful, mesmerizing and unstoppable. However, also like an avalanche, the only way things can end is in a crush at the base of the mountain with luck being more likely than skills or bravery to save you … No matter how brilliant the dialogue, how engaging and sympathetic the characters, how fascinating the mythology, or how clever the writing, a story needs to provide an ending that leaves room for hope and change, if not in the lives of the characters, then at least in the world itself. A world without hope is one I can leave behind and not look back.”

I actually think that’s a great review, and, oddly enough, would make me want to read the book more than any other I’ve read. I actually don’t think it’s as utterly devoid of hope as the man felt, but, yeah, you got me, it’s pretty harsh. The thing is, I love a happy ending, when it’s appropriate, but there’s an awful, awful lot of ’em out there. Even stuff that comes over all cynical-as-you-like to begin with often ends up drowning in a saccharine bog of sentimentality (or overblown tragedy, which in its way rings just as hollow). That’s why I love and admire The Wire so much (more on that later). Real darkness is pretty rare in any genre, but particularly in epic fantasy, I reckon.

So I’ll settle for an ending like an avalanche. A few readers are sure to clamber out cold and unhappy, teeth chattering, saying they’re never going to ski again. Some may even feel crushed. But I reckon most will enjoy the ride, and, even if they don’t, the experience might just give them something to think about…

Posted in opinion, reviews by Joe Abercrombie on April 3rd, 2008. Tags: ,

38 comments so far

  • Dave Ellis says:

    Whilst I agree that the end is suitably dark, cynical and quite unique to the end of an Epic Fantasy Trilogy. I disagree that there is no sign of hope, change or even redemption at the end of LOAK.

    For instance (and this really is spoilery so if Mr Abercrombie’s warnings haven’t been enough it’s your fault), the reason Logen’s escape made me grin, is that he didn’t want to be king, and he admits in the book that he was happiest in recent times away from the North, on the run having adventures with Ferro, Jezal et al, so the fact he goes back on the run at the end seems fitting and also cathartic because you can hope that he’s going to have more of those adventures, maybe he’ll go searching for Ferro (we can only hope) or whatever. That’s the long winded way of saying, it may not be perfect, but I think Logen will be happier than sat in Black Dow’s place.

    The other one would obviously be Ardee and Glokta, neither would have chosen each other, but they somehow fit together, giving each other what they have never found with other people. now isn’t that the start of a long term, loving relationship? I certainly hope so.

    I could go on, but it’s going on too long already. I’ll just end by saying, nobody ends up where you expect them too, but it all seems fitting, and some of them might actually have a happy existence, at least till next time Mr Abercrombie decides to write about them.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hope has little to do with smiley endings.
    Hope was the last thing left in Pandora’s Box after all the evils had been released into the world. It’s the faint uncertain glimmer amid the gathered gloom – and there are more than enough unfinished threads to your tale to allow those of a sentimental disposition to imagine more hopeful future circumstances for those that survived.
    Remembering always that it’s Joe Abercrombie we’re talking about here.

    Those I’ve talked to about the books usually have two comments:
    1. Bayaz – what a bastard!
    2. What happens next?

    Depressed they ain’t. They think there’s a cracking story yet to be told.

  • Tierhon says:

    I’m not Swedish, but I’ll try a translation:

    Four reason for why Last Argument of Kings might become the best book for 2008:

    1. When I was describing it for a mate, I spontainiously said “Think fantasy, but Dirty Harry”. In Abecrombies world “good” might in the best case be an unreachable ambition. The heroes are not only humanly weak, but often unhumanly monstrous. The two most sympatic main characters are a torturer and a child murderer.

    2. The fantasy genre is often accused of only maintaining the status quo. This is the case even here. But in Last Argument of Kings it’s shown what happens when the statues quo is not dictated by good wizards with white beards.

    3. The battle scenes, which is a multitude, are fantasticly grafical in their bloodyness. I don’t remember when I last read as entertaining action. There’s a tempo and pulse in the battles that makes it impossible to stop reading.

    4. No damn Hollywood-ending. Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say that he’s not kind to his characters.

    Apologizes for the not so good English.

  • Oh, you found my little review! (Spend much time googling yourself? 🙂 It is, indeed, in swedish. I list my top 4 reasons why LAOK will be the best book of 2008. I was trying to write a propper review for a week, but then I though … what the heck. 🙂 /Magnus

  • Tierhon: Nice translation. Spot on.

  • daft sod says:

    I carefully picked my way through the spoilers. The stuff I did read fueled my anticipation even more (if that was even possible after the first round of reviews about the ending) I ordered BTAH and LAOK the day before yesterday. The only roach remaining in my pudding is that Amazon Germany doesn’t have BTAH in store. This means that I will receive LAOK first and still have to wait for BTAH. Anticipation or the spoilers are going to get me…

  • Anonymous says:

    Spoiler hints below:

    Great ending in my opinion; though most of it was kind of clear for me when the new king was crowned – that I did not see though when I reread the trilogy after finishing LAOK, the little signs were there; it followed who will be the lord marshal and who will run things.

    The one thing that I did not anticipate is the last paragraph – but I loved it, went immediately to the first book to check if I remember correctly and it is identical to how that one starts…

    Great, great job – best fantasy of 08 for me, hard to see anything else beating it, though RK Morgan may come close


  • Susanne says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the ending and how I feel about it, and I’ve revised my initial reaction of “awww, not fair! those poor people!” to all-round amazement at the cleverness with which thou weavest a tale, sir, so that every character’s fate is entirely proper and believable.

    I agree with Dave Ellis up there – Logen coming full circle is brilliant, and I’m happy for Glotka and Ardee. I’m still sad for Dogman, but my knee-jerk reaction to Ferro and Luthar (why can’t they be happy and reformed??? why not???) has cooled down in the course of reflection. Ferro was never going to buy a farm and settle down, was she… And Jezal was never going to change so entirely as to leave the army well alone in the first place.

    But Bayaz! The biggest surprise; way before the ending, of course. I love that he’s not a kindly Gandalf, meddling in secret and smiling on happily, but this batshit crazy control freak. (Or have I misread him?) Anyway, I do hope we’ll meet him again. And that someone shows him the error of his way…

  • Beefeater says:

    Bayaz as batshit control freak: precisely, that’s why he’s so great! That and the manic cheerfulness when he’s winning.

    The ending is kind of depressing though, because it doesn’t sugest any hope for the future. It’s a bit like 1984: a pointy boot stamping on a human face, forever.

  • Alex says:

    I’m not sure I agree with the whole batshit insane control freak thing. To me, Bayaz was more in the mould of Machiavelli’s Prince, a realpolitiker. All he cares about is his own interests, the greater fight against Khalul, and all other considerations have to take the back seat. I found this absolutely brilliant, as this is pretty close to what always happen when someone becomes to powerful.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for not making a Glokta and Ardee sex scene……that just would have been wrong.

  • Afront says:

    I’ve just finished reading Last Argument of Kings and have to say, what a fantastic conclusion to a brilliant story!

    I’ve read so many books that just don’t know how to end properly (or at least leave me with a wtf? at the end) but LAOK managed it perfectly with some tremendous payoffs. To say it lacks hope I think is missing the point: it always will end in tears if you take it right to the end, but it’s how you get there that makes for a good story.

    I don’t usually read “fantasy” so I don’t know how an Epic Trilogy like this is supposed to end: maybe it’s just one break with tradition too far for some reviewers?

    Thanks Joe for writing the best three books I’ve read in a very long time. My only question is: will they be translated into Gurkish?

  • Anonymous says:

    I just finished the book this morning and the ending is still fresh in my mind. I thought the ending was brilliant and fit perfectly with the overall tone of the trilogy. I can understand those who think it offers no hope…but as my calvinistic upbringing taught me, humans are all totally depraved.

    As Hobbes once said, “Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time or war where every man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry… no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Amen.

  • Alex says:

    (Even more spoilers…)

    I thought it was a fairly hopeful ending, myself – just realistically so. Running-the-kingdom-wise, surely the conclusion was that they’d try to do nice things if and when they could. Sounds realistically hopeful to me. Obviously, Logen’s completely different in not having changed in situation at all from the beginning – but, apart from the neatness of it all (which justifies it in any case), that’s got exactly the same element of realistic hope in that his revelation was that was how he was actually happiest living, and that some things are just too unforgivable to allow realistic redemption. It really is his best chance of change to go back to becoming someone else.

    The one really nasty part of the ending was Malacus Quai. Poor chap, with the ominous rumblings about “Old Empire” and random mystical stuff like that, would in normal fantasy be an obvious candidate for manifesting some mysterious and vital destiny. But not only is he killed, he’s actually already been killed ages ago… that’s just harsh. I liked him, too. Meanie.

    But all in all, a great ending, I think. Though it came very very close at points to slipping up… in particular, Jezal’s miraculous transition into heroically-noble king would have been far too far for my tastes, if Bayaz hadn’t trampled him so well. For another minor quibble, I thought the random mentions of democracy were a bit odd. End of quibbling. Thanks for a great trilogy!

  • Alex says:

    (To clarify: I thought the democracy idea was weird because today democracy versus fascism/communism/dictatorship/anything not democracy, in newspapers in particular, seems to be the worn-out equivalent of the stark good versus evil contrast that riddles less interesting fantasy books. Its effect seemed to me to make us think that Marovia is undeniably a Good Guy, whereas Sult is irrevocably nasty. Just seemed that that contrast was comparatively unsubtle, compared to the rest of the books…)

  • Dave, 1st Anon, Susanne, Beefeater,
    Ironically the ending was a bit more pessimistic still in the first draft, and my editor suggested lightening it up a bit, which I think was a good call. The irony of course is that I’ve been taken to task for being lightweight and disposable on the first two books, then with the third suddenly it’s too grim. You can please some of the people all the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can’t…

    Tierhon, Magnus
    My thanks for the translation, and a great review. I’m a massive Dirty Harry fan. I can do his six shots or only five speech word for word and everything.

    I’m a big fan of Machievelli, as you’ll probably see with the next book.

    Still hoping for the Gurkish translation rights to come through. It’s a big market…

    Excellent quote from Hobbes, there.

    Glad you liked it. I guess Marovia was supposed to represent a progressive, democratising force within the government, and Sult a reactionary, authoritarian one. Marovia was maybe the more positive of the two, but far from a nice guy. I guess the point was supposed to be that both approaches were equally irrelevant in the face of true power…

  • Johan says:

    “I’m not that hot on foreign languages if I’m honest, and my Danish? (Finnish? Swedish? Norwegian?) is slightly rusty”

    What I just don’t get: why people never look at the top-level domain (.se) when they can’t figure out what language something is in. Sure, it isn’t foolproof and doesn’t work at all with e.g. .blogspot.com or wordpress.com blogs, but in many cases – such as this one – it’s a good clue.


  • Easydog says:

    Warning : SPOILERS::::

    I personally found Ferro’s ending to be the one which left me with most, well, hope. I felt that she was going to be able to follow the path she so doggedly persued and with enough power to be effective. Good for her. I hope she succeeds, wresting life and power from those who are just as corrupted by it. Of course, she will become a monster in the process, but she was never really going to be anything else. Hmmm… It’s a little bit of a screwed up testament to my cynicism that I found the most hopeful line in the book to be Ferro saying she might come back for Bayaz. I hope she kills the bastard. So long as her stubborness holds out in the face of the madness brought about by the voices. I’m hopeful.

    I’ve just read that back and I’m wondering how drained of moral fortitude I’ve become since reading LAOK. Very, apparently.

    I thought the ending was superb, if terrifying in it’s portrayl of corruption. I found myself a little hollow and enraged by the unfortunate way it left the charaters I’d grown to empathize with so readily. Perhaps I should worry about the fact that I was more angry than sad when it all fell to shit. When Glokta threatened to have someone raped, when Jezal’s defiance crumbled into fear and cowardice, when Logen found himself yet again resigned to violence he could have just walked away from… all I felt was angry. So bless Ferro for feeling the same and doing something about it.

    Plus Pike did alright out of it too. So you see, there’s some hope. Heh.

    One of the best endings I’ve ever come across. I hope I come across such endings rarely though, I don’t need to be that miserable.

  • Yulwei says:

    Well let’s look at the endings and analyse the degree of hope or lack thereof within them

    Jezal: getting laid albeit he’s effectively raping her everytime. Is ignorance a defence I think not but how can he know and what can he do about it. If he stops sleeping with her her “friend” gets gangraped and he can’t order Glokta to do anything so getting her released is out of the question. Quite the bind there.

    As to his rule it seems that Glokta doesn’t disagree with his reforms and if Bayaz ever becomes less vigilant or makes a exception he’ll initiate any of Jezal’s schemes.

    Glokta/Ardee: Happy endings all round really what did Ardee expect to marry the king would be impossible and she’s already voiced her opinion on becoming his mistress. It’s unlikely Glokta has it in him so she won’t have to sleep with him heck he really doesn’t want anything but for her to be safe she’s the one who insists on acting like a wife. Glokta is free to pursue the truth he seemed so interested in. He’s still taking orders from someone above him but somehow I feel he’s got more breathing room than he had under Sult. In addition he seems to have reduced the threat of stairs in his life and whilst there’s still revulsion and horror in the way they look at him there’s probably respect and the good kind of fear.

    Ferro: she’s been powered up to Mamun’s level by the Seed but seemingly driven insane as well. Seems like she can hold out so long as she remains her stubborn, distrustful and impatiant self and I don’t see her stopping till she’s had her revenge. Would she have been happier with Logen that’s hard to say I think she deserves some vengeance either way.

    Logen: Free of responsibility and maybe free of his name just what he wanted sounds a happy ending but whether people know it or not he’s still the Bloody nine and wherever he goes he brings death. Perhaps he should join up with Ferro again

    Logen’s crew: Back to the mud, ambassador to Adua and sitting on the throne I think they’re doing alright when push comes to shove. The dead don’t much care what the living do anyway.

    Collem ‘Furious’ West: You’re a bastard, Joe, a real bastard but I suppose someone had to get completely screwed over.

    Bayaz: Well he won didn’t he. Somehow I suspect all the bad things they said about him are true. I think he did kill Juvens. Perhaps Khalul will persuade Ferro to see things his way and not slaughter him but tagteam Bayaz. Even if he didn’t kill Juven’s he needs to die for betraying Yulwei whom I quite liked

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, I liked then ending.

    Logan’s survival isn’t guaranteed- it was a high cliff right? I still like to think he has survived though – maybe to track down Ferro in the next series.

    I have to add that the sex scene between Logan and ferro (second book?) was the most realistic and hence funniest I’ve read ever….maybe I’m revealing too much about myself there!

    I’ve put a review on Amazon for the LAOK by the way.


  • Martin says:

    “a story needs to provide an ending that leaves room for hope and change” Bah at that. I thought the ending did provide room for both change and hope. It reminds me of the ending to The Dark Tower series. Roland begins his journey again only this time he carries the horn. Logen falls into a river again and although he will not be repeating the same journey like Roland he will continue on because choosing between continuing on or just dying, “that’s no choice at all.” Also as I posted in another thread this ending fits very neatly with the idea that everything is cyclical and although everything can change some things never do.

  • Johan,
    Obviously, I thought .se was Senegal. But, to be honest, what does it matter what language it’s in if I can’t understand it?

    I agree with you that you don’t want too many endings of the kind – watching the Wire leaves me feeling pretty depressed at times – but it’s not as though fantasy is filled with hard-hitting endings that much, is it? You’d have thought the occasional one wasn’t too much for people to stomach.

    How strange that you should turn up here. I thought I locked you in some kind of tower? And yes, I am a real bastard.

    All reviews gratefully received.

    I think some people don’t like it because they think it’s unfinished, that it’s just a cliffhanger for a sequel. The point is supposed to be that life goes on…

  • Vascular15 says:

    I was bit upset and angry at the end with the realisation of how evil Bayaz actually is. More so because he came out completely on top. And i thought Jezal would have a bit more of a spine, or some sense to realise on his own that Bayaz owns him. But there is always time, a bit unfair to call him a rapist i think though.

    I liked the endings for the Logen, glokta, and ferro
    but West left me devastated

    I cant remember the last book i read where i cared this much about the characters, absolutely brilliant

  • innokenti says:

    Well, I polished off Last Argument a few weeks ago (curiously I read more and more of it in one go as the pace increased, it felt great) and I have to say that the darkness of the ending pleased me immensely.

    And it was dark in the sense of… reality. Bayaz, for example, and his suddenly revealed enormous web of machinations, geared towards providing a reasonable chance of success in a pretty dangerous gamble… well… that’s how mages ought to be done in my opinion. Or, indeed, politicians. Though they are covered well by the Closed Council.

    In short – the darkness really tells us a lot about our own reality. Let’s face it – things are probably along similar lines right here, right now, or in the recent past.

    It is good to see that recognised and melded into quality fiction.

    Well done Mr. Abercrombie!

    (And I must note that in my reading there is nothing but hope in Logen’s future life!)

  • Anonymous says:

    Yulwei sparks as much harder to kill than a bit of broken masonry. I suppose the Maker’s daughter might decide to take out her aggression on him but my mind refuses to travel down that path.

    Anyway if you’ll humour me can you answer a question for me. Am I to understand that Ferro underwent the same transformation as the Maker’s daughter underwent when in her grave. That is to say is Ferro more demon than before. She’s as cold as Tolmei was if not colder since ice forms wherever she touches(I assume this can be controlled or she’ll have a hard time drinking liquids assuming she still has to) and she seems to have gone from rapid healing to nigh invulnerable since her fall at the end didn’t even scratch her. Furthermore her strength seems greater than Mamun’s and without limit by her reckoning. Seems to me that unless Khalul can wrestle the Devider off Bayaz he’s done for since everything else Bayaz did to Tolmei didn’t even phase her.

  • Heath says:

    Joe —

    I’m a filmmaker in NYC — I happened upon your book while wishing to take a break from shooting — In truth, your book had the shiny-ist cover, and like all Americans, I love shiny things.
    Let me say that your books have pleased me like no book shave in some time. The comparison to George RR Martin is pretty valid (I hope you can take that as a compliment). In shirt(ish), GREAT work, my man! I will do what I can to spread your gospel in my circles, thereby increasing your readership by several.
    Thank you for your work — now give me more!!
    Heath Mensher

  • Anna says:

    I’m very sleepy now, had to stay up half the night to finish LAOK… I must admit, I don’t usually read fantasies (LOTR of course, a while back) and I just don’t get very excited about battlescenes. I don’t usually read such long books either, because my memory is rubbish. I read the first two back to back, but since I had to wait a year for the third one to come out I forgot who any of the secondary characters were. Considering all that, getting throough LOAK was not easy, but: it was entirely worth it for the last 40 or so pages! I loved the ending, I think the fates of each character really suited them, especially Glokta (who I have a very girly crush on). I’m not sure how a fantasy trilogy is supposed to end, but as a novel it is pretty close to perfection.

  • Jason says:

    Many thanks Joe for perhaps, my favorite series ever . Why you ask? Simply the ending(s). Makes you believe that it is simply an excerpt from the characters lives, you feel like they lived before and you know that they will (the ones that lived) after it ends.


    I cant remember who said it but no thats not rape, he just thinks she was a virgin. He just wants to do some good really, and as Glokta says they can maybe over time, so in apart from being Bayaz’s lapdog a bastard son of a whore and of course a coward its not that bad…..


    probably my favorite character and ending, “no this is for our own amusement” He may have just swapped Sult for Bayaz but now the leash is a bit looser, oh and not stairs.


    A bastard, but now I know it, I kind of like him more for it. At least the fact that I know he is rather than being unsure if he was or wasn’t before.


    Well someone had to get royally F*cked, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. but then, thats the point is’nt it?

    Northern men (alive)

    good really, Dogman probably wants a bit of peace, and well Dow just wants Logan dead and im sure he’ll think it after that fall

    Northern men (dead)

    well their dead, But then if everyone would of survived it just wouldn’t of been real.


    Super demon powers, something to constantly annoy her and alot of blood to spill, I think its pretty much perfect for her.


    Well assuming he’s alive (seens as the series starts as it ends I think he is) pretty good, he said he was happiest “roaming” and Bethods dead

    sorry for the long post and the spelling/grammer is probably utter sh1te aswell

  • mri says:

    *****SPOILERS***** for The First Law Trilogy & The Malazan Book of the Fallen (oh, and also The RIng Trilogy, I guess)

    I recently read an interview with Steven Erikson, in which he revealed that he thinks Frodo should have died in Mount Doom; into the lava with the ring; Sam should have come down the mountain alone.

    Now, I am not a fan of Tolkien at all (he has zero use for women, and all his work feels like wish fulfillment: oh, things were so much better in the before time) and so this alteration makes a lot of sense to me.

    And Sam would still have come down the mountain.

    I don’t want a frilly ending. In the Malazan series, I was devastated when Whiskeyjack died, but felt like he’d had a full arc, and other people – Quick Ben, Paran, Toc – still came down the mountain.

    In Joe’s trilogy, I was devastated when Threetrees and Harding Grim died, but those deaths felt reasonable and, especially in Grim’s case, poignant.

    I can get behind all the endings Joe prescribed for his characters – Logen & his pot, Ferro, Glokta, Ardee, – they all feel… well, fair enough, that’s life; no exchange, no complaints. But no one comes down the mountain. Collem West’s death just felt punitive. I could almost feel the author thinking “I’ll show these bastards”. It felt just as artificial as a frilly, everyone-survives ending.

    It’s all subjective, sure. I get that. And if I don’t like it I know what to do with my $30 next time. Life isn’t all vomiting rainbows and sunshine, but it isn’t all misery and gloom, either. My thing is I need something to make me feel like the whole journey wasn’t a waste of time.

    The trilogy was a great trip. I loved meeting those people. I was thrilled to find a fantasy author who is genuinely funny, and committed to detonating some of the tropes of the genre. I expect to be misunderstood and I don’t know how to state more clearly I didn’t want a ‘hollywood ending’. But when I got to the end, I sort of went “Huh… all that way.”

  • mri says:

    Post Script: I also wanted to say thank you, thank you, for all your hard work, Joe. Word by word, line by line, doing push-ups with your nose.

  • Thanks, all, for the positive comments. Jason has got the sense I’d want people to have when he says:

    “simply an excerpt from the characters lives, you feel like they lived before and you know that they will (the ones that lived) after it ends.”

    That sense of it being a section out of peoples lives, and that life goes on, was a big part of what I wanted to get across, since I don’t think it’s common in fantasy. Endings tend to be of the happy kingdom reunited variety, or perhaps the tragic heroic death variety, either of which are neat and tidy in their way. Some readers are unhappy with the ending as it is, feel down, lost, unfulfilled, or perhaps think it’s just setting up for a sequel. It isn’t, but (shrugs) such is life, nothing works for everyone…

    I’m surprised you feel the ending was as black as you did. No-one gets a clean happy ending – they all find it difficult, in the end, to escape their own pasts, and the consequences of their own actions, to escape themselves, if you like. That was meant to be the point. But apart from West, all the point-of-view characters come down the mountain to some extent. Jezal becomes a better man to some extent, gets everything he wanted, albeit not in the way he wanted. Glokta becomes powerful, and gets the girl, even if he’ll always be a cripple. Ardee is probably happier with him than she would have been with Jezal – it is at least a realistic relationship. Ferro gets the means to get vengeance – is she capable of anything more? Logen ends as he started. Dogman loses his friends, but he survives (surely that’s exactly what you suggest for Sam?). Bayaz wins completely. Maybe we don’t want him to win completely by then but hey, again, that’s the point.

  • It was extremely hard writing a review that said how much I liked the book without giving any spoiliers. And I REALLY wanted to add spoilers. Making the Queen a lesbian? That was awesome!!! I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. And it perfectly explained why she didn’t want to sleep with Jezal…

    I’d mention other stuff, but others already have. Suffice it to say, I had to ponder that ending for a while. I didn’t immediately like it, but it made me think and the more I thought about it the more everything seemed to fit. And that’s what I call great writing.

  • marky says:

    Joe, I would just like to say thanks for a fantastic and fascinating read; I loved every word of it. Every character was a priceless jewel. I never knew shades of grey could be so colourful. Glotka was particularly brilliant at forcing this point. For me, he’s a bit like a Francis Bacon painting. When you first look at it, you see something ugly, but after a while, you see substance to it, recognise its place, and respect it for what it is, even grow to like it.

    Is it any wonder Glotka ended up such a powerful man? Is it not the way of the world, that the more ruthless the man, the more comfortable his seat is? A detestable character throughout the books, nobody likes a torturer of course, but I couldn’t help loving the guy. His thoughts, while dark, were hilarious in parts. Just getting himself down a set of stairs was a priceless gold nugget of entertainment. I could ramble on about him all day, but there are so many excellent players in the books, that deserve the same treatment. Logen, for example, was tremendous, a man of great steel and great catchphrases. Again, as with Glotka, he could do the most horrendous things when the Bloody-Nine reared his head. However, it never made you like him any less.
    His fight with the Feared was brilliant; it was reminiscent of Achilles getting it in the heel, thanks to the superb Furious. I seriously loved the ending for Logen. Back to where he started, going off a cliff. I hope that Logen and Ferro will meet up again, and the rejuvenated Bayaz will have more adventures planned. After all, Khalul still has a tight hold on the Gurkish and Ferro needs her vengeance!

    I’m just sorry I can’t touch on all the wonderful supporting characters such as Cosca and Crummock, among many others. I could write all night about them, but I don’t have all night. Therefore, I’ll wrap it up for know and go back to patting LAOK, thanks again Joe. A hearty round of applause from me. I look forward to more of the wonderful characters and world you’ve created.

    Say one thing for the first law books; say they’re worth every damn penny.

  • Anonymous says:

    Just finished LAOK tonight while “working”. At first I had a knee-jerk dislike for the ending. It felt like a chord out of harmony. But after thinking it over, reading Mr. Abercrombie’s thoughts on the ending… I’m content with it. I’ve come to appreciate its originality. (that’s a word right?)

    My only “complaint”:

    WHAT OF KHALUL? It’s killing me! He didn’t even show his face the entire trilogy! Bayaz is a bastard, no doubt, but I’d rather have him win over the cannibal Khalul. This is the only part of the tale I accept. To me, I still hear a discordant note… I know this post is coming AGES after the fact, but ANY response with insight would be appreciated.

  • Anonymous says:

    edit: only part I CAN’T accept. CAN’T accept. Sorry…

  • Rob says:

    Bit of a necro, but I only finished this series a little while ago and stumbled on this page while looking for threads on whether people thought Bayaz actually killed Juvens (I reckon he definitely did).

    I agree that the end for this was fairly bleak but I didn’t mind that in the slightest. I’d say I feel most bad for Jezal though. His character arc had by far the most development (though it was a shame to watch him fall back in to old habits once they got back to Adua) and yet he winds up pretty hollow. He learns to care about others but winds up trapped in a position where he can’t effect any positive change. He learns to love a woman and winds up trapped in a loveless marriage. It was just a shame after watching the changes he went through while recovering from having his face dashed in.

    Malacus Qai was another shame. Finding out he hasn’t been Malacus since the first half of the first book? That sucked, haha

    One thing I will say is the parallel beginning end with Logan falling off a cliff felt somewhat cliche for me, but I definitely get what you where doing with it.

    All in all a brilliant series, hopefully one you’ll revisit for another instalment!


  • Trion says:

    Right. Say one thing for joe, say he is realistic!

  • Jordan says:

    I’m here 15 years later than most, just finished “Wisdom of Crowds.” Love your work Joe, incredibly entertaining and enlightening in so many ways. Shivers and Leo becoming bitter at the world after their injuries, I’ve seen that in so many people after just losing their youth! So many other ways you capture the weakness and humanity of your characters in ways I’ve seen no other author match. I often feel like I’m learning important things when I listen to your books, and I’m pretty sure that feeling isn’t all bs.

    So what you’re doing now, it’s already working. Obviously. You’re brilliant, you have the “long eye” so to speak, you are beloved of the moon, you’re killing it. If you release a third trilogy within this universe I’m sure I’ll use my audible credits on them and enjoy every minute of it. But I gotta be an totally ungrateful asshole here for a few minutes. I hear you in this article saying things along the lines of “I want to be dark and reflect reality, reality doesn’t tie up all the loose ends and I don’t either.” And well, I have a few dick-ish things to say in response to that 15 year old argument:

    1) This isn’t reality, this is fantasy. There are sexy cannibals with super speed for fuck’s sake. So you don’t actually have to reflect reality. You can reflect whatever the hell you want. So you aren’t actually morally obligated to kick all your readers in the nuts at the end of your trilogies. You are CHOOSING to do that.

    2) Is it any coincidence that not tying up loose ends also happens to be a hell of a lot easier to do than actually tying them up? Are you being nihilistic and edgy or… are you just being a little lazy?

    3) Along the same lines, foreshadowing is easy to do when you’re writing. It adds some mystery to a scene, breathes some life into a dull moment. Delivering on that foreshadowing is much harder to do. Not delivering on foreshadowing isn’t some revolutionary new approach to story telling. It’s probably more common than its opposite.

    4) Even if it’s all planned out, artistic, with the point being to make the reader feel nihilistic- then this is ALSO a bad reason. Nihilism is a cool philosophy if you’re like a college philosophy student, but at any age past that it’s just kind of hopeless and miserable. Think about, yaknow, Steinbeck’s rallying flag. I think you could wave that fucking flag like none other, in part *because* of your realism and your grittiness. But more nihilism is just going to make more people with the moral maturity of college philosophy students.

    Anyways, that’s probably enough of me being a dick. Again. You’re a named man, clearly one of the most interesting and thoughtful people out there, I’m some nameless fuck on his way back to the mud. But I think you should screw around with, you know, ending your books in the way I want you to rather than ending them in the way you want to. Because that would make my entertainment experience just a wee bit better, and you should mold your whole life around that. I mean, a Joe Abercrombie book with a happy ending where all the conflicts are resolved? My mind would be blown, I would never, ever see that coming. I think I’d smile for a week. Don’t you want to see me smile for a week?

    Anyways, love ya brother, sorry this is super long, sorry I said love there, I know you don’t really believe in that hocus pocus. I think the odds of you reading this comment are slim, the odds of it making any kind of impression even less so. I’m sure you dealt with these sorts of armchair writing critics en masse after “Last Argument of Kings” came out. But sometimes when you’re a little person you gotta do little person things like attack one of your favorite author’s writing skills just to try to get his attention. Wishing you the best in your journey down the road of life, looking forward to listening to (and maybe getting mad at) more of your books in the future.

    Your fan,


    PS: I was much less pissed off by the endings of the standalone books “Best Served Cold” and “Red Country.” Both of those were different somehow, I don’t know, maybe you actually plotted them out? Sorry. I said I was going to stop being an asshole.

    PPS: one place I’ll admit I appreciate your unique endings is in the relationships. In the ending of both the first and the second trilogies, the relationships between the kings and their respective wives were in pretty dire straits. And this is a very unique way to end a love story, but I think it’s kind of a healthy outlook for relationships. There’s going to be tension, the conflicts will never get fully resolved and sometimes even flare up at the most inconvenient times. That’s a cool message. BUT- this by no means implies that I’m taking back everything I said above. Just recognizing that there can be *some* artistry in your endings as is, just in case my message had already convinced you to scrap them completely. Peace and love-

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