SPOILERS * SPOILERS * SPOILERS
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…