The Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Reread

Rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Last Argument of Kings: “After the Rains” and “Answers”

Well, my dear friends, we are rapidly approaching the end of this epic reread that has taken far too long to complete. This week is probably the last time I’ll do these paired chapter formats because the chapters get increasingly short from here on out. Answers to questions are coming fast and furious, although I suspect we will not learn the answer to the most important question of all.

On this this week’s chapters!

 

“After the Rains”

Summary: Logen stands atop the parapet, gazing down into the remains of Adua and where the Tower of Chains once stood. He remembers almost killing Dogman and knows what kind of man he is. Bayaz appears, looking younger and more healthy than Logen can remember him ever being. The Magus congratulates Logen on his kingship and admits that he once bargained with Bethod for Logen’s life. They discuss Quai’s death, making Logen realize he should be with his own men, mourning their dead.

But first, Logen checks on Ferro. While Ferro doesn’t outright reject him, her fixation on mysterious things she sees and hears and not on Logen’s words, discourages him. He leaves, assured that what he felt for her was never mutual.

He next encounters Jezal dan Luthar, King of the Union, moving debris to uncover the bodies of his dead subjects. Logen has never seen death on this scale, nor had the Bloody-Nine. Even as Jezal rescues the wounded, he finds them afflicted with a rotting sickness. Logen helps the king move some earth. He asks Jezal, ‘Am I… an evil man?’ The king calls him the best man he knows.

Finally Logen makes it to the funeral, where the Dogman offers words for Harding Grim. There is a murmur of discontent with Logen’s arrival. He doesn’t take it well. Wearing the face of the Bloody-Nine, he challenges the men to challenge him. They do not. He spits on the grass and disappears.

Important Characters Introduced: None.

Minor Characters Introduced: None.

Quotes to Remember:

‘…Healing is for the young. As one gets older, one finds one has less and less patience with the wounded.’

This doesn’t ring all that true. We do lose patience as we get older. But, do we become less compassionate? That I’m less sure of. Bayaz is a monster. He doesn’t care. Not because he’s old, but because he’s evil. Logen cares deeply, but seems unwilling to risk actual emotional investment. They are quite different really, even if they present themselves similarly.

But you get nothing out if you put nothing in.

This sounds like dating advice I’ll give to my future teenage son.

Analysis: God damn Logen! Shit or get off the pot—either be an evil son of a bitch or do something to actually change. He has an opportunity at the end of this chapter to apologize to him men, to show emotion at the loss of Harding Grim, and instead assumes the mantle of the careless Bloody-Nine. What’s he scared of? Does he fear losing his place as top dog? He isn’t emotionally vacant, not at all, but he’s quite clearly deathly fearful of dropping the persona he’s created around himself. Is this just an emotionally damaged man or is it some influence from the Other Side?

The interaction between Bayaz and Logen has some interesting bits too. Bayaz seems to express something like actual remorse about the death of Malacus Quai. I find this unexpected. Also unexpected, I think, is the sickness affliction the people of Adua within the sphere of Bayaz’s magic. This sickness looks and acts a lot like radiation poisoning. Where the hell is this coming from? Does it have to do with the Seed? Is the Seed actually some kind of nuclear reaction magic bean? It seems an odd choice for the book to closely associate itself with symptoms so easily recognizable from the reader’s perspective.

Lastly, Ferro seems to be standing with one foot on the Other Side. I can’t help but wonder what that bodes. What I know for sure is that watching Logen shatter against her delusions is… disconcerting.

 

“Answers”

Summary: Glokta worries who will take the reins of the House of Questions. Goyle is dead. Sult is indisposed. Practical Vitari has fled. Arriving at his rooms, he finds the door slightly ajar. Inside sits a visitor, one he has been expecting for some time, although perhaps not this man in particular. It is Bayaz—both Master Valint and Master Balk, overlord of the most powerful institution in the Union.

Bayaz admits to being the shadowy hand behind the Union, for thousands of years. He asks Glokta to become his hand in Adua, to keep things running on Bayaz’s behalf. Glokta wonders why Bayaz has shown such an interest. Khalul has soldiers and so too must Glokta. He reveals that he has employed other weapons as well, including his own Eater–Yoru Sulfur.

Glokta agrees to be Bayaz’s man, under threat. Bayaz gives him the Arch Lector’s ring and Glokta slips it on. It fits, which of course it would.

Important Characters Introduced: None.

Minor Characters Introduced: None.

Quotes to Remember:

In war one must make use of every weapon. Restraint is folly. Worse. Restraint is cowardice.

I guess Bayaz really isn’t pleased with America’s “military intervention” strategies.

…this will be the last battle fought with the weapons of the past. The magic leaks from the world. The lessons of the Old Time fade into the darkness of history. A new age dawns.

This bit makes me wonder how eager I am to see future books beyond the three standalone ones we already have. I need magic. Don’t take it from me, bro.

Analysis: BOOM! Bayaz is the bank! Bayaz is behind the Tanner! Bayaz is behind EVERYONE! He is the puppet master! He’s also a rotten bastard who compromises like an American politician. He’s got an Eater on this team for goodness sake! Yoru Sulfer is an Eater! And to be honest with you, Bayaz’s reaction, particularly where he chomps his own teeth to mimic Eating, makes me think he might himself be partaking of manflesh.

In essence, Bayaz is the thing that we believe sits behind every world leader–a conglomeration of money and influence that shifts the common man around the board like a pawn on the chessboard for personal gain. He is willing to give up even his most closely held beliefs to consolidate power. He is a corporation and he is willing to murder and pillage all in the name of destroying his competition, Khalul.

The commentary is quite clear, I think. Glokta, in accepting Bayaz’s offer, does so because he has little choice. Either he accepts the deal or finds himself likewise dead. What’s interesting though is that Glokta is not like Bayaz at all. He is not interested in expediency, he’s interested in truth, regardless of how much he deludes himself.

I’m desperate to found out how this match works in the long term.

 

Next Week: We’re going to race to the finish, lumping several chapters into one big summary of doom. Don’t miss it. Also, West is probably going to not have fun.

Justin Landon used to run Staffer’s Book Review. Now he kinda blogs at justlandon.com. Find him on Twitter for meanderings on science fiction and fantasy, and to argue with him about whatever you just read.

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