ARC provided by the publisher—Gollancz—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustration by: Tomas Almeida
The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Age of Madness (Book #2 of 3), First Law World (Book, #9 of 10)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy
Pages: 512 pages (UK Hardback)
Published: 15th September 2020 by Gollancz (UK) & 15th September 2020 by Orbit (US)
Incredibly mesmeric and brilliant. The trouble with reading Abercrombie’s newest book is that there’s no more new Abercrombie book to read.
“He’d seen victories enough, and they were like the false summits of a great fell. You struggle towards ‘em, sure you’ve made the top, then the moment you get there you see another just beyond. No fight was ever the last. No victory was ever for good.”
Conspiracy. Betrayal. Rebellion. Peace is just another kind of battlefield. Politics, backstabbing, betrayals, and treasons have their viciousness highlighted further during times of peace. Let’s look back to what our favorite Inquisitor loved to say: “life is the misery we endure between disappointments.” The same quotation, unfortunately, applies to this momentary—and relative—state of calmness; peace doesn’t last forever. The Trouble With Peace is the second book in the Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, the story continues immediately from where A Little Hatred ended, and the themes in the novel revolved around ambitions, bravery, glory, war, peace, and legacy. This is a sequel that’s heavily focused on politics, scheming, manipulation, and rebellion. Most of the pages in this novel were spent on planning, sharp dialogues, and attaining the courage to get things done. Of course, these were done in Abercrombie’s trademark grim, humorous, and bloody storytelling.
“There comes a point… when talking about a better world is simply not enough. There comes a time… when men of conscience, principle and courage must dare the unthinkable… and fight for a better world.”
I’m starting to become more and more invested with the new characters of this trilogy. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, characterizations have always been one of Abercrombie’s main forte as a writer, and his characterizations of many characters throughout the eight novels (so far) in The First Law World is exemplary to the genre. I’ve read quite a lot of grimdark fantasy novels, and seriously, though many were good, so few can match Abercrombie’s skill in making me genuinely care towards the fate of the morally grey characters. Rikke, Leo dan Brock, Orso, Savine, Broad, Viki, and Clover are back as the key characters, and their character’s development was nothing short of outstanding. It was highly delightful seeing each and every one of them doing their best to survive, or in some rare cases, fight for a better world. Whether they achieved it or not, well, this is an Abercrombie book. Some will succeed, some will fail. You have to be realistic about this.
“My scripture teacher used to say that those who strive and fail are as blessed as those who succeed.”
I know that it’s none of my business, and I’ve said this in my review of A Little Hatred, but it genuinely makes me sad when I see/heard readers read this trilogy without reading the previous six books in the universe first. At the very least, please take some time to read The First Law trilogy first; in my opinion, it’s a must-read before you read this trilogy. Not only The First Law trilogy is one of the best grimdark trilogy series of all time, but finishing the trilogy—even better if you include Best Served Cold and The Heroes as well—prior to reading the Age of Madness would benefit your reading experience of both A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace so much. Readers would be missing on so many delicious character backgrounds, impactful dialogues, and intricate world-building contexts if they decided not to read the previous books first. There’s no rush, take your time, buy the new books on release day to support the author, but these new books aren’t going anywhere. True, the main story is centered on the new characters, but many important side characters in this trilogy were major characters in the previous books that still play a role in enhancing the story and the rich universe that Abercrombie has built for the past fourteen years.
“We’re all like children, Rikke. The older you get, the more you realize the grown-ups won’t suddenly walk in and set things right. You want things right, you have to put ‘em right yourself.”
“With your bones and your brains, eh?”
“And your heart, Rikke. And your heart.”
Politicking, conspiracy, engaging dialogues, and superb characterizations weren’t the only great things that this book has to offer. It’s not another volume in The First Law World if it were to miss its wonderfully vicious action sequences, and by the dead did Abercrombie delivered spectacularly. There’s a possibility, in an epic fantasy novel, that when the POV suddenly changes to non-main characters, the particular chapter could end up being boring or less interesting, this isn’t the case with Abercrombie. If you’ve read Last Argument of Kings and beyond, you should know by now that a chapter where Abercrombie starts using non-main characters POV to tell his story IS the chapter where things descent into chaos, madness, and brutal violence. I love how this has started to become a standard to expect in The First Law World, and Abercrombie’s depiction of destruction and fatalities in one scene through the eyes of many characters were magnificent.
“A man is measured by his enemies. Worthy ones can be more missed than friends… Magic fades from the world but, in truth, most problem have always been better solved with a few sharp words. Or a little sharp steel.”
For example, there was a chapter in this book where we see an event occurred from the perspective of one character at first. The narrative then immediately proceeds to rewind and show the same scene again, but this time from the eyes of a different character in the same location. This was repeated several times within this one chapter, and each rewind and reenaction brought a new compelling, vivid, and cinematic reading experience. There’s a chapter titled Little People that exhibits this clever narrative structure again. The explosive last quarter in The Trouble With Peace was Abercrombie’s action sequences at his best; crushing, merciless, chaotic, and intense. Can injustice be vanquished? Can the characters survive the terrifying ordeal they faced? I’ll let you find out for yourself.
“I must confess I have always had some sympathy with villains. Heroism makes fine entertainment but sooner or later someone has to get things done.”
“Well-written villains, maybe. You wouldn’t believe Wetterlant in a book! How the hell does a man end up like that?”
“Being given everything he wants all his life. Being asked for nothing in return.”
Same with practically everyone in the world, the year 2020 has been one hell of a difficult year, maybe even the worst year ever for some people. It’s good to know that, at the very least, literature managed to uphold one law in grimdark fantasy escapism, and that is Joe Abercrombie still remains as one of the greatest modern fantasy writers. I have no doubt that when The Trouble With Peace invades the library of Abercrombie’s fans, it will—once again and unsurprisingly—satisfy their craving for an excellent grim, dark novel. The Trouble With Peace is that it doesn’t last. The Trouble With Peace is that it’s Abercrombie’s newest book, which means that we have to wait again for his next book to be published. I’ve read everything in The First Law World, that’s eight full novels and one collection of short stories, and I can’t get enough of this series. The Trouble With Peace is a marvelous sequel by a grimdark fantasy novelist at the top of his craft; Abercrombie might truly end up becoming THE best grimdark novelist of all time. I can’t wait to find out how this trilogy concludes; the third and last book of the Age of Madness trilogy has been written, and it’s currently scheduled to be released on September 2021. Follow the wisdom of crowds; be wise, and invest your time and money on this series.
“An investor must know an opportunity when she sees it, must judge the risks and rewards in an instant, and if one outweighs the other pounce upon it, commit without delay, without regret, without sentiment.”
Official release date: 15th September 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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