THE TROUBLE WITH PEACE by Joe Abercrombie. Review.

THE TROUBLE WITH PEACE by Joe Abercrombie.

Gollancz. h/b. £20.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

King Orso, as he is now, plans his rule with some excitement. He announces a tour of his kingdom, much to the disgust of Arch Lector Glotka and under the ever-observing yet strangely silent Bayaz, First of the Magi. Orso will visit his people and let them see their king. He is determined to see every province, including those that even Glotka considers dangerous. If he has to be king, he wants to do it properly.

The printing press has granted voice to the common folk. The Breakers and Burners are quietly regaining strength. There is turmoil in the kingdom yet to Orso it seems easily solved: help the poor and narrow the gap between the commoners and those higher up. The members of his Closed Council; however, have very different ideas.

Lord Governor dan Brock triumphed in his duel with Jezal but it was not without cost. His leg refuses to heal, life has become too tame and he does not even have Rikke around to make him feel better. Maimed, angry and hungry for distraction, the arrival of yet another demand from King Orso, or rather from the naïve king’s advisers, is probably not going to be well received.

Savine dan Glotka took a mighty and public fall from the pedestal she was previously held on. Her confidence and her ability to engineer things her way in the political world have taken a fall too, but it may just be she can see a way back up. Her great secret is safely hidden and Savine has not lost her cunning mind. If she cannot be queen, she will set her sights on the next best thing.

When you see the name dan Glotka you know you won’t be able to stop reading, and Abercrombie’s latest is no exception. The Trouble with Peace follows Savine, Orso, Leo and Rikke, amongst others, to continue on from the action-packed first book. Kings have enemies, traitors have ambitions and the frustrated young have schemes and desires aplenty.

The characters in this The Age of Madness series are rife with the usual wounds and ailments and unpleasant habits we have come to expect from this author, each bringing the cast to life in a brutal and realistic manner that hooks the reader in with equal parts empathy and revulsion. To a one they manage to shine bright during their turn with the narrative voice and drive the story onwards from idea to obstacle and beyond.

There is a fantastic undercurrent of dark humour running through this book and comic techniques are used to brilliant effect. The story races through plots and rebellions building ever towards a dramatic climax that promises the third in the trilogy will be no less lacking in all of the grim elements Abercrombie wields so artfully. The almost-absence of Bayaz in this second book hints at much more excitement being cooked up behind the scenes ready for the third.