THE TROUBLE WITH PEACE by Joe Abercrombie (BOOK REVIEW)
‘What some called madness he recognised as diamond-edged clarity. The time for arguments in the teahouse, for pretty words and fancy theories, was over. The grasping hands of the owners, the noblemen, the king and his venal henchmen could only be opened by force. Fire and steel would be the last words in their argument.’
It’s always tricky writing reviews for sequels, so whilst I’ve tried to be mindful of spoilers for the first book, A Little Hatred, please be aware that there will inevitably be a few. However, If you need a little refresher on the events which occurred in A Little Hatred, Joe Abercrombie has written a helpful summary – here’s the link to it; https://joeabercrombie.com/previously-in-the-age-of-madness/
Throughout A Little Hatred, Abercrombie presented to us a future of progress, commerce and luxury – the nobles prospered whilst the poor suffered. Seeds of bitterness grew, embers of rebellion began to smoulder and each of our key protagonists had to discover their place in this new world and decide which side they were on. This sequel continues that journey set forth in the first book, however, this time around Abercrombie shows us what happens when shit really hits the fan.
The world of The First Law is still as brutal and grim as ever, yet there are a few who strive for a more righteous path, one of justice and peace. The trouble with peace though, is that it is just an illusion, and the kind of peace one seeks all depends on which side of the coin you’re on. The Burners in Valbeck strive to elevate the downtrodden, the nobles plot civil war in Angland, and the North once again are on a knife’s edge from their own battle. In these troubled times, unlikely alliances are formed. But who is right? Who can be trusted? And most importantly, who will win?
‘It’s easy to scream about the fence when you’re on the wrong side of it. Some mad twist of fortune lands you on the right side, though, the fence looks like it might not be such a bad idea. Might even be worth all the sacrifices. Other people’s sacrifices aren’t that hard to make.’
Thrust into new roles and new responsibilities, Orso, Leo, Savine and Rikke certainly have their work cut out when choosing who and what to fight for. Yet, it is time for our young protagonists to grow up! No longer can they hide behind their legendary parents, it is time for them to carve their own paths and embark upon creating their own legacies. Let’s not forget though, this is Abercrombie, the master of nuanced characters and by the dead he is fantastic at reflecting human flaws and contradictions. Our characters may fool themselves into believing they are doing the right thing but underneath it all they are really doing whatever is beneficial to them, to serve their own ambition, pride, or they are being manipulated, and even for a few, they just revel in chaos and carnage!
In my review for A Little Hatred I mentioned that Savine Dan Glokta was my least favourite character, which disappointed me because Glokta is one of my all time favourite ones. Unfortunately Savine still didn’t grow on me in this book. I think that may be because I became irritated with the way she manipulated some of my favourite characters, and I am a loyal being! No one can mess with the characters I love the most! Nonetheless, it was nice to see a more vulnerable side to her as throughout the book she struggles with PTSD after her ordeal at Valbeck.
As for the rest of the characters and as I’ve mentioned, I loved how conflicted they all were. Our most naive character was Leo Dan Brock who ideally wanted to do something to bring about change, to help free the people, but underneath the surface, he was merely bored and desired to pursue some action! I felt the most sympathy for Orso, who literally bared the weight of the crown and did his utmost best to do the right thing – trouble is, in the world of the First Law, there is no ‘right thing’.
As my next favourite character knows all too well. Gunnar Broad, a man conflicted between keeping his family in their new found wealth and keeping his bloodlust at bay.
‘Rikke had sworn an oath not to worry about the things she couldn’t change, and she took an oath very seriously. Her father always said there was nothing more important than your word, usually while frowning and shaking his head. It was a shame he frowned so much, ‘cause when he smiled it lit the world up.’
Lastly my beloved Rikke, Isern and Shivers! These three were my standout characters and I’d be in book heaven if there was a standalone spin-off in the making, which revolved around their shenanigans. I found myself eagerly anticipating their chapters and witnessing Rikke, now slightly unhinged from her ordeals with her ‘Long Eye’, find her place amongst the brutal men of the North, was nothing short of enthralling. Her journey was undoubtedly my favourite.
The Trouble with Peace feels like a slightly different book to that of Abercrombie’s other First Law books as the central focus shifts to political intrigue – which had the effect of making this instalment feel rather slow paced. Although I do enjoy political intrigue, I usually prefer more action scenes weaved in, especially as I know this author does them so damn well! Having said that, this is Abercrombie and even when his characters are discussing political moves, scheming and pondering their course of action it is still highly entertaining and humorous. I found myself chuckling away and very often laughing out loud at some of the interactions and quibbles between the characters. I often gave a chef’s kiss to the banter and wit in this book.
‘The dead save me from the fucking young.’
‘No getting away from ‘em, sadly,’ muttered Clover. ‘The older you get, the more of ‘em there are.’
As we witness the narratives unfold, the scheming play out, the truth unravel, well dear reader, prepare to be delighted because the climax of this book is phenomenal! My heart raced, my jaw dropped multiple times and I was left astonished! Say one thing for Abercrombie, say his books should come with a health warning!
ARC provided by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. The Trouble with Peace is out now.