The Trouble with Peace is the second book in Joe Abercrombie’s “Age of Madness” trilogy. Here is my review for the first book, A Little Hatred . Following immediately on the heels of events in the fist book, an uneasy peace has been established. The Union crushed the rebellion in Valbek and the war in the North was brought to an end. However, hardly anyone is happy about how things turned out.
Despite two hundred hangings, the appetite for workers’ rights has only increased and other cities fear the Breakers and Burners may start new riots. The Northmen only grudgingly ended the war due to trial by combat and they have slunk home seething about the loss. The friction between the Closed Council and Open Council of the Union has only intensified with members of the Open Council starting to secretly plot to seize power and remove all the current members of the Closed Council.
Once again the story is told predominantly through Leo dan Brock (now Lord Brock of Angland and suffering from a non-healing leg wound), Savine dan Glotka (soon to be wife of Leo and struggling with PTSD), Prince Orso (now King and continuing to try and do the right thing but being blindsided by those around him), and Rikke (who is grappling with her Long Eye prophetic abilities and desire to protect her city of Uffrith at all costs). Vick, Gunnar and Clover continue to give perspective of the lower class people working to stay afloat in a system not designed in their favor. All have been changed by the events of A Little Hatred, and now that peace has been re-established are trying to find new footing.
Once again, Abercrombie masterly narrates sweeping events by rapidly changing perspective between people giving a sense of scale and scope that wouldn’t be possible any other way. The battle of Stoffenbeck is told person by person as they brush against one another; a recruit with no soldiering history, a pike-man in a crush, a medic, a deserter convinced to return to the fighting, a messenger, a cannoneer, a crossbow loader, and more. It’s like having a far reaching overhead camera scan across the battle, exposing the horror of war in all its small details.
I believe Abercrombie started writing these books 2014-2015ish but they feel awfully prescient. Worker discontent (the current push for unionization), corruption at the highest levels (elected officials denying certified election results), and the desire to seize more territory (Russia) feels all too familiar in our current world state.
If you enjoy gritty fantasy, I highly recommend this series.