Who’s the writer?
Joe Abercrombie, a UK author and general master of modern fantasy fiction, who has written two previous trilogies and a couple of stand-alone books all based in the same setting. According to his website he’s done quite well, with previous books making their way to the upper reaches of the Sunday Times and New York Times Hardcover Bestseller Lists. He’s also quite good to follow on twitter, if you like that sort of thing.
What’s it about?
The Trouble With Peace is the second instalment of his latest trilogy, The Age of Madness. The story picks up a little while after the first book ends. The central characters, investor and daughter of the head of the King’s inquisition Savine Dan Glokta, newly crowned King Orso and the recently hailed hero of the Union, the Young Lion, weigh their next steps in a rapidly changing world.
Joe Abercrombie’s world has all the classic fantasy elements of wizards, barbarians, flatheads (chunky humanoids with big teeth and a penchant for hammering bits of metal into themselves) and suchlike. However, his treatment of the world and people in it is far from the traditional fantasy tropes. Whilst each book set in the world focuses on the characters that drive and shape key events his collection of work continually moves the timeline forward. This gives even the mightiest hero a transitory aspect as the inevitability of age and time wear on them before casting them into the mud and memory.
The Age of Madness finds the Union well entrenched in an industrial revolution. There are clear parallels to our own, as investors reap the financial rewards of new machinery and sketchy ethics. Not to mention the wilful blind eyes turned to the horrendous conditions for the working poor in slums, created by the shift of work to cities, and polluted by the factories those impoverished communities are built around. Its no wonder unrest is brewing.
The central story focuses on the ambitions of the main characters as they manoeuvre for power. The industrialisation of the Union, and the impact on citizens from all walks of life, is a backdrop that increasingly imposes itself on their privileged detachment and personal agendas.
Although modernisation is coming to the word there is no sign of fantasy or magic passing easily away. The Magi are still very much the puppet masters of the world, whilst in the north the prophetess Rikke must divine the best path for her people.
Joe Abercrombie handles the characters and their stories with his usual dark humour, bringing the book to a close on yet another glorious cliff hanger. Bring on the next instalment.
Is it any good?
Yes. Abercrombie’s work has a dark, thoughtful edge to it with an equally dark sense of humour. Grimdark it isn’t quite, but heroes are very much of the moment, and moments pass.