cover image The Trouble with Peace

The Trouble with Peace

Joe Abercrombie. Orbit, $28 (640p) ISBN 978-0-316-18718-3

The impressive second epic fantasy of Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy (after A Little Hatred) grounds the ongoing power struggles within the Union in issues that resonate with contemporary politics. Orso, “a notorious wastrel while crown prince,” is now High King of the Union, but his controversial reign has sparked an opposition movement dedicated to toppling him and “making the Union great again.” Abercrombie balances the ensuing intrigue, espionage, and a bloody assassination attempt with the nitty-gritty of Union politics, shining a light on corruption, tax reform, and class distinctions, on the way to a climactic confrontation between Orso’s forces and those marshalled against him. Meanwhile, Leo dan Brock, the leader of the rebels, marries Orso’s former lover, Savine dan Glokta, who left Orso after learning a scandalous secret, adding emotional stakes to the political turmoil. The large cast, which takes over four pages to list in a helpful appendix, becomes overwhelming at times, and newcomers to the series will have a hard time untangling the complex backstory, but Abercrombie’s satisfying plotting and expert subversion of genre expectations are sure to please. Readers will be gripped. (Sept.)