cover image The Wisdom of Crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds

Joe Abercrombie. Orbit, $30 (640p) ISBN 978-0-316-18724-4

Abercrombie’s conclusion to his bestselling grimdark Age of Madness trilogy (following The Trouble With Peace) will satisfy his many fans, especially those who don’t need to rely on the five-page cast list at the back to feel sufficiently oriented. Disreputable crown prince turned reluctant king Orso the First has assumed the throne of the Union following an unexpected military triumph. Predictably, he wears the crown uneasily: his reign is challenged by a rebel group calling themselves the Breakers, who are amassing a People’s Army to march on Orso’s stronghold. The crown’s response is harsh, and the book’s strongest scenes depict the consequences of Orso’s acquiescence to his advisers’ decision to toss captured rebels off a tower to their deaths. (“The trial can be on the way down. The ground can give the verdict.”) The bloodshed and political turmoil are reminiscent of the horrors of the French Reign of Terror, mixed with diverting humor that comes partially courtesy of Orso’s narcissistic tendencies. Less successful are some of the other, more forced real-world allusions, including a draft constitution that begins, “We consider these facts to be self-evident.” Nonetheless, with its thoughtful exploration of differing approaches to governance and rich, action-packed plot, this epic fantasy makes a fitting series close. Agent: Robert Kirby, United Agents. (Sept.)