The squabbles in the north subdued and the strife in Valbeck quelled, the trouble with peace is that the petty disputes overshadowed by the threat of war or revolution rise to the surface, carried as causes by those with ambition who see an opportunity to rise to prominence in that most lofty and august of battlefields, the Open Council of the Union.
In the capital Adua, the death of King Jezal has given the newly crowned King Orso the First that which he has sought to avoid all his privileged and pampered life: responsibility for the Union and its many peoples, a closer look at the workings of the Closed Council and the obligation of being available to the Open Council with their petitions and their protests, endlessly needy, endlessly seeking someone to blame for their perceived misfortunes.
Spurned by his only ally, Savine dan Glotka, unfathomably beautiful daughter of the fearsome and sinister Arch Lector Sand dan Glotka, head of His Majesty’s Inquisition, her reasons for rejecting his proposal of marriage are unknown to him, a wound compounded by her subsequent defection to Leo dan Brock, Lord Governor of Angland, celebrated warrior and Orso’s vocal challenger in the Open Council.
The second volume of Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy following A Little Hatred, The Trouble with Peace is that it is very difficult to maintain, the engines of progress shuddering forwards fitfully, the unfortunates thrown upon the grinding gears resentful of their masters dressed in finery who offer them scraps, the damage of endless wars going beyond the battlefield to reparations never paid, alliances made under duress fragmenting when the smoke clears.
Good intentions no match for the craftiness of a hand more experienced at the shifty business of statesmanship, everyone has flaws and blind spots which can be taken advantage of; Orso is seen as a buffoon, but despite his failings he genuinely wants to do well for his people, yet there are those he considers friends and allies who would be better served by his failure.
Abercrombie making every viewpoint honest and valid, a negotiation with a cruel world where it is better to give a beating than take one, Savine, once so clever and careful, is outflanked and ambushed by the most unexpected eventualities, pregnant and forced to concede marriage would be advantageous then finding herself bound to the impulsive actions of her husband, “the Young Lion” gallant but frustrated by inaction and easily led.
Filled with betrayals political and personal, grand ambitions come at a terrible cost and nobody can be truly trusted when there is advantage to be gained, but there comes a time when enough blood has been spilled and only mercy can make a difference, The Trouble with Peace surprising until the very last pages, though too late for ruined bodies on the fields and towns shattered by cannons.
The Trouble with Peace is available now from Gollancz