The Trouble With Peace – A Delicious Dark Book For A Troubled Year

abercrombie-troubleI didn’t really want to review The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie, because I don’t want to draw your attention to it. As I have said before, Abercrombie is best enjoyed with no expectations and as little knowledge as possible. If you have read him, you likely are going to read this book. If you haven’t heard of him, and want a really intense fantasy series, go check out his first book in this world: The Blade Itself. So if I can’t really talk about the book, and I don’t want to talk about the book, and no one really needs to hear about the book, why am I writing a review of it you ask? Well, because The Trouble With Peace is a contender for my best book of the year and it would feel unprofessional to say nothing about it.

The thing that makes The Trouble With Peace, and all Abercrombie books, great is the characters. The plot, in the abstract, is fairly simple. We follow the POV of a number of characters who have thrown themselves behind two charismatic leaders: Leo and Orso. These men are extremely different in character and personality, but both want to lead their country to a brighter future. They cannot agree on how best to do that, so a war erupts between them in when their differences can’t be resolved

It sounds simple enough, but emotionally it is like being drawn over hot coals. There are no bad guys here, only people with good intentions trying to do what they think is right. Whether or not you agree with either side is up to the reader, but there are really no victories to be had here. Every battle means death on BOTH sides and the loss of characters you are deeply attached to.

And what characters they are. If I had to pick a single side in the book it would be Orso’s, possibly because he’s one of my favorite characters of all time. But Leo certainly is no slouch. You just don’t find people in stories with this heightened level of complexity. The actors in this play have depth and thought put into them that just pulls you into the book to the point where you feel you are there. I loved every single moment of Trouble, but it was agonizing to read. My wife kept asking me if I was enjoying it and my constant reply was “I am stressed all the time.”

2020 might not have been the best time to read The Trouble With Peace. It is a thoughtful and depressing book that filled me with a multitude of emotions that would be difficult to describe in a review. It is certainly one of the best written and most powerful books of 2020 and I absolutely recommend that you read it, if you have read all the previous installments. You just might want to have some soothing music and a spa day lined up to wash away the anxiety that Abercrombie’s newest book will inject straight into your veins.

Rating: The Trouble With Peace – 10/10
-Andrew

A Little Hatred – If The Shoe Fits, Drop It

35606041Reviewing A Little Hatred, the first book of a new trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, from the perspective of “should you read it?” is a waste of everyone’s time. If you have read The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and The Last Argument of Kings you absolutely know this will probably be the best book that comes out this year, so you should obviously read it. If you haven’t read these books, or don’t know who Joe Abercrombie is, then you should get out of here and go read them. Seriously, please do not keep reading for your own good. As with everything involving Abercrombie, it is best to go in as blind as possible and you will thank me later. So instead, I am going to do something a little different with this review. Without spoiling anything, I will be talking about the emotional gauntlet it put me through. But first, some general bookkeeping about the novel.

If you want to know about the plot, all you need to know is that it takes place a good number of years after the first trilogy and is focused mostly on the children of our characters from the previous series. The characters and action are best in class for the genre, possibly for books as a whole. The worldbuilding is good but might be the weakest part of the book; however, there is a nice focus on the current political climate that will likely resonate and stir up a lot of emotions in readers.

Jumping back to feelings, I would describe the emotional experience of A Little Hatred as ‘harrowing’. Imagine you are trapped in a beautiful room, with lots of nice furnishings and cool gadgets to play with. It creates some nice nostalgia in your brain and you feel warm and happy in the room – like you could live there forever. Then imagine that you are told there is a bomb in the room somewhere with an unknown timer, and after a bit of panicking, you try the door only to find yourself locked in. That is the emotional experience of reading A Little Hatred. At this point in my experience with Joe Abercrombie, I am familiar with the drill. Joe writes something that seems pleasant from one angle but is horrific from another. What I have enjoyed about his books is that even if you know the shoe is going to drop, it’s still incredibly hard to see the foot wearing it.

A Little Hatred knows all of this and leans into it. There is a really clever dichotomy between the older generation who know how the world works, the new cast who are filled with naivete. Abercrombie cleverly writes it so that the reader sitting perfectly between the two generations, is pushed and pulled between them. The novel is a prescription for anxiety that I didn’t want but couldn’t help but be addicted to. One of the things about Abercrombie that is so frustrating, in an intentional way, is his commentary on “progress”. Abercrombie turns his dark meditations towards the ineffable march of human technological progress and the stagnation of human emotion or intellect. It is a depressing paradox that he is unfortunately good at illustrating. One of the things that I want from these new books is for the world to finally see some progress – for humanity to finally improve and grow and get better. A Little Hatred does an amazing job of showing a possible light at the end of that tunnel. But, as only the first of a three-part story, we have no idea if that light will turn out to be a new dawn or a meteor coming to cause an extinction-level event to my trust and love.

A Little Hatred is confusing and emotional and my review will likely change two books from now when Abercrombie shows that I was wrong about everything – including things like who my parents are. The book is a gift of anxiety, lost sleep, depression, excitement, and betrayal. I don’t know why I keep reading his books, all they do is upset me for a month afterward because I can’t stop thinking about them. Everyone would probably live a happier and more carefree life if they never picked up a piece of Abercrombie’s haunting fiction. I highly recommend it, probably the best book I have read this year.

Rating: A Little Hatred – 10/10
-Andrew