We follow the same cast of characters as the first book, all seven of which continue to play significant roles. The growth, or 'great change', that the likes of Savine, Leo, Rikke and Orso go through over the course of the book's 500 or so pages is really something to be experienced. This is very much their book and I am content to say that they each deserve a place on the high table of Abercrombie's greatest characters. That is not to say that the older characters of Clover, Broad and Vick are any less compelling. Clover still remains my personal favourite, whose wit and wisdom continue to provide some of the best dialogue to ever grace a page. As for Broad, well he is Broad, the grizzled old veteran with a penchant for violence and urge to do the right thing, which means, what is there not to like? Vick appeared to be the less interesting of characters to readers in A Little Hatred where she came across as very cold and calculated to the point where it felt like she lacked any emotion at all. She is even more so here but I found myself warming a lot more to her as she is thrown into some truly tense situations, including one with some old familiar faces and manages to keep her own.
Speaking of familiar faces, returning fans will find even more to delight in here than in A Little Hatred with plenty more nods to old characters, events and adventures. We also get to visit familiar places too with a wonderful convergence of characters in a particular setting that every returning fan will vividly remember. As I said in my other review, this new series is still a great entry point for newcomers with plenty to love about it. However, those who have read the previous trilogy and standalones will get so much more out of it.
The Age of Madness is very much centred on themes of social upheaval and revolution. Whereas A Little Hatred can be seen as a story about the working man and woman's fight for a better future, The Trouble With Peace is very much a story of the nobility's attempt to bring about the 'great change'. As you can imagine the working class and nobility's idea of what shape that 'great change' will take is very different and their methods even more so. This book has so much political manoeuvring and backstabbing. Some of its best moments are discussions of dissent behind closed doors and subtle attacks in public spaces. They are as vicious and brutal as the moments found on the battlefield where Abercrombie has already earned the equivalent to a named-man's reputation in writing. There is a battle in The Trouble With Peace and not only does it eclipse the Battle of Red Hill in A Little Hatred, but quite possibly even the Battle of Osrung in The Heroes. It is brutal, horrifying and exhilarating, with new methods of warfare being put to explosive and terrifying use. Abercrombie also continues the trend of writing about the everyday 'little people' which gives readers an all-encompassing chaotic perspective of events. In fact, Abercrombie treats us to double the dose, not just on the battlefield but on another field also, one that is no less bloody.
I went into The Trouble With Peace with high expectations only for it to far exceed them in every possible way. This is Joe Abercrombie at his best. I am already planning a reread, this time listening to the phenomenal voicework of Steven Pacey. With one book still left in the Age of Madness trilogy, I am both excited for and dreading its release. I cannot wait to see what happens next but do not want it to end.