What I Learned From. . .
The Wisdom of Crowds
I’ve been following the Age of Madness trilogy for the last couple of years, and have to say; so far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Joe Abercrombie writes heroically proportioned fantasy, and to see this one end will leave a void, hard to fill.
So, let’s set the scene for this concluding tale:
Chaos. Fury. Destruction.
The Great Change is upon us . . .
Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.
With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies . . . while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.
The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver's ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together . . .
Now, THAT’s the way to capture the imagination. And that phrase; “. . . all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.” It’s perfect. Because as we all know –and as history so poignantly testifies – when the mob runs riot, the last vestiges of humanity are often cast aside in favor of a brand of ‘wisdom’ that is as foul as it is tyrannical, to say the least.
And – No Spoilers – that’s exactly what you get in this story.
The trouble with change is that the goalposts are always shifting. One man’s rise becomes another man’s fall; someone’s gain, the other’s loss. And the actual extent of the change itself? Well, you’re on unsettled ground from the outset, as what some will view as going way too far, will never be enough for those conditioned to rebel. Yes, rumbling of the Great Change echoes throughout the length and breadth of the Union, and far into the north. War ravages the land. No one is safe. What’s lawful & expected today, becomes villainous and repulsive the next. Duplicity, disloyalty, deceit. All become the norm. Far from bringing peace and harmony, the Change brings nothing but fear and reprisals; unrest and discontent. And those who are supposed to set the example are far from innocent.
Abercrombie encapsulates this seismic instability from the outset. The intrigue is as nail biting as it is callous; the betrayals as inevitable as they are a complete surprise; the battles as vividly visceral as they are visionary in scope. A great deal happens during this novel – to a lot of people – but not once do you lose the threads of a story arc that is as brutally brilliant as it is barbaric and bloodthirsty. Yet here’s the thing. We may be delving into a work of fantasy, yet Abercrobie captures the fickle nature of man’s inhumanity to man – and revels in it so well – that you can actually relate to how his characters think and act, bringing it into the realms of reality.
My only criticism is that, for such a maestro of plot construction and execution, Abercrombie seemed to condense the conclusion of the story? It seemed rushed, somehow, as if he was eager to get to the end. Don’t get me wrong, there are all the usual final ‘plot twists’ and ‘reveals’ that always add a satisfying heat to his spicy servings of mishap and mayhem. But I don’t know, I was left wanting. . .
Until I trod cautiously into the last chapter, that is.
Fans of Abercrombie know that he will sprinkle a few seeds in all sorts of innocuous places as the story develops. Then he’ll ‘forget’ about them . . . until it’s time to dig them up, waggle them in your face, and stuff you down your throat. (NO SPOILERS – but you get an example of this near the end of the book, in a bittersweet moment when Black Rikke relates back to one of her earlier Long Eye visions, and how it’s eventual fulfillment always baffled her. Until . . . ?)
Well, thank the gods of death and destruction, if Rikke/Abercrombie does it again in the very last chapter. As I say, no spoilers. But you’ll see what I mean when you get there.
As such, I suspect this might not be the last we see of Midderland?
Bring it on!