the wisdom of crowds [book review]

As I had read rather negative reviews of the conclusion to Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy, The Age of Madness, which mixes the fantastic medieval universe of the earlier books with an industrial revolution leading to riots and the eventual overthrow of the aristocratic regime, I started reading the final volume with some worry that I would not enjoy it as much as the earliest masterpieces! However, the worry was not needed as I essentially read the book over two days, being stuck between two invasive neighbours in an eight hour flight being of course a further incentive..! Obviously, the series of trilogies has been going on for way too long and I have lost both track and interest in the genealogies of characters reappearing through them. Still, this conclusion (??) is rather neat, if somewhat less cynical and less brutal than for the others. Except of course that one very central character dies. And that another returns to her earlier self-enrichment tendencies by pretending to turn to charity work… The least cynical character ends up being Vic, the exécuteur des basses oeuvres (similar to Fouché who would end up being Napoleon’s chief policeman). The setting is very close to the French Revolution unraveling, with an out-of-touch aristocracy cannot handle riots fed by terrible working conditions (and fed by competing kingdoms and scheming mages). A first round in a search for a new (parliamentary) Constitution, à la Danton, followed by Terreur, a radical elimination of the State “enemies”, using a Tarpeian Rock rather than a guillotine, and then a successful counter-revolution supported by other states… The cover of the book actually uses a painting from the French revolution. This is however well-rendered, with great characters, little magic if any, and a parallel plot in the North following Rikke’s precarious hold through hilarious never-ending swearing dialogues. And a few unexpected turns. I thus really enjoyed the book. Except for the return of Bayaz which I would have done without as he appears rarely in the story and with no clear purpose.

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