This September we say goodbye to Joe Abercrombie’s Circle of the World with the final book in The Age of Madness series, The Wisdom of Crowds. Before it releases, though, let’s take a look back at where our main characters are after The Trouble with Peace.
Rikke, daughter of the Dogman, has the Long Eye, a rare power to see into the future, but her inability to control it was killing her. Her only chance to gain control was to travel with Caul Shivers and Isern-di-Phail far north to a witch. She was given a choice to keep one eye and live a normal life or keep the other and gain control over the Long Eye. With her powers under control, she foresaw herself in Skarling’s Hall, sitting in the chair that four Kings of the North sat in before her, and decided to make it happen. To do this, she betrayed her childhood friend, Leo Dan Brock, and his wife Savine, who planned on betraying her anyway. So while Stour Nightfall was at war, there were no roosters in the henhouse giving her the opportunity to take his city.
Jonas Clover, a veteran warrior in The North and now a cynical layabout, worked beside King Stour Nightfall as Stour made an alliance with the Brocks to rise against the Union government. Clover, on behalf of Stour’s father, Black Caulder, kept his eye on Stour as his named men went to war with the Union once again only to be on the losing side. After finally convincing the King of the North to retreat and fight another day, Clover decided to betray Stour, have his men kill Stour’s men, and deliver the broken king to none other than Rikke and her people.
Meanwhile, Leo dan Brock, previously a bold, popular, and very foolhardy young soldier, has lost everything, including his land and title of Lord of Angland. Leo, easily manipulated by Isher and members of the Open Council, launched a failed rebellion against the rest of the government, King Orso dan Luther and the Closed Council, and lost spectacularly. His hubris, ethnocentrism, racism, and homophobia pushed friends and potential allies away who could have given him better advice as well as backup. Instead, he was outwitted by King Orso and lost. He lost his leg, the use of his arm, his friends, his title, and nearly his life until at the very last minute King Orso committed him to a life sentence rather than an execution.
Savine dan Glokta, a savvy entrepreneur, master manipulator, and daughter of the famous Arch Lector Sand dan Glokta, had her own hand in Leo’s downfall. Ever since returning from Valbeck where she nearly died and after discovering she could not wed King Orso because he is her half-brother, Savine’s business prospects began going poorly. The trauma caused her to act erratically, and after her impulsive fling with Leo dan Brock at the end of the previous book A Little Hatred, she became pregnant. Her mother and Leo’s mother then manipulated her into the wedding of the Lord of Angland. Once married, she discovered the Open Council’s plot to commit treason against King Orso, she saw no way out except to do everything she could to prevent her foolish husband from losing. She became too ambitious in making deals to put Leo and herself on the throne and to give Ulfreth the land that was the Dogman’s and now Rikke’s with the passing of her father, back to Stour Nightfall. In the end, having lost the rebellion and everything else, she begged Orso to spare her and her husband for her child’s sake and revealed the truth of their family relationship. In the end, like Leo, she was stripped of her title but her husband was spared execution.
Orso dan Luther, previously a hedonistic and indolent crown prince, finds himself wearing the crown before he expected upon the death of his father. He spent most of The Trouble with Peace complaining how little power he truly had to change things while being the one who must take all the blame. In dealing with the rebellion against him, he learned some harsh truths about what it means to be king, namely learning to take responsibility in a less ideal position. He very much used what people thought of him against his enemies, revealing himself to be quite cunning. In the end, Orso learned how to stop complaining about being a king, how hard it is, and how unliked he is, and took the reins to quell the Open Council’s rebellion.
Gunnar Broad, a Union army veteran who lost everything upon his return from war to his home thanks to industrialization and greed, now works for Savine dan Glokta, doing her dirty work in order to provide a good life for his family. He went against his own convictions to threaten and beat laborers trying to gain rights against Savine’s harsh working conditions, even though he himself had previously lived in squalor. When Savine threw her hat in with the rebellion, Gunnar was sent on a mission to recruit the Breakers, an organization of disgruntled workers attacking and disrupting industrialization to demand better treatment He once was a part of the Breakers before their defeat at Valbeck, but he discovered that the more extreme sect of the group, the Burners, had since combined forces with the Breakers. In order to gain their aid, he had to help perform a job with the violent and thought-to-be-mad Judge. In doing so, he now is conflicted between his craving for violence versus the part of him that loves his wife and daughter.
Victarine dan Teufel, commonly referred to as Vick, is a former prisoner of the Union’s harsh labor camps, and now a member of the King’s Inquisition and a masterful spy. She was put to work for the Inquisition keeping the city of Westport in the Union and out of Styria. In doing so, gained the attention of former inquisitor Shylo Vitari and the famous assassin Casamir dan Shenkt. Through them, learned that the true power of the Union lies within the First of the Magi, Bayaz, and the bank that he controls, Valint and Bulk. Before she can confront Arch Lector Glokta, he resigned due to his daughter’s involvement in the rebellion. Before he left, he pleaded with Vick to forgive herself for betraying her brother in the prison camps to gain her own freedom. After the rebellion was quelled, Vick found herself with the new Arch Lector Pike back in Valbeck where he revealed he is in fact the mastermind behind all the civil unrest in the Union and that the uprising has already taken control of many of the smaller cities while King Orso was dealing with Leo dan Brock’s rebel army. Left with little choice, Vick chooses to side with Pike and the Breakers as the book ends with Pike calling for “a Great Change.”