The Wisdom of Crowds Audiobook
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“The Wisdom of Crowds” marks the penultimate installment in Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy, an integral part of the interconnected First Law world, consisting of several trilogies. The book stands as a monumental achievement, immersing readers in a gripping fantasy adventure that is simply a pleasure to read. Abercrombie’s brilliance lies in stripping his characters down to their very essence, stripping away titles, fame, and riches to expose their flawed and desperate selves beneath the façade they present to the world.
In this volatile world, no one can rest assured in their position of power for long. Kings are overthrown, leaders are replaced, and the mighty are humbled by the Great Leveller. The characters in the story find themselves unexpectedly on the opposite end of the spectrum, as a once mighty warrior becomes a cripple and a princess turns into a prisoner. Everyone’s back becomes a target for swords, leaving some to question which side will emerge victorious. Even those who ascend to mighty thrones discover that their freedom was perhaps greater when they were penniless and without friends.
The story unfolds on two fronts. In the city of Adua, the epicenter of civilization, a Marxist revolution takes shape, accompanied by informers and secret police, causing widespread terror and paranoia. The new regime, while promising change, proves to be equally tyrannical. The shifting alliances and web of trust and mistrust make for a tumultuous setting, where characters like Savine and Lord Brock are drawn into the maelstrom, alongside important appearances by Vick and Pike.
Meanwhile, the savage North is ruled by Tricky Rikke with the Long Eye, seated in the Skarling chair as the mistress of the north. However, like those before her, her hold on power remains uncertain. The North, much like the South, is a realm of ever-changing power dynamics, with people constantly seeking alliances with the next potential victor, leaving the defeated ones behind.
The novel is intense, brutal, and shocking, yet sprinkled with gallows humor that adds a sense of realism to the fantastical world. The characters are authentic, relatable, and constantly faced with the dilemma of trusting others, unsure of who might betray them next. Life decisions are tough, and mistakes and regrets are a part of their existence.
“The Wisdom of Crowds” is a realistic fantasy masterpiece that leaves readers captivated and yearning for more. The experience is so enthralling that finishing the book only fuels the desire to immediately start reading it again.
The Wisdom of Crowds audiobook Series The Age of Madness
The Age of Madness concludes in a fitting manner, with all the major plot and character arcs coming together seamlessly. The intricate details of the Weaver’s scheme are unveiled, and they align perfectly with the logic of the First Law world. Within this gripping narrative, individuals endure both just and unjust suffering, make harrowing decisions that haunt their souls, and attain long-awaited aspirations, only to discover that their desires and true happiness are often worlds apart. This masterful storytelling is quintessentially Abercrombie.
The plot architecture of The Age of Madness is undoubtedly Abercrombie’s finest work, but despite its brilliance, some aspects fall short of the original First Law trilogy. There are a couple of reasons for this perception.
Firstly, while Abercrombie excels at orchestrating the movement of the pieces, the execution of their advancement lacks the same captivating appeal as in earlier works. The essence of fantasy lies in seeing characters reveal their true selves through thrilling actions. The journey of Bayaz’s motley crew across the Old Empire, filled with bickering, blunders, and character growth, was a superb example of character-driven adventure, highlighted by revelatory dialogue. Similarly, the early stages of “A Little Hatred” introduced a colorful array of characters in a world undergoing an industrial revolution, a spectacle that captivated readers.
However, “The Trouble With Peace” didn’t maintain the same momentum, with an excess of political maneuvering and scheming that, while competently written, failed to spark the imagination. Unfortunately, “The Wisdom of Crowds” suffers even more in this regard. The narrative involving Rikke and Black Calder in the North progresses reasonably well, although some twists are too predictable to have the desired impact. However, the French Revolution-inspired events in Adua become somewhat burdensome, having been explored similarly in the Valbeck chapters of the previous book. The horror loses its freshness, even with heightened violence. Additionally, the victims of the Burners are mostly individuals readers haven’t had ample opportunity to connect with, making it hard to emotionally invest in their plight until the book’s final third.
Secondly, Abercrombie’s best works have featured a strong sense that the characters drive the plot. Unfortunately, in “The Wisdom of Crowds,” there’s an unprecedented feeling that the demands of the plot shape the characters more than ever before. Some cases are understandable; for instance, Gunnar Broad is defined by his willingness to be an instrument of others’ will, so changes in his character are reasonable given the events. Rikke’s transformation is engineered by both overt and subtle influences. Vick and Gorst remain true to their established natures but are shaped by events, leading to logical decisions and destinies.
However, in some instances, the changes in characters feel jarring and difficult to accept. Savine dan Glokta undergoes a significant personality shift in “The Wisdom of Crowds,” but the explanation offered is somewhat cliché and doesn’t feel wholly driven by her virtues, flaws, or surrounding events. It appears more like a necessary plot development to reach her intended destination. Similar issues manifest in minor characters, with Tunny’s transformation being particularly puzzling and disconnected from his established character throughout the First Law saga.
The most unfortunate example is Leo, whose character feels drastically altered after the events in “The Trouble With Peace.” It almost feels like half of his personality has been removed, presenting a less interesting and less nuanced character. While Abercrombie avoids making characters entirely villainous, Leo’s trajectory seems forced into a niche typically occupied by someone else.
In contrast, Orso’s character remains largely unchanged, seated in his cage, displaying witty quips and unchanged traits. Orso is undeniably one of Abercrombie’s most intriguing characters, a unique take on the “playboy with hidden depths” archetype. Yet, his development seems complete by the end of “A Little Hatred” and remains relatively stagnant in “The Trouble With Peace” and “The Wisdom of Crowds.” Although he still proves to be interesting, it feels like he is merely reacting to events rather than growing or evolving.
In conclusion, “The Wisdom of Crowds” leaves the First Law universe in an intriguing state and displays the strengths that have made Joe Abercrombie a favorite fantasy author. However, some aspects, such as plot execution and character evolution, fall slightly short of the original trilogy, making the journey less compelling than some of his previous works.
Audiobook The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie
Incredible! A finale worthy of the first trilogy. Bravo, Joe! You made me fall in love with every character, flawed or virtuous, and took me on an unforgettable journey into your world. Needless to say, Bayaz embodies the avarice and greed of our capitalist society, which is precisely why he’s the only one I truly dislike. Everyone else feels human, but he stands apart. Thank you for this remarkable experience.
Audio The Wisdom of Crowds narrated by Steven Pacey
An immensely enjoyable read, brimming with unforgettable characters. My personal favorites are the deposed King and the captivating loser, Orso!
Free audio The Wisdom of Crowds – in the audio player below
The writing was superb, yet I found the ending a bit peculiar and unsatisfyingly incomplete.
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