This Book begins with an engagement with the broader narrative of war. It is related how in June 1812 Napoleons troops crossed Russian frontiers and war began. A philosophical debate about freewill is also offered and it is argued that even Napoleon was in the grip of history. This reasoning is also described as falling back on fatalism to explain the irrational events of war.
In Chapter III, the Tsar is at a ball at Vilna when news reaches him that the French have entered Russia without declaring war. The narrative then focuses on Napoleon who, in a short space of time, has reached the actual house from which the Tsar originally despatched a message for him. It is claimed in Chapter VI that Napoleon holds only his own self as significant as the world depended on his will alone.
Prince Andrei travels to Petersburg in Chapter VIII to find Anatole in order to have a duel with him. After travelling to Turkey and missing him once more, Prince Andrei visits Bald Hills before going on to war. His thoughts and actions are described as fatalistic. He later tells the Tsar he wants to fight in the army.
The shift to the battlefield is then made and Rostov suffers moral nausea in Chapter XV as he realizes the French troops are more scared than the Russians. Rostov also begins to question the concept of heroism. He is then given command of a battalion of hussars.
His sister, Natasha, is improving gradually and takes comfort in the company of Pierre. She also begins to invest her time and love in religion. There is a further shift to a fatalistic perspective in Chapter XIX as Pierre contemplates the number of the beast (as mentioned in the Book of Revelations in the New Testament) and waits for things to come to pass.
The youngest Rostov child, Petya, announces that he wants to join up to fight in the war and is caught up in the patriotic crowds at the Kremlin. Pierre is also seduced by the patriotism of the time and says he will provide and maintain 1,000 men for the war. Eventually, Count Rostov allows Petya to sign up.
The war of 1812 underpins the novel from this point and this section begins with a strong indictment of it. The philosophical questioning of freewill is also given space as the concepts of choice and fatalism, and the tension between these ideas, are all discussed.
On the micro level, Petyas desire to fight for his country is introduced at this juncture and the descriptions of the crowds love for their leader is indicative of one strand of reasoning as to how wars occur. These combined wills of patriotic fervor, and these include Pierre and Count Rostov, are a demonstration of how no individual is solely accountable for the events that occur in war; a war depends, instead, on the contribution of each one.