How long has it been since I did a proper review of a book? A long time, ‘cos I’m pretty much retired from that game, but sometimes nice publishers send me cool books to read and I’m drawn to them like a moth to a flame. HALF A KING was one of those.
Book: HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea, Book #1 | Genre: YA Fantasy
“I swore an oath to be avenged on the killers of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…
This is the first Joe Abercrombie book I’ve read — I’m not much of a grimdark fantasy reader, and well, he’s Lord Grimdark himself. Honestly I’m not much of an epic fantasy reader at all… or I wasn’t. But last week I finished The Lies of Locke Lamora, which has re-ignited my taste for a good epic fantasy, and Half a King felt like a good way to keep that flame burning.
And it is. It’s a nice mix of Game of Thrones and your more traditional quest narrative, with a chilly snowsept cover that well represents some of the novel’s most chilling scenes (look, I couldn’t resist that pun). With Christmas just around the corner, it’s the perfect time of year to be reading about adventurers struggling through snowy tundras.
In a lot of ways, Half a King follows a familiar path; a revenge quest, a band of ragtag adventurers, loyalty and friendship and fighting. But it also brings in a lot of fresher elements: a bitter, sarcastic disabled protagonist who’s not a strong fighter, women in powerful roles and with detailed, flaws characters, and a detailed pantheon of gods that’s quite different from the norm.
This is a YA (teen) fantasy, rather than Abercrombie’s standard adult fantasy, but he moves into the style well and it’s a well-written and easy read. I would have preferred more world-building detail, but apart from that the only other problem that caught my attention was the timeline: the chapters are fast-paced, but there’s a lot of skipped weeks and months that are clearly signposted, and by the end of the story it felt like a lot more time had passed than “months” as mentioned towards the end.
All in all, this is a very strong fantasy novel that’s easy-to-read and enjoyable, though perhaps a bit truer to tropes than the hype led me to believe. It’s a really fun read, and a great starting point for epic fantasy fans interested in exploring YA fiction.
Thanks to Harper Voyager for providing me with a review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.