Book One: Half a King – 416 pages, Paperback First published July 3, 2014
Book Two: Half the World – 366 pages, Hardcover First published February 3, 2015
Book Three: Half a War – 513 pages, Kindle Edition Published July 16, 2015 by Harper Voyager
Author: Joe Abercrombie
I have to admit that I was quite hesitant to read Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. The plot itself didn’t seem very close to the style I like. So far all the characters I’ve encountered have been strong, they are heroes to the last body cell, so I was pretty skeptical. Still, I hadn’t read anything by the author before, so I just gave it a go. I can say with a pure heart that I was pleasantly surprised.
Shattered Sea – “Half a King”
The main character, Yarvi, is the younger son of the king. He has a severe disability in one arm and absolutely no aspirations to the throne. His dream is to become a pastor and escape the ridicule and disparaging looks of the people. There is no place for the physically weak in the kingdom of Getland. Its warriors are known for their strength and steadfastness. But fate plays a nasty trick on Yarvi when his father and brother are betrayed and killed in a plot. From one day to the next, he has to give up his dreams and take his father’s place on the black throne.
Yarvi is determined to avenge the murderers. As he is still a naive and defenseless king, he becomes an easy target for intrigue and palace gossip. He becomes the victim of a plot and an attempted assassination by his most trusted men in the palace.
Our hero goes through a series of trials. The author puts him to the test again and again, and each of these tests shapes his character. From a shy boy with a handicap, a half-king, Yarvi transforms before our eyes into a strong, calculating and cunning player worthy of the royal court. On his journey, which is characterized by misery, hunger, trials and death, he gains loyal companions. He finds new allies and enemies.
Each piece of the story Joe Abercrombie uncovers sheds new light on the truth.
Shattered Sea – Half the World
After the promising beginning of the “Shattered Sea” trilogy, I read the second part, “Half the World”, in one breath, without thinking twice.
Having already become an influential figure, our loyal hero, Father Yarvi, embarks on a mission to find allies for his king, Uthil. His choice of team is rather unconventional. He is flanked by a gang of criminals who are prepared to do anything and have nothing to lose.
The story meets us this time with the lively characters Brand and Thorn Bathu. What I liked again about the author’s approach is how much his characters stand outside conventional wisdom. Here he sketches a maiden who is touched by the High God of War. Thorn Bathu is one of the few girls being trained as a warrior, and she does pretty damn well. This does not go down well with her instructor and she is put to an impossible test. But as talented as she is, there is no place for her in the ranks of the soldiers. One mistake and she is declared a “murderer” and thrown into prison.
Brand, on the other hand, is an orphan whose dream is to become a warrior. But while everyone else looks on impassively at Thorn’s fate, he is determined to do the right thing and set things right. This costs him his place among the soldiers and the shattering of his only dream.
Both are drawn into Father Yarvi’s team. The priest is spinning his web and Thorn Bathu will play an important role in his plan. To this end, a mysterious thief of elven relics joins his team. Her task is to turn Thorn Bathu into an unsurpassed assassin who is as deadly as a poisonous snake.
The two heroes are two sides of the same coin. So different and yet… But this is anything but a love story. Thorn Bathu is not the damsel in distress, and Brand is not the prince on the white horse.
Crossing half the world
The journey is difficult and fate presents them with many trials. The crew must cross half a world to find the allies they need. It’s a race against time and their enemies have a head start. Through Father Yarvi’s scheming, they win some small victories, but war is still just around the corner. The High King and his pastor, Grandmother Wexen, are trying to push Getland to the wall. King Uthil and Queen Laithlin’s hopes lie with Father Yarvi’s gang.
The book is peppered with unexpected twists and intrigue. I read the pages with suspense, waiting for the resolution. I experienced the love struggles and emotions of the characters. Joe Abercrombie really builds his characters masterfully. The characters are constantly evolving and by the end of the book you see how far you have come with them.
Shattered Sea – Half a war
War is just around the corner. The High King gathers his countless armies and unleashes his most vicious hound, the Bright Yilling, against his enemies. Vansterland and Getland have no choice but to forge an alliance or be swept away.
Joe Abercrombie introduces us to new characters and at the same time we learn the fate of those we already know well. Their fates are closely interwoven.
The strong Thorn Bathu and the steadfast Brand are now a family. Family life is not easy, especially with a woman like her. But Brand has chosen Thorn and she has chosen him. Their love is undeniable.
The exuberant Koll is Father Yarvi’s apprentice and is about to take his vows and become a pastor. But too many hesitations and promises weigh on his shoulders. His sense of duty to Father Yarvi clashes with the longings of his heart.
And of course, Father Yarvi is the supreme puppeteer.
The new characters developed in the final part of the trilogy are extremely memorable. We meet Princess Skara, the Queen of the Cave, and the cold-blooded Raith, the royal squire of the King of Vansterland.
Skara is a delicate flower. She is a princess, but after her grandfather is murdered in front of her, she becomes the queen of a kingdom that has been burned. Although she is physically weak, she has a strong character and a sharp mind. She successfully engages in palace games and manages to tip the scales in favor of her ruined kingdom. Words are her weapon and she is surprisingly good, even though she has only recently become queen.
Raith is the blade of Grom-gil-Gorm, the evil dog in his pack. He has the task of protecting Queen Skara, and he doesn’t like it at all. He’s used to always being first in battle, and the prospect of being the weak princess’s nanny doesn’t appeal to him at all. But there’s something about Skara that makes him want to keep an eye on her.
And even though this isn’t a love story, I was shivering with anticipation.
The fates of our characters are threads in a giant tapestry. Joe Abercrombie has woven them together with extraordinary skill in the first and second parts and has now completed the knot.
Father Yarvi swears to avenge the murderers of his father and brother. But what price will he have to pay?
Koll’s promise to his mother to always stay in the light. But is that possible when he becomes a pastor?
Thorn Bathu and their blood feud.
Skara’s marriage vows. But will the mind or the heart win this battle?
What is the price of power?
How much is each character willing to pay to win their battle? Is it too high?
Joe Abercrombie shattered all my expectations as the battering ram. He shattered all the conclusions and ideas I had been working towards for two whole books in one fell swoop.
The ending, ah, the ending, left me with a feeling of emptiness, as if that couldn’t possibly be the end. How is that possible? Were they that close? I wanted there to be another book. I literally scoured the internet to make sure this was the final installment of the Shattered Sea trilogy.
The great Joe Abercrombie
The Shattered Sea trilogy had everything you need for a total apocalypse. Intrigue and intrigue, impossible connections, powerful oaths, revenge, blood, unexpected twists. If you ever come across a book by Joe Abercrombie, don’t hesitate, it’s worth it. It definitely won’t be my last.
Half a King
Betrayed by his family and left for dead, prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the shattered sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy.
Half the World
Thorn Bathu was born to fight. But when she kills a boy in the training square she finds herself named a murderer.
Fate places her life in the hands of the deep-cunning Father Yarvi as he sets out to cross half the world in search of allies against the ruthless High King. Beside her is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill. A failure in her eyes and his own, the voyage is his last chance at redemption.
But warriors can be weapons, and weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn always be a tool in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path? Is there a place outside of legend for a woman with a blade?
Half a War
Words are weapons
Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.
Only half a war is fought with swords
The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.
Sometimes one must fight evil with evil
Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.