Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Half A King, by the champion of gritty and violent fantasy Joe Abercrombie, the newest book and start of a series, released at the start of this month. In contrast to his other books, Half A King has been marketed as YA and fills an intermediate role of not quite fitting into either YA or fantasy for adults. That’s by no means a bad thing and I’d recommend it to adults and mature teenagers alike. And just look at that gorgeous cover! Isn’t it simply incredible? One more reason to get it.
Prince Yarvi, disabled young man in a world where war and violence rules, cannot hold a shield with his crippled hand. His only asset is his razor-sharp mind, but that doesn’t command the respect a well-build fighter would get in this world. When he has to ascend the throne gears are set into motion and he’s swept up in an adventure that demands everything he can give and more. Sold as a slave and chained to an oar, how can someone as weak as him survive the ordeal? And how can he reclaim his stolen throne, even though he’d never wanted it in the first place?
This is a tale as expertly written as Joe’s other books and as enjoyable. I wouldn’t call it great, but it’s a good story nonetheless, with memorable characters and powerful adversaries to beat. The journey at the side of Yarvi, seeing him struggle because of his crippled hand but using his mind to overcome every stone in the road, no matter how big, fills an afternoon with an entertaining tale. It’s a short book because the about 350 pages are easy to read with a great flow that simply carries you with it without any effort of your own.
It suffers a bit from predictability and one big revelation can be seen from miles away. As you can already understand it before you’re half-way into the book, it lacks surprise when it’s revealed at the very end, and as such lacks impact. Another smaller, quieter one took me by surprise as I only noticed it right before its disclosure. This second mystery fit the intelligent Yarvi much more and shines a very interesting light on the whole story.
The setting has a very viking-esque vibe with shoulder-man standing besides their brothers and protecting them with their shields. The Shattered Sea plays a major role too, for war and commerce. Slaves are used abundantly too, taken for example in raids and used as oarsmen in horrible conditions, chained to their benches and beaten relentlessly.
One nice thing I wanted to mention is that the kindle version actually has page numbers. That’s something only a few books have and I find it much better than always seeing some incomprehensible location numbers. How many pages are 8800 Loc? I have no idea. Seeing you are on page 231 of 352 is gives a reader a much better idea.
Concluding: What I can say without doubt is that I’m very interesting in what Yarvi will do in the future. I want to know what he’ll do, how he’ll overcome whatever is thrown into his way. It’s not Abercrombie’s best book, but still better than a lot of other fantasy stories. As the first book in a series it manages to invest the reader in the characters and the plot and make them want to read on.