Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea #1
Also by this author: Half the World
Published by Del Rey, Harper Voyager on July 15, 2014 (US), July 3rd (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Also in this series: Half the World
“I swore an oath to avenge the death 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. 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 finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie is exactly the type of YA book I have been waiting to find. It’s no secret, that Abercrombie is one of my favorite authors, so I was hopeful, but still wasn’t sure what to expect. In this book, Abercrombie does not compromise or dampen his story for a younger crowd. When things get dark and violent, so does the book. The detail may be a little less than his other books (maybe? Well, there’s no Glokta, but yeah, there is still violence), but Yarvi experiences some grim, dark times and those are not skipped over at all, the reader gets to see it all. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Abercrombie book if there wasn’t just the right amount of dark humor interspersed to help counter the darkness. Another thing I really appreciate about this book is that it does not have an overwhelming romance. I know there are other YA books that don’t, but often, that is my gripe. I enjoy everything about the story but some sudden obsessive love interest. Not at all the case here.
Also, for those readers who found Abercrombie’s other books slower to get into, I think you will find this one much quicker to draw you in. It jumps into the story quickly, and just keeps going. Other than that, I felt the main difference between this and Abercrombie’s other books was that it was told from a single POV. It stayed focused on Yarvi and his story and covered really little else. Oh, and no awkward sex scenes or cursing. I didn’t even notice their absence until I sat down to write this review.
I really enjoyed Yarvi , our protagonist, as a character. He is the younger son of the current King of Gettland, but in addition to the normal second son tribulations caused by watching from the shadows as an older sibling is prepared for the throne, being crippled confounds Yarvi’s feelings of being an outsider. His lack of a hand prevents him from being able to excel in fighting and combat, things that are highly valued by his father. Things his brother does excel at. So, Yarvi pursues an intellectual life, he prepares himself to join the ministry.
I have to confess in the beginning, I did feel he was a bit ‘oh, woe is me, I am just half of what I should be’. But that didn’t last. There is tremendous growth in Yarvi’s character, and to attain that, he had to start of weaker. He still struggled because of his disability, but instead of seeming defeated before he started, he began to look and find solutions that were within his power to do. Much like Tyrion from GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Yarvi learns to use his wits to achieve a goal where his body can not.
We get glimpses of the world only as Yarvi encounters it, so we don’t get full scale detail or history. This worked for me, I feel the book featured Yarvi front and center and all other details of the world or characters were secondary and only told as relevant to Yarvi ‘s current circumstances. It helped keep this at a 350 page novel instead of a 500 pages like the rest of his novels. Not that I didn’t enjoy the world building in other books, I just can’t say that I missed it here. Because while Half a King is shorter, it is certainly not half a story. It also comes to a good conclusion for Yarvi, and has just enough details at the end to feed into the next book.
If Half a King is YA (which it is), it has just securely positioned itself as my favorite YA novel. I enjoyed this thoroughly and felt it had all the strengths of Abercrombie’s other books, just in a condensed format that made it move a little quicker. I highly recommend this one.
Now the parent in me comes out. I have to confess, when I got this book, one of the first things I wondered is if I would be able to recommend it to my son. He is only 11, so younger than many YA target, but old enough he reads many of them. So, I was wondering, will this YA book by Abercrombie be one of the ones that can easily be handed to a young reader? Honestly, I think it would be an individual basis. If it is a kid that is not bothered by violence in books, then absolutely go for it. There is nothing else in here to warrant holding it back from them. There are also many good life lessons as Yarvi finds his way. But, if they may not be able to handle bloody sword fights and decapitations, then just hold off a couple years.
Many thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.