Book review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

SPOILER FREE

I’ve been eyeing this series on my brother’s shelf for a little while now and I’ve heard really good things about Joe Abercrombie both from him and the bookish internet sphere in general. Finally after staring at my own bookshelf and finding nothing new that called to me, I grabbed the first book in The Shattered Sea trilogy of his shelf. Here are my thoughts on ‘Half a King’. 

Summary: Half a King follows a prince called Yarvi who, when we first meet him, is on the brink of becoming a Minister (a sort of healer/wise-man/advice-giver) to the King. Becoming a Minister means that he will give up his title, and any claim to the throne, however this plan is ruined when both his father and brother are murdered and he must take up his father’s fallen crown. He has barely taken up this position when he is betrayed by his own family, and what follows is his harsh journey of survival and his determination to find his way back to his throne and seek justice and revenge.

Writing: It’s really difficult to describe this writing style, as on one hand I find it extremely easy to read, it doesn’t take a whole lot of concentration and I can get through a fair chunk quite quickly. However, this ease does not mean that the writing isn’t rich. His descriptions are vivid and original and I really enjoyed the way in which he painted the world and the characters. His language isn’t flowery or necessarily pretty (something I quite enjoy) yet it does not lack in richness. You can tell that the author, Joe Abercrombie, is accomplished in his style and I felt as though I could really feel that he enjoyed himself while writing it.

Plot/World: The plot is layered and interesting yet still easy to follow. Like the writing, he has managed to strike a balance wherein the content is not too heavy yet does not lack. I found it to be a little slow in places but that is mainly because this style of book is not something I usually reach for – I am used to reading fantasy written more by female authors or from a female’s perspective. In saying that, it was refreshing to read this style of fantasy and I really enjoyed the twists at the end of the book – I didn’t see any of them coming really, and if I did have a hunch, they were always more complex than I anticipated! The twists were always believable and left me feeling surprised and in awe! The final one especially was pretty brutal and I ran to my brother’s room in excitement/shock because I was so impressed and wanted to discuss it with someone (it really showed off Yarvi’s character development). The world building is a little confusing at first but there is a map in the front that you can easily flick to in order to get a feeling for where an event is taking place and where the characters all come from. The feel of the book is also really in cool in that it is somewhat Viking and the names of the places and characters are all awesome and the world has a really interesting, violent, real feel overall.

Characters: I didn’t find myself completely invested in any particular characters, as in I wasn’t raving about my love for them, but I enjoyed them. The central character Yarvi, was always surprising me, which at first was a bit disconcerting. I struggled to get a feel for who he really was but as the book progressed I found that I really liked that. He is unlike any character I’ve ever read and his complexity was very interesting. The characters surrounding him were also interesting and diverse, and I really enjoyed the sense of mateship that existed between them and how that developed over the story. There is also diversity in the sense that there are female and male characters who are brutal and cunning, soft and scared, arrogant and cruel, intelligent and witty. Even though in the world women are still generally viewed as inferior, there were lots of characters who opposed those ideals and were respected for it as well.

Overall there are a lot of positives and I can definitely say that this book is a solidly good read. There is nothing specifically that I can pick that I didn’t enjoy or that took away from the story but I can say that I didn’t find myself addicted or always wanting to pick it up and just read a few more chapters. I don’t really attribute this to the book though, more just to my reading preferences and such. I read it fairly quickly and enjoyed it and appreciated it for what it was. I would definitely recommend it to people who like fantasy, Vikings, violence (it’s not over the top or anything), interesting characters and a fast-moving story.

Cass xx

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