Reviewed by Eli Adelholm
Finally the time came for me to have a look at the latest output from one of my current favourites, Joe Abercrombie. I know I am a bit behind as this book was released several months ago and the sequel is due pretty soon. But to me it was still all new and exciting as I settled down, ready to be absorbed… and absorbed I got.
A New Direction
The thing is that Abercrombie has been renewing himself with this book. He has strayed from his usual style and has created a whole new world.
Half a King can only be described as a lighter version of the Abercrombie we all know and love. Where his previous books were distinctly adult, this is a YA fantasy at its very best. It does read like it was targeted for a younger audience, but that does nothing to repel me from it. Hell, I am a young adult myself.
I still remember the first review I wrote for his First Law trilogy in which I claimed that his language was a bit annoying in places. Well, none of that in this one! This is an awfully charming little book, a bit less bleak than his usual outputs – even though I love that bleakness; it is good to see that he is also capable of toning it down just a notch.
Never fear, though; the book is still grim and gritty and it portrays the world in its most splendid ugliness.
A Very Catchy Read
The story revolves around an innocent young man who has yet to find his way in a less-than-innocent world. Yarvi is a charming fellow who can never seem to catch a break. He may be half a man but he has the heart of a whole one.
“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” – Yarvi.
If there is one thing Abercrombie is good at it is catchphrases. He wields them like weapons of seduction upon the reader – and while there were many in his previous works, I think they have only gotten more pronounced in this one.
The thing about Abercrombie’s writing style is that it is getting visibly better with every book. All authors evolve as their careers progress, but I cannot think of anyone evolving as rapidly as this gentleman.
While I probably still do prefer Joe Abercrombie’s adult writings, I think that he has definitely hit the mark with this YA book. I am not claiming that this is the most well written book he has published yet (as I have not read Red Country and could not rightly say so) – but it is.
What’s to Come?
I am yet unsure if this series has the potential to rise to the level of the mighty Fist Law trilogy. In fact, the ending left me with few clues as to how he might be continuing the series.
From the blurb of the sequel, Half the World, it sounds like Yarvi will not be returning, but that the emphasis of the series is upon the Shattered Sea and not the characters.
It would not surprise me. As I previously wrote in my review of Best Served Cold: “the world he portrays does not begin and end with the story or the characters in question.”
I enjoyed this book immensely, but I did miss a bit of depth from it. This is not strange in the first book in a series, but it does make me hesitate to hand out a five-star rating. I hope the next books will give the series a stronger feel of consequence.
Source: Borrowed from my local library
IBR Rating: ★★★★
Recommendation: Half a King is a very short book compared to his previous outputs – I would not have minded if it had been twice as long as it was; a book that leaves the reader wanting more, a light read due to the YA-style and a page-turner in accordance with the catchiness of the writing. What are you waiting for? Go get it now!
Also, for fans of Mark Lawrence; Half a King did give me a bit of the same vibe as Prince of Thorns.