I like a good fantasy tale now and then and was happy to get an advance review copy of “Half a King” by Joe Abercrombie. I had never read anything by Abercrombie before but the book looked intriguing and as the first book in a new series (entitled “Shattered Sea”) I was happy to get into the story from the beginning.
Prince Yarvi never thought that he would be the king one day. His was a world ruled by might and Yarvi was born with only one good hand and was always viewed as less than a man by those around him. When the king dies, Yarvi finds himself torn from his home and cast out in the cruel world to die and thus prevent him from ever laying claim to the throne. Instead of accomplishing this end, Yarvi vows to live and claim the crown that he never wanted in the first place.
Yarvi quickly learns that this vow is easier to make than to achieve as he is on the far side of the world and has no idea about how he will be able to return home. As his travels progress, his growing number of travelling companions comes together in such a way that it could be just what Yarvi needs to reclaim the crown. Little does Yarvi know that his journey, and the key decision that he must make at the journey’s end, is destined to shape the world for better or for worse.
When I was looking through some other reviews of “Half a King,” I see that the book is receiving mostly glowing reviews and it is easy to understand why. “Half a King” is a very strong work of fantasy fiction that is cast in the mold of a “Game of Thrones” type fantasy that is so popular right now. There is magic and other fantastical elements here but the story remains strongly grounded in more realistic occurrences. The fantasy genre has been changing from tales of elves and mythical creatures performing magical deeds to a more gritty type of tale that places human-ish characters into a fantastical setting. “Half a King” does this successfully with characters that are easy to relate to and a story that is exciting and unrelenting. Abercrombie turns on the action from the beginning of the tale and keeps it moving through to the final pages. This is an exciting story with characters that are easy to cheer for with Yarvi as a symbol for anyone who has had to overcome adversity in a world that seems to be set against success.
I would not, however, go so far as giving this book complete and total praise as it does have its shortcomings. With the frantic pacing of the novel, I did not come to feel as if I really knew much about most of the characters with the exception of Yarvi. Since this is the first of a planned trilogy, the author has ample time to make up for this so I cannot be too harsh about this since this novel is simply the opening salvo. Also, I found that the ending of the novel was rather unsatisfying and a bit of a letdown after a strong book. It was almost as if all of this had happened and then it was just neatly packed up and ended. Again, I cannot be too harsh in critiquing this as well since, again, this was just the end of the first novel and not the conclusion of the series. I am looking forward to the second book of the series to see the story develop. In all, Abercrombie has set up this trilogy to be something that is much better than its peers with a book that does a good job of setting the stage but lacks the punch to be a great novel.
I would like to thank Del Rey Spectra and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “Half a King” is scheduled to be released on July 15, 2014.