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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Post by annis » Sun July 20th, 2014, 4:28 am

The elf-ruins might have been stupendous, but the parts of Skekenhouse that men built seemed quite a disappointment. Yarvi curled his tongue and neatly spat over the side of the ship.
“Nice”. Rulf gave him a nod. “Your rowing’s not up to much, but you’re coming on where it really matters”.

The incomparable Joe Abercrombie turns his hand to Young Adult fiction with the first novel in his new Shattered Sea series. Half a King is a cracker; fantasy, but rooted in the medieval world of the Viking raiders and traders, when Christianity battled for supremacy with the old Norse gods.

This is hallmark Abercrombie - dark and full of moral ambiguity, beautifully written descriptive passages, laconic wit, random, bloody violence and betrayal. There's no sex or profanity, but a long butcher's bill - although not as hardcore as say, Heroes, Abercrombie takes no more prisoners here than usual. Some might question whether this really is YA rather than adult fiction, but I know I would have loved this story when I was twelve as much as I do today. It's my personal opinion that it is perfectly pitched to the teenage reader, while still being an enjoyable read for adults.

One thing we can say without any doubt is that Half a King is a classic coming-of-age tale. Its hero, Yarvi, is a sensitive, scholarly young prince who has a deformed hand and plenty of smarts but zero self-confidence. Cast without warning into harsh slavery, Yarvi must toughen up, put all his cunning to work, and untangle a sticky web of treachery before he can find his way home and reclaim his rightful inheritance. Along the way he learns the hard-won lesson that loyal friendship and smiling villains can both be found in the most unexpected places.

Abercrombie has commented that Rosemary Sutcliff's Blood Feud may have inspired Half a King, but I can see Sutcliff's Warrior Scarlet in there as well - the story of Drem, the young Bronze Age boy who must kill a wolf before being accepted as a man of the tribe, despite his withered right arm. This is the stuff of archetypical hero quest, but Abercrombie's Law is Sod's Law. Anything can happen and frequently does - there are plenty of lethal twists and turns to keep us on our toes and add a gritty new dimension to an old theme. Who will be the next to stumble all unwary through the Last Door? Can Yarvi accept that power demands the sacrifice of friend as well as foe? Vengeance is a double-edged sword; the end may only be the beginning and home may no longer be where the heart is. Can't wait to find out where Yarvi's journey takes us next.

Joe Abercrombie himself on the subject of Half a King
He Killed the Younglings!
Last edited by annis on Tue July 22nd, 2014, 8:21 pm, edited 23 times in total.

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Post by fljustice » Mon July 21st, 2014, 3:53 pm

Thanks for the reivew, annis. I just recently discovered Abercrombie. He is a crack adventure writer. :)
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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Post by annis » Tue July 22nd, 2014, 8:26 pm

Interested to read the various reviews around -quite a few fans berating Abercrombie because they find "Half a King" too tame. Not sure why they're grizzling - the book is quite clearly labelled teenage fiction! Some people obviously just don't bother reading the product info before they buy.

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