Series: Shattered Seas #1
Published by Random House on July 15th 2014
Narrator: John Keating
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“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 that his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King is every bit as bloodthirsty and snarky as his previous books – all the ones I’ve read, in any case.
The Plot: Betrayal and death lays the foundation for this story of a wronged younger son, followed by vengeance and dreams of redemption.
Prince Yarvi of Gettland has trained for the ministry all his life; a physical deformity means he cannot hold sword nor shield, and what prince cannot fight? However, life has other plans, and Yarvi finds himself on the throne after his father and brother are killed in an ambush. He is rapidly betrothed and, advised by those who once shoveled scorn upon him, leads an army to avenge his father and brother. However, Yarvi soon finds himself betrayed and enslaved.
He’s determined to survive as best he can, and convinces his oar-mates that it might not be a bad idea to hitch their fates to his wit and cunning. And so we have a band of merry brothers (and one sister) on a trek through snow and ice to return a rightful king to his throne.
The Characters: I loved the characters Abercrombie fills Half a King with. From Prince Yarvi to the deluded boat owner (here’s where I wish I had a book so I knew how to spell her name), to his colorful oar-mates to the ship’s navigator to the grizzled Nothing, all were distinct and entertaining, and John Keating’s narration brought them to life quite vividly. The back-and-forth between the group, the teasing and whining and complaints and threats, all fit this adventure, and I thought the narrator captured tone and intent quite well.
The Story: This story of a wronged young man who uses his wits and cunning to survive treachery and deceit is one that’s been trod before, but Abercrombie’s descriptive storytelling makes Half a King quite the entertaining fantasy. He’s mentioned that Half a King‘s aimed at younger readers (12-16) but I think the subject matter and violence would better suit the teen range (14 or 15 and up). My son’s 12 and a voracious reader, and he’d have a hard time with some of Yarvi’s experiences.
If you’ve enjoyed Abercrombie’s other efforts, or you like your fantasy dark and bitter (like a good stout!), you’ll want to check out Half a King. As for me, I’m queueing up Half the World…
drey’s rating: Excellent!
Have you read Half a King? What did you think?