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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing will prepare Yarvi for the truth.
“Half A King” is the first volume in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea fantasy trilogy, and is, to sum it up in one sentence, a coming-of-age story that is set in a Viking-age fantasy world. I’ll give the bare bones of the main story-line and try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, before I give my reasons for the star-rating I chose for...
Published 18 days ago by D. C. Stolk

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3.0 out of 5 stars Overall I enjoyed this book
Overall I enjoyed this book, but it lacks that certain something to say I really liked it. It is Joe Abercrombies first foray into YA. I believe he has the pace down to a tee, but I think the pace has been at the cost of world building.

The book started off at a slow, rather predictable pace. Unworthy prince becomes king, gets betrayed, becomes a slave, makes...
Published 8 days ago by GhostMuppet


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing will prepare Yarvi for the truth., 13 July 2014
By 
D. C. Stolk (The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
“Half A King” is the first volume in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea fantasy trilogy, and is, to sum it up in one sentence, a coming-of-age story that is set in a Viking-age fantasy world. I’ll give the bare bones of the main story-line and try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, before I give my reasons for the star-rating I chose for this book.

“Half A King” tells the tale of Prince Yarvi, the youngest son of the Gettland king. Because he was born maimed – he has a twisted, knobby hand on one side – he is seen as only “half a man.” Not suited to be a warrior, Yarvi is studying to become a minister. On the night before he’s to take his final Minister’s Test, which will make him renounce family and birthright, his uncle Odem brings world-shattering news: his father King Uthrik, and also his heir, Yarvi’s elder brother, have both been treacherously murdered by the Vanstermen. And now, Yarvi is suddenly thrust into the kingship.

The thin golden band of the King’s Circle on his brow, his bottom about to be planted on the Black Chair and a marriage to his cousin Isriun in the very near future, Yarvi now has to prove to his people that being maimed doesn’t make him only “half a king.” He must take up his father’s sword and lead a raid against the Vanstermen in revenge, even though the High King has forbidden open war. As usual with Abercrombie, a lot of things end up having double meanings. Take for example the oath of vengeance he swears before he sets out: “Let it be a chain upon me and a goad within me.”

Before long, Yarvi is in chains indeed. Treachery during the raid has him make a desperate dash for freedom. Although everyone else believes he dies in his escape attempt, he manages to survive by the skin of his teeth but ends up in Vansterland. Captured - but not recognized – he is sold as a slave to the owner of a merchant ship, and shackled to the oars. Making friends among his oar-mates, and even meeting someone who may become a love-interest, the largest part of “Half A King” is taken up with how he finds a way to escape his iron collar and manages to outwit his pursuers. He also needs to find a way to steal his throne back from those who tried to stab him in the back, while keeping the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” firmly in mind. Suffice to say that Nothing will prepare him for the truth.

The final verdict. As can be expected from Joe Abercrombie, the writing is outstanding. So... why the four stars? Well, it all seemed to lack a certain depth. Yes, the basic story is good, but when compared to his other work, it seemed to me a bit watered down, although this might be because he still has to find his “voice” as this novel is intended for younger readers. In parts, it also got somewhat predictable, although he had me with one of the big twists at the end - that one I didn’t see coming (to avoid spoilers, I’ll keep it vague and will only say it involves a revelation about one of his companions). But that said, there were a tad too many other startling coincidences that made things less believable. Case in point: the ‘deus ex machina’ that happens during the pursuit that forms the core of the book, and saves the life of one of Yarvi’s companions. Hence the four stars.

This book is aimed at the YA-market, and as such, the tale is less grim and bleak than Abercrombie’s usual work. The swearing is also toned down – let’s call it PG-rated instead of R-rated, to use a movie analogy. Of course, as in all his novels, there’s only a thin line between good and evil and his somewhat cynical worldview (in which everyone is morally ambiguous) and his trademarked dark humor is prevalent throughout the tale. Although it’s the first in a trilogy, for those who now may groan and don’t want to sink their teeth into another trilogy or (who knows) maybe yet another umpteenth-ology: “Half A King” also works very well as a standalone novel. So: recommended for fantasy lovers in search for a good read, or all Abercrombie fans out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Joe Abercrombie's books, you'll like this Joe Abercrombie book. Even if you don't, you might like it anyway., 20 July 2014
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This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
Others have described this as 'PG Joe Abercrombie' and that seems a very accurate description. There's still violence (of course there's violence, it's Lord Grimdark himself) but while the nature of the violence isn't really much different to that portrayed in his adult works the descriptions are less graphic; there's still swearing, but a bit less sulphurous; there's no sex (I mean, it's not like Logen Ninefingers et al were in the middle of pornographic romps, but there was the odd liaison here and there, occasionally incestuous). Which is something that's confused me for a while, and is also prevalent in Games Workshop literature: apparently it's OK for kids/teens to read about beheadings, dismemberments and disembowelings, but OH GODS NO NOT THE SEX. But that's more a reflection on society than it is on Mr. Abercrombie's authorial prowess.

This is thoroughly worth a read, and in some respects I like it better than his previous works (which I was also a big fan of). My solitary objection to Abercrombie's work has been the recurring theme of people trying to change into a better person and finding themselves unable to, which runs contrary to beliefs I hold. Yarvi, the protagonist of Half A King, not only tries to change but *needs* to change in order to survive, and indeed does change... however, the changes are not necessarily for the better. More useful, perhaps, but not exactly better. Still, needs must. The reason it gets 4 stars instead of 5 is because the world here doesn't seem as rich or fully developed as what we're used to, even making allowances that this is the first book of a series. That's not to say it's empty or superficial, but it doesn't have quite the same sense of depth as you got even from simply reading The Blade Itself on its own. I confidently expect it to be fleshed out in the next two, though, and what has started as a very good book will undoubtedly become an excellent series.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joe Abercrombie practicing restraint., 3 July 2014
By 
J. Lesley "(Judy)" (United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
Young Prince Yarvi doesn't seem to do many things well except find places to hide away from everyone and everything. And yet he immediately begins to show signs in this novel of his capabilities as a minister in his world - not in a religious sense, but as a dispenser of wisdom, advice, and common sense. Unfortunately this fantasy world is more a place for the strong and the agile with warfare and fighting seeming to take up most of the lives of those who live here. Yarvi has a disability that he cannot possibly overcome to make him the heroic fighter his country needs when he is elevated to kingship. Naturally his relatively sheltered existence has made him completely unprepared for treachery when it happens. Once he finds himself in the lowliest of all positions he learns that his deformed hand is not what determines whether he will survive. You learn to use the best of yourself to keep living one more minute, one more hour. So what is the best of young Yarvi?

If you are a first time reader of Joe Abercrombie's novels, you need to understand that this is an example of Abercrombie being restrained. The book is undoubtedly aimed at the young adult reader and Yarvi is a young boy moving into manhood who must learn all the hard lessons at once. Because of this, even though the novel is filled with violence and death, it is actually done in a holding-back, ratcheting-back style over previous Abercrombie novels. Fortunately that does not diminish the appeal for someone such as me who has tackled other Abercrombie novels and lived to tell about it. I liked the honest portrayal of these characters where everyone showed signs of weakness but also signs of strengths. Not one dimensional characters at all, more realistic than anything. That is definitely a hallmark of Abercrombie's works since it is very often difficult to tell his hero from his villain. There is a plot twist at the end of this novel which came right out of nowhere for me, but it certainly did work for the story. I was surprised to find no obviously cliff-hanger ending since I understand there are to be more books in this series. This can definitely be read as a completed novel if you don't choose to continue following Yarvi's adventures. I would find it very, very hard to not read any other books that follow this one.

I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are my own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes., 20 July 2014
By 
Selene (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
"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 clearly inspired by the medieval world of the Viking raiders and traders, when Christianity was battling 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 a teenage audience 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.

Discussing "Half a King" at Goodreads, Abercrombie gives a nod to Rosemary Sutcliff's "Blood Feud". I can see Sutcliff's "Warrior Scarlet" here 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 see where Yarvi's journey takes us next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joe Abercrombie's New Series Begins, 9 July 2014
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This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
Prince Yarvi appears destined to live his life in relative obscurity. Deformed since birth, missing some of the fingers on one hand, and the second son of the royal family, he was content to fade into the background. He is happy to let his father and older brother worry about the trials and tribulations of royalty. An unexpected event changes all that and Yarvi is thrust into the forefront of politics of the kingdom. Due to his disability, Yarvi is no fighter, he needs instead to rely on his keen intellect and innate cunning to solve his problems. Watching Yarvi discover what it means to be a leader and a king is one of this book’s many highlights. The lessons he learns are often harsh and they leave a mark, both physically and psychologically. Tracking his transformation/evolution really forms the backbone of this tale, and it’s a riveting watching this all unfold.

Elsewhere, the other characters are just as much fun. The members of Yarvi’s family are a shady bunch, and the other people he meets all have the own agendas as well. Part of Yarvi’s journey is discovering just who he can actually trust.

There is a certain type of character that Abercrombie often writes about that I always enjoy. So much so that I’m always on the lookout for them. How best to describe this particular type? Let’s call them the stoic warrior with a shadowy/unknown past™. In Red Country it was Lamb, in Half a King the character is called Nothing. Like Lamb, Nothing is a bit of an enigma when first introduced. He has spent years as a slave and, given the chance, his first reaction to almost any situation is violence. Like he says himself, the answer to any question is always steel. Where he differs from Lamb is that Nothing isn’t running away from his old life, he is running towards it. Lamb was trying to escape the horrors of his previous life while Nothing seeks bloody revenge. Nothing, however, is a patient sort. He’s happy to wait years to get his chance, and when he does he’ll let no-one get in his way. I love characters like this. Unpredictable, and often angry, they are fascinating to follow. You never know what is going to happen next. Nothing helps to liven up an already action packed text.

The big question, certainly the one we’re all dying to know – what happens when the Grimdark is removed from @LordGrimdark? The answer is very pleasing to report. You still get an author who can craft first-rate fantasy that is so entirely engrossing all my responsibilities as an adult were put on-hold until I completed the book. Abercrombie’s writing is so damned reliable, it hurts. What with all the fast paced action, pithy dialogue, evocative descriptions and well-rounded characters. He makes it all look so easy, I hate him*

Personally, I’ve always found that preparing to dive into a new Joe Abercrombie novel requires a certain amount of mental limbering up. You have to give the old grey cells a bit of prior warning. Anyone who has read Abercrombie before knows that once the plot kicks off you are going to be on the literary equivalent of a rollercoaster until the final page. You just have to hold on and hope you survive ’till the end.

Though Half a King has been marketed towards a younger audience it’s really not massively different from any of Mr Abercombie’s previous novels. Yes, you could probably argue events are described in slightly less graphic, gut-splattering detail than in the past but the same exceptional storytelling remains. There is also still some splendidly dark gallows-esque humour. This is an author who knows exactly the story he wants to tell and makes sure that once the audience, irrespective of their age, is on board he holds their attention on every page. Ultimately Half a King is the insightful dissection of how the thirst for power corrupts. There is absolutely nothing better than when you get to enjoy a master storyteller bringing their A game.

There is a select handful of authors whose books I would happily beg, borrow or steal to read. Well done Joe, along with George R R Martin, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Pinborough and Mark Chadbourn, you’ve made the cut. Now Mr Abercrombie has the unenviable task of attempting to remain on this list. I shall be watching closely.

Half the World and Half a War will follow in winter 2014 and summer 2015 respectively. I can tell you now I know I’ll be reading them both. This is unquestionably one of my favourite books so far this year.

*I’m lying obviously. He’s lovely **

** I mean that in an entirely platonic way, just so we’re clear. I am slightly jealous of his beard mind you. Not Patrick Rothfuss or Adrian Tchaikovsky jealous, but getting there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie, 29 July 2014
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This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
I've half read one Joe Abercrombie book before. It was one of those unfortunate situations where I was really enjoying the book then, for whatever reason, put it down so I never finished it and now I'm a bit reluctant to go back to it, because I know I'll need to re-read everything again. So, I jumped at the chance to review this, as I've heard so many good things about Abercrombie, that I felt it was high time I actually finished a book of his.

Half a King is fantasy with definite YA sensibilities, though don't think that means love triangles and tortured bad boys. This is a story about young people trying to make their way in an adult world, and the mistakes they make in the process. Yarvi, the titular 'half a king' is thrust onto the throne when his brother and father are killed - he doesn't want it, and isn't particularly pleased to be giving up on the ministry life he'd been primed for. But he vows to be avenged for the death of his loved ones - a vow that takes him on a near impossible journey across the lands, helping him to grow from young, naive boy into a strong man, as is the way of these quest narratives.

So, yes, a familiar set up, but Abercrombie handles the quest with more grit and realism than most quests involving young people. Yarvi is enslaved, chased across snow storms, forced to make terrible decisions. There is fledgling love and brotherhood and betrayal and loss, and all of it is so sharp and real that it's hard not to empathise with the characters and root for them.

There are some minor niggles - I was never sure why the Captain of the boat Yarvi was enslaved on was quite so keen to chase across such hostile landscape to reclaim a few lost slaves - but it's nitpicking an otherwise excellent and thoroughly enjoyable book.

And best of all, in my view, Half a King reads like a complete novel. Not like the first in a trilogy - which it is. I love that Abercrombie has left the story in a place where it feels complete. Yes, there is enough open to warrant books two and three, but it's not a killer cliffhanger that I will have forgotten all about by the time the next book comes out. Just be warned, the ending comes with a real sting in the tail that, although not a cliffhanger, will leave you wanting the next book really bad!

Overall, a hugely enjoyable read, and maybe just about enough to persuade me to re-read that other Abercrombie book I started all those years ago!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Overall I enjoyed this book, 23 July 2014
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Overall I enjoyed this book, but it lacks that certain something to say I really liked it. It is Joe Abercrombies first foray into YA. I believe he has the pace down to a tee, but I think the pace has been at the cost of world building.

The book started off at a slow, rather predictable pace. Unworthy prince becomes king, gets betrayed, becomes a slave, makes friends. Nothing to write home about here. Yarvi, our main character for this book, has a deformed left arm/hand - and is considered half a man in a very warrior centric civilisation.
The story picks up in the second half of the book. This is where the group of characters introduced while a slave start to bond. They are fairly average at this point - with the exception of 1 or 2. Yarvi becomes less annoying and i started to root for him.
The last part rescues this book. While there is nothing original in there, it is well written and the pace of it does grab you and you just want to read that extra chapter. Most of the plot points in the book are resolved, but a few are left open for the next book. I liked how it ended and i will get the next book to read.

As mentioned above, the pace of the book was fairly brisk. The book took us on a whistle stop tour of the area, and we never really got to know the places, people, customs of these areas. Hopefully this will be fleshed a lot more in the future books.

Overall this was a good enough read to continue with the series, but I wish Abercrombie would return to his trademark adult books rather than stick with the YA.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fair review?, 22 July 2014
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Im going to try to rate and review this fairly.

For me, this isn't the Joe Abercrombie i love. What appeals to me in his novels is the graphic, violent and overwhelming adult nature of them. This obviously lacked the things i like.

However, as this was marketed as a young adult novel, i have starred it accordingly, and personally i feel any less than 5 stars would be sour grapes.

There was the usual strong characters, some likeable, some not. A decent enough story line, although lacking previous complexity in my opinion, and with enough twists and turns to keep me wanting to read.

I was concerned that i would find the shorter than usual length an issue, but with this particular novel, it was about right. Not too much padding, not too much reflection.

Whilst i did miss the blood and guts (and The Bloody-Nine or any reference to him), the style and substance was of a standard that it made me not mind too much.

I'm looking forward to further installments (its JA afterall), and hopefully a return to the good old style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Shakespearean triumph!, 8 July 2014
This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
Abercrombie's newest achievement, Half a King, is a dazzling adventure that moves at a rocketing pace. Though it definitely has a YA feel to it, Half a King still bears all the trademark qualities of Abercrombie's previous works: the darkness, the humour, the action, and best of all, complex, morally grey characters, each one vivid and compelling (especially the women, including the resourceful slave Sumael, the ice queen Laithlin and the Nicomo Cosca-esque captain Shadikshirram). Though much of this book might seem similar to other fantasy works, that in no way diminishes its quality, this is a beautifully written novel, at times poetic, and a pure joy to read. A perfect start to a promising series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid Reading, 7 July 2014
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) (Hardcover)
Review

Joe Abercrombie is one of “THE” authors in the fantasy genre, the first law series is one of the best series in the last 10 years. But for me the first law world series seemed a slow decline, maybe it was due to an expectation set too high? but after Red Country i was really struggling to read another book.

But when the wonderful Jane Johnson starts to spread the word about an exciting new book its hard not to catch that infectious excitement. It was thanks to that lovely lady that i found myself the proud owner of an advance copy of Half a King, even then i had to fight my TBR (to be read) pile and reticence, Then we hit the week of release and i knew i owed both Jane and Joe a read of the book.

I’m so glad i did, While the setting and the people are not Norse the whole world has a very Norse feel to it, the culture and mindset is very much a Norse / Vikingr group. The men are fighters, honour and blood are key to their world. When Yarvi finds himself first a King, then a slave he must learn to overcome his weakness and fight for his vengeance, too fulfill his oaths. As ever with an Abercrombie book there is never just one great character, we are spoiled, from the main group of oarmates to the side characters, Kings, soldiers and ministers, there are so many great nuances in each and every character.

This was a trip back to the early writing wonder of Abercrombie, i was swamped with the tale, taken on board and tied to an oar, flung into the frozen sea and driven to my limits with my oarmates. All of this Joe manages in such a way as to entertain and enthrall the reader, at no point did i think the book was a Young adult read, and looking back on it i can see its a book for any age, YA through to old farts like me.

Highly recommended

(Parm)
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Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1)
Half a King (Shattered Sea, Book 1) by Joe Abercrombie (Hardcover - 3 July 2014)
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