Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

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★★★

Half a King is a well written high fantasy novel. It’s filled with political intrigue, adventure, and a break necking plot, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected. Even so, this was an entertaining read and I would still recommend this book.

Yarvi was born with a disability in his left hand, rendering him useless as a fighter and therefore unfit to be king. He’s content in the shadows, training for the ministry, but a twist of fate places him on the throne of Gettland. But as it turns out, the accident that killed his father, the king, and his brother who was supposed to inherit the throne wasn’t much of an accident, and Yarvi finds himself sold as a slave to become an oarsman. He and a few others escape, and as they trek through the icy north back to their kingdom, Yarvi acquires new friends and enemies in his quest to reclaim his rightful title as king and to avenge the death of his father. 

The plot was good, but most notable was the big twists that everyone’s commenting on. It kept me on my toes and made me glad that I continued on with the story. The twists revealed a lot about the characters and their choices, as well as the bigger story arc going on with the insidious control of the High King and his minister. Without them, the story would’ve just been Yarvi trying to achieve his goals, but Abercrombie upped the stakes, adding a whole new dimension to the book. I would’ve liked the book without the surprises, but definitely not as much.

I have nothing to complain of the setting and prose. Abercrombie crafts an intricate world surrounding the Shattered Sea, full of delicate relations between kingdoms and defined cultures and customs. The details he includes fill out the world, making it imaginable and realistic.

All the secondary characters were great. They were fleshed out, with distinct personalities and personas. Their group dynamic was hilarious to read about.

My problem was with the main character, Yarvi. A book later, I don’t think I know him any better than in the beginning. He’s thrust into the spotlight, then immediately betrayed and sold as a slave, escaped through the icy tundra, faces off with his worst enemy, but I still have no clue of who he is. i couldn’t hear his thoughts or opinions on all the crazy things happening to him. I understand that he’s “deep cunning”, making him watchful and reticent, but he shouldn’t be reserved enough that I can’t understand him. There’s no fire, no spark of life in him that clicked with me.

Apart from that, if you’re looking for a quality fantasy book, Half a King is the way to go. I know I didn’t particularly like Yarvi, but it didn’t take much away from the book and others probably will differ on that opinion. I know I’ll be reading the sequel to see what’s in store for the kingdoms surrounding the Shattered Sea, and the tricks Yarvi will surely have up his sleeve.

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