Published by Del Rey on July 15th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Royalty, Survival Stories
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Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.
But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy…
The fool strikes. The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.
Half a King is what I would call a very traditional fantasy. It’s about kings and queens, princes and the fight for the throne, wars and conspiracies. It is set in a world that resembles medieval Europe/the Viking era and in many ways it isn’t a very original story.
It is utterly fantastic. This book really demonstrates what a great writer Joe Abercrombie is, that he was able to take something so traditional and make into something special. This novel is well crafted and honestly brilliant.
Prince Yarvi is the second son of the King of Gettland and is studying to become a Minister. But when his father and older brother are unexpectedly killed, Yarvi suddenly finds himself to be the rightful heir of the Black Chair – a position he doesn’t actually want. Born with only one good hand, Yarvi has to face the bitter skepticism of his people and family who don’t believe a cripple can be a real king.
Knowing anything more would be a spoiler so I’ll stop here!
Although it may sound like it, Half a King is not just another fantasy book. You think you know where the story is going and what’s going to happen next and then, BANG, PLOT TWIST! I didn’t see any of the twists coming and by the end my mind was blown. When I finished (at 1am) I just sat on my bed for a few moments staring at the wall, digesting all that had happened. It was so awesome!
The entire novel is very fast-paced and action-packed. I actually read the second half in one sitting (which is basically unheard of for me) because I was so addicted and couldn’t put it down. I adore a good underdog story and this is one of the best I have ever come across. The story goes places you wouldn’t have expected and it turns out to be so much more than you thought possible in the beginning.
There was only the tiniest hint of a romance in this book, which was great because anything more would have been unnecessary to the story.
Also, the ending was freaking phenomenal! Throughout the book I kept wondering how on earth Joe Abercrombie would be able to wrap this book up because it seemed like there was no good solution. I was wrong. Having finished, I am left feeling completely satisfied while still highly anticipating the next installment.
Personally, I thought the characters were the novel’s strongest aspect. Yarvi has to be one of my favorite male leads of all time. He is very weak in the physical sense but makes more than up for it with his clever and cunning mind. He is a wonderfully complex and realistic character who makes many mistakes yet always remains likeable and root-worthy. Some of his actions are quite despicable but the reader is able to empathize with him and all his choices were understandable. Maybe best of all, was how Yarvi faced impossible odds but refused to give up. He decides to fight, no matter what it takes. Additionally, the character development he went through was amazing. Seeing him transform from a boy with no self-worth to what he became in the end was wonderful. Plus, he has tons of amazing lines:
When you’re in hell, only a devil can point the way out.
You may need two hands to fight someone, but only one to stab them in the back.
Then there are the side characters, which were just as fantastic. I loved all of them. They were well developed and interesting and I constantly wanted to find out more about them. We have Jaud and Rulf who impressed me with their kind hearts and fierce loyalty; Ankran, who turned out to be so much more than I originally expected; Sumael, just an overall badass female character. And then we have Nothing, who I can pretty much guarantee you are going to love. He’s kind of crazy and made me laugh many times even in the most serious of situations.
I also want to applaud the author for creating such strong and fierce female characters. I loved how everybody had multiple layers to them including the villains. Nobody in this story was black and white; they all have their own private agendas which makes the novel that much more interesting.
“If life has taught me one thing, it’s that there are no villains. Only people, doing their best.”
I adored the character dynamic and the underlying theme of friendship and loyalty this brought to the table.
There wasn’t a lot of worldbuilding in this first novel but what was there had me very intrigued. The author provides enough details to make the setting come to life without ever dumping us with unnecessary information. You can see that the world is quite expansive and that there is still a lot to discover. I desperately want to find out more about Yarvi’s world, particularly the gods and the function of the Ministry. So much to learn!
Writing and atmosphere:
Half a King is compellingly written, poetic while not being overly flowery. Joe Abercrombie really knows how to create atmosphere: this book was so gritty and dark, yet never seemed bleak. I was completely sucked into the story and the violent setting made me truly frightened for the characters.
The author is also a master of dialogue. The banter between the characters was witty and realistic and just great overall. So much dark humor!
I highly recommend this novel if you like fantasy. It is full of intriguing characters, great dialogue and has twists and turns around every corner. As for me, I can’t wait to pick up the next book by Joe Abercrombie!