Friday, 19 September 2014

Book review: Half A King by Joe Abercrombie

Title: Half A King
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Published: 3rd July 2014
Publisher: Harper Voyager

Summary : 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 itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

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.
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.

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…

Review: So I may be a bit late to the party on the review side of things (especially considering I read this ages ago!),  but as Gandalf said (in the movies, not the books) "A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to" and since we're over half way to the release of Half a World I thought this would be a good time to re-spread the love for this book, for anyone who's not yet had (half) a chance to read it. Sorry that had to be done!

 So I had never read a Joe Abercrombie book before, I'll be the first to hold my hands up and admit it. I'd seen them, I'd thought about it...but never taken the plunge. So I though this would be an interesting way to try out a new writer, and now I'm diving in the deep end.

What I enjoy about reading fantasy like this, is that over the course of the various books I've read, I've build my own mental framework of how lands and cities look, feel, act, react...and even smell (yes I said smell, and now you're all thinking about different smells your cities have so there!). What the books then do is add embellishment to my mental image, and I feel that this helps me get invested in the story from the get go, so whether we were on land or at sea, I had distinct impressions of the look of the land, and the turmoil or being on the ship.

 
"A King must win...the rest is dust". This was the first piece of the book I got to experience from the cover of my proof and that got the chills going, and that's always a good sign.

In many of these fantasy series the main character is normally broken in some way, and here what I feel is refreshing is that Yarvi is physically broken because this added a whole new dynamic to the ways in which he acted as a person and the ways the challenges and pursuits in this story were made different because of it. It is also a fantastic way to bring disability into literature, and to get people thinking about the challenges that disability brings to life.  

Another element I enjoy reading about is the different ways in which authors tackle the religion of their worlds...the Gods and Monsters that are ingrained in the history and culture of the land. Here I feel the surface was scratched, with mention here and there, but it is something that I hope is delved into as the series grows, I want to know about the breaking!! 

There was a fluidity to the writing, filled with twists, turns and a sharp tongue. The characterization was strong, with  a range of different characters who stood out individually yet effected each other. Over the course of the book they presented moralistic questions about actions and reactions that are taken in the book, which I felt gave the book that added depth you look for in a novel. It was subtle but evocative, and made my investment in each character ebb and flow as more information was gained, so that those I'd taken for granted, or not really cared about were given new perspectives as the story progresses. This is what I want from a book, to have opinions, and to then have them changed with plenty of "oooooh!'s" along the way.

I fought with and for Yarvi and I look forward to the challenges that are yet to come!  

Stephen 

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