Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

half-the-world-abercrombieHalf the World (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrombie, published in February 2015 by Del Rey.

Goodreads. Author. Twitter.

Source: purchased by husband (hardback).

Genre: epic YA fantasy.

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit. 

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption. 

And weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 5/5.

As seems to be the trend with me these days, it took me several weeks to get my act together and finally write this review (I’m not making any promises about it being coherent or anything, mind you). Warning: this is a second book in the series so there will be some unavoidable spoilers for Half a King. You can read my review of the first part here.

I really, really liked this book. I nearly didn’t give this series a chance because I wasn’t too impressed by The First Law trilogy, but I’ve never been more happy to be wrong about an author.

The story picks up soon(-ish) after the events of Half a King. Prince Yarvi is Father Yarvi now and is an important man whose job it is to keep the peace in his country. The story doesn’t revolve around his adventures only – in fact, the main characters are Thorn and Brand, two teenagers from Yarvi’s hometown.

They’re both training to become soldiers – but Thorn is a girl, and girl soldiers are generally frowned upon there, and Brand’s moral compass is too accurate to follow orders of dubious intent. Father Yarvi, who seems to have a soft spot for discarded people, collects both of them and makes them a part of his crew. They set off on a mission to win more allies against the High King and his evil (or just too-powerful) Minister, Grandmother Wexen.

And that’s all you need to know of the plot! While I know much of the focus is on the crew’s adventures and travels, I felt like the most important part of the book was the development of Torn and Brand. And I don’t just mean Thorn’t combat training, but personal stuff, too. They both have to learn their limits and generally grow up on this trip. Thorn, whose personality greatly resembles her nickname, was an instant favourite. I know we’re not meant to like her from the start because she’s really a brat, but I did. And I always had a thing for the quiet type guys so Brand wasn’t hard to like, either.

Having read about 1500 pages about intensely obnoxious characters in The First Law trilogy, I continue to be surprised by how much I’m liking Yarvi and his bunch of misfits. It’s not just Yarvi, Thorn and Brand – the whole cast of supporting characters is well thought out and I enjoyed seeing some of the characters from Half a King making an appearance here.

I have to mention a short quote because it’s… not really inspirational or anything, but well worth thinking about if you’re not feeling all that sparkly at the moment: compliment-abercrombie

Right? :) (I’m sure Joe would be thrilled to have his writing turned into inspirational fortune cookie quotes!)

All in all, Half a War is definitely one of my most anticipated reads. I can’t wait to see what adventures Yarvi and his crew will get themselves into and if I’ll get more of Thorn’s story, I’ll be a happy camper.

Possible spoilers in white so please only mark it if you’ve read this: I’ve been talking with my husband who’s also a fan of the series and we’ve been discussing the possibility that the Shattered Sea cultures are not set in a fantasy world per se, but rather in a futuristic version of our world. It may be that I’m merely stating the obvious, but I tried paying more attention now and I think it’s possible – not the geography, I’m not sure about that, but the elf ruins look an awful lot like steel and glass skyscrapers and Skifr’s magic weapon was a gun, right? End spoiler.

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Have you read Half the War? How about Half a King? What did you think?

How do they compare to other Abercrombie books in your opinion?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • I read Half A King a while back and really liked it, so I’m hoping to read Half A World soon. I have the first book in the First Law Trilogy as well which I haven’t read yet, but if it’s in such a completely different style, then I may not like it! I will have to see. Great review!

    • No! Go read that First Law book :) I seem to be a black sheep in this case because everyone else seems to love that trilogy. It’s different, sure, but it just hit a bunch of my pet peeves and I was disappointed because my husband kept telling me Abercrombie was his favourite author and I was like “WHY???” Until I read Half a King, of course! :)
      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I wanna get round to reading this sooon. I noticed how much more likeable the characters are than the First Law trilogy, too!

    • Yeah but I *think* that’s on purpose :) The First Law trilogy is all grimdark and we weren’t meant to like the characters – but that type of fantasy never appealed to me. I NEED a character I can root for – I’m not saying they have to be good – they just have to be likeable enough. In FL, I wished I could slap the entire cast. And kick some of them, too. Here, I want to give them a soft blanket and make them tea.

  • I LOVED The First Law series so was very excited about Half a King and it kind of disappointed. I liked it but didn’t love it. I think I just didn’t click with Yarvi so I’m glad this doesn’t focus on him as the MC. From your and other reviews, my impression is that I will like Half a World better and I’m definitely gonna get to it soon.

    • Ha, I knew there were people like you out there :) I guess I can see the appeal of The First Law trilogy (I’ve discussed it with my husband at length because he loves it, too) but it just didn’t work for me. I have to read the other three books he’s written soon(ish).
      I’m looking forward to your review of this! :)

      • Ha ha ha! It is kind of perverse but I loved almost all of the characters in The First Law series except for perhaps Jezal. Not sure what that says about me really:). Apparently Yarvi wasn’t ambiguous and evil enough for me until the very end of Half a King.

        • I think I liked Yarvi even better because he hid his “deep-cunning” ways so well – I think he was always a bit on the dark side but only lived up to his true potential once he was put in such an extreme situation…
          JEZAL!! OMG I wanted to slap his face REPEATEDLY throughout the story. Fool. I quite liked Glokta, but my favourite was probably Dogman :)

  • Abercrombie’s inspirations! A gold mine to be made with if ever pulled together in a book.

    • *snort* Would the title be Still Alive? Instant bestseller, to be sure.

  • Yay, you finally got to read this. As for the spoiler part in your review, I think that’s spot on. I thought that was what Abercrombie was hinting at all along with his descriptions of the elf ruins and relics.

    ~Mogsy

    • Ha, now I feel all exclusive for figuring that out :D Like we’re in a secret club or something… with like 5 million other people!

  • Is the personal stuff a romance between the two? I always think YA books are better when they aren’t romance heavy. Glad you liked this anyway, really want to pick this up sometime soon.

    • It’s not so much of a romance than a growing affection (and lust, of course, they’re teenagers, after all). You can bet Abercrombie didn’t go the way of your usual YA romance :D If you haven’t started this series yet, I can’t recommend it enough!

  • I LOVE that quote. xD Anddddd I adored the first book so I definitely want to read this at some point. I love epic fantasy, but I often get cautious going in, because usually there’s a lot of cliches. So I liked how unique the first book was! YARVI IS WONDERFUL.

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    • That’s true, good epic fantasy is hard to find – and great epic fantasy is even more rare. Have you tried anything by Scott Lynch or Patrick Rothfuss, by the way? They’re my favourite authors.
      I WANT TO ADOPT YARVI AND FEED HIM CAKE. Ok maybe not now he’s Father Yarvi but definitely in the first book.
      Thanks for coming here! :)

  • You are loving Abercrombie these days! Personally I’ve avoided his books because they didn’t seem like my thing – not enough important female characters. But I’ve heard that this series changes all that (I skimmed this review as I’ve not started book one yet) so I’m psyched to jump in! I have a copy of Half a King and hope to read it soon. I’m also really digging the fortune cookie quote, that’s a very cool graphic!

    • HEY!! Welcome back :)
      Yes, Abercrombie is the flavour of the month, it seems. This problem with female characters is one of the reasons why I disliked his first trilogy so much but it seems he listened to some of the criticism and managed to get around to writing pretty badass women. The society is still patriarchal but there are characters trying to break the traditions and women hold important positions and all that. I’d give it a try if I were you!
      Yeah, about the quote – I’m usually useless with such things (note the blog “design” :D) but I’ve been tinkering with PicMonkey from time to time lately and this one fit well.