Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

Half a War (The Shattered Sea #3) by Joe Abercrombie
Published July 2015 by Harper Voyager.

Links: Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased (hardback).

Genre: YA epic fantasy.

My rating:

Words are weapons. Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.

Only half a war is fought with swords. The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil. Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

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This is the third and final part of The Shattered Sea trilogy, which means there will inevitably be spoilers for books 1 and 2. Here are my reviews for Half a King and Half the WorldI think I like this cover best of all – not that those for the first two books were bad – but LOOK, it’s so pretty (and evil, of course). The maps and the drawing in the hardback are very nice, too.

I’ve been meaning to write this review for weeks, now, but I’ve been having trouble trying to put my opinion into words.

I liked Half a War. It’s a good book. But I didn’t love it, not as much as I did the first two books, and as Nathan so aptly put it, “it is a worthy conclusion to a series but also a rather predictable one”. (Dammit, this is why I never read reviews of a book I mean to review before actually writing the review, others sound so much more coherent…)

Along with the old favourites (Father Yarvi and Thorn Bathu, especially), we get new players in this part: Skara, the decisive young queen; Raith, the loyal soldier; and Koll, the Minister’s apprentice who can’t really make up his mind about what he wants. I liked them but there’s really no topping Thorn and Brand from Half the World. 

I found the world interesting, too. My suspicion from Half the World was pretty much confirmed, as far as world-building goes, so that was nice! I wish I could place the Shattered Sea on the map of the world, I tried turning the map at the beginning around but I can’t really make out anything familiar. Can anyone else?

I raced through most of the book in a matter of days, it’s fast-paced and the intrigue is just as compelling as always. But as certain things happened (*SPOILER IN WHITE*: I cannot believe he killed Brand! How could he kill Brand? I wanted Thorn to have a happily-ever-after! I felt so cheated by this decision, especially as it felt rather pointless since Thorn would have wanted to slaughter Bright Yilling anyway. *end spoiler*), I felt my apprehension grow.

This is because of what happened with Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy: I was super-invested in the characters’s lives by book 2 and then by the end of book 3 I just wanted to slap everyone and shake them and I think I also told A., who’d recommended the series to me, that this was the worst ending to a series I’d ever read. I might have exaggerated a bit but this just shows that Joe can make me care for his characters but doesn’t know how to end a series.

Well. This time, the feeling wasn’t quite as violent, but I was disappointed. There are some pretty interesting twists to the plot, Yarvi is excellent at spinning his web, of course, and Skara proved to be a much more devious young woman than I expected, but I felt the story… deflated rather than ended, if you know what I mean?

I know my expectations were really high, considering that Half the World was a 5-heart read for me. Is it even fair to expect that an author will always write books that are even better than what s/he wrote before? I have no answer to that. I can just say that Half a War isn’t the best that I’ve read.

If you want another opinion, check out Lisa’s, Nathan’s and Mogsy’s reviews! :)

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Have you read The Shattered Sea books? How about other Abercrombie’s novels?

Do you prefer a story that goes out with a BANG or one that unfolds slowly?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • I…liked this book. But agreed, it was not the trilogy conclusion I was expecting and to be honest I was let down by a lot stuff. Regarding Joe Abercrombie and endings, I’ve seen him do better. I was not a fan of the deus ex machina in this one.

    ~Mogsy

    • Oh, I KNOW – I hated that the power balance shifted so completely and just by using the new weapons. I had a flashback to bad action movies where the tough guy stands there, a machine gun in each hand, shooting at random in slow motion with his face all screwed up. Eh.

      My husband said he thinks that Thorn leaving on that river trip again might be a setup for another story set in the same world… I don’t think I’ll be reading it just yet if it does come along, I’ll wait until his next series is finished and see if people say that the ending is good :D I don’t think I could handle another one like this…

  • I really need to read this book soon! I finished Half The World a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so I’m curious to know how it all ends. Great review!

    • Thanks, Laura! :) I hope you’ll like it, I’ll be on the lookout for your review. I know some people really enjoyed it so I’m curious about what you’ll make of it.

  • Sorry to hear that the book didn’t live up to the rest of the series for you! I hope I have better luck with it. But Half The World is a tough act to follow. Skara sound very interesting on paper so I hope I’ll be charmed. I agree that I seem to set unrealistic expectations for my favourite authors haha.

    • Yeah, that’s half the problem – the second book was so good it was hard to make this one better. I’ll be looking out for your review, I hope you’ll enjoy it more.
      Skara is cool! She’s one tough lady behind all that frail exterior.
      I think there’s a discussion post somewhere in my future, tackling just this dilemma :)