Tag Archives: dystopian

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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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaids-taleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, first published in 1985.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Genre: dystopian (sci-fi).

Source: the library.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now… (Goodreads)

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My rating: 5/5

I’ve been wanting to read The Handmaid’s Tale for a while now but I’ve somehow fallen out of the habit of reading classics. It took me some time to really get into it, even more so because of the topic. Any stories where something bad happens to children are a huge no-no right now, but I’m so glad I worked my way through the difficult beginning of this particular tale and read it despite my fears. I’m sorry if the review isn’t the most eloquent you’ve ever read – this is an important book for me so I might ramble a bit.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood (hello, obviously, I’m a new mom) and the role of women in our society. This book addresses all my concerns and has a certain punch-in-the gut effect that left me with a profound sense of worry about where this current situation is leading. Mind you, this book was first published in 1985, when I wasn’t even born yet, and women are STILL fighting the same old fights – and in fact, the situation is even worse today. This is something I find particularly terrible. Read this article if you’re interested in seeing just how bad things are becoming for feminists.

If we take this book out of its context (which is nearly impossible, but let’s try anyway), it’s one of the best-written novels I’ve read in years. There are SO MANY quotable quotes I noted them in my phone, in my journal, and on random bits of paper. I have read Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Surfacing before (during my studies), but neither stuck with me as much as The Handmaid’s Tale did.

I just have to list my favourite quotes here, much as I dislike just quoting stuff without context (there’s that word again, so important…):

  • We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.
  • I hunger to commit the act of touch.
  • Humanity is so adaptable, my mother used to say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.
  • How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all.”

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The most important thing about reading this book, however, is that it made me think. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks (it took me more than three weeks to sit down and write this review) and these are the questions that have been rolling around in my mind, scaring me to death:

  •  Would women really descend to this point? Would we become our own jailers? — Yes. The situation now may not be as extreme as in Gilead, but look at all the slut shaming going on, at the petty comments we make about each other’s daily appearance. I’m ashamed of myself sometimes.
  • Do we all have Stockholm syndrome, living peacefully in a patriarchical society? — Maybe. I have never felt particularly oppressed, but that doesn’t mean that millions of women aren’t in a horrible position every day without even realizing it.
  • When have we gotten so adept at turning the other way? — This is the most horrible of truths, perhaps, that we have been raised to be blind to social injustice.
  • Is Gilead really the logical conclusion of the events taking place in the last couple of decades? — Again, maybe. Don’t tell me you don’t feel like the world is taking a turn for the worse.

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And with this optimistic thought, I leave the stage to you (if you haven’t given up on me yet):

Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?

Did you find it as scary as I did? What freaked you out the most?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss this with you!