Sunday, 25 January 2015

Book Review - Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Abercrombie returns magnificently with Half the World, a tale full of cracking action, mystery and intrigue, and blood soaked adventures.

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to train and fight. But after being accused of murder she is inadvertently swept up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, who is crossing the world to find allies against the ruthless High King. Beside her is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill. A failure in his eyes and hers, he will have only once chance at redemption. Lessons will be learnt. Hard lessons. Lessons in blood and deceit. 

I have been looking forward to this sequel for so long, and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest! Half the World is a rollicking tale of conflict, politics, and romance that is a wonderful follow up to Half a King. Fast paced and easily accessible, Half the World unfolds like a beautiful and blood soaked Viking epic (albeit geared towards a younger market) that is building to an amazing conclusion in book three. 

Like all Abercrombie books, Half the World incorporates many typical elements of his writing. It has wit in spades... grimy violence.. plot twists and betrayal... and a driven and character focused narrative. In fact, one of Abercrombie's greatest talents as a writer is his ability to portray flawed and layered characters, and this is again highlighted in Half the World. 

An example of this is Thorn. At first she is depicted as your typical heroine... brash... strong... and full of piss and vinegar. But as the story unfolds we see her vulnerability and deep insecurity come to the forefront as she desperately tries to find validation on the battlefield. This weakness added an incredible depth to her character, and it was fascinating to see her question herself and her place throughout the book as she was exposed to the wider world. 

Brand, another one of the protagonists, is also brilliantly flawed and broken. He is a warrior who hates to kill in a world where strength and violence are celebrated. He struggles with this shame and failure everyday, and Thorn views him as weak and useless. His relationship to Thorn is incredible well depicted, and their later romantic tension and conflict is a major highlight of Half the World. Abercrombie portrays these two young adults realistically. Both struggle with their place in the world, both are angst ridden and confused, and both make plenty of mistakes with each other as they are exposed to the harsh reality of the world around them. Half The World is as much a coming of age story as it is a political and adventure story, and it makes for a fantastically interesting tale. 

This brings me to Yarvi, arguably my favourite character of the book. Father Yarvi is older and wiser in Half The World. He has grown into his role as a politician and diplomat, and he now displays a very hard and pragmatic ethos. He is neither good or bad in this story, just realistic and aware of the dire threat that the High King poses to Gettland. Playing the puppet master, he manoeuvres people and kingdoms around like a master as he desperately seeks to bring allies to Gettlands cause. I absolutely adored how he was portrayed in Half the World, especially since I knew full well how he became (from Half a King) who he is now. He, like all of Abercrombie's characters, displays a dark side that occasionally surfaces in Half the World, and his brand of 'gunboat diplomacy' was blood soaked and magnificent to behold. 

The world building, like in Half a King, was again brilliant, rich, and full of context. I could literally taste the salt and earthiness in the air at times, and I loved how Abercrombie described and took me out into the wider universe he created through the travels of Yarvi, Thorn, and Brand. The great mystery of the Elves, and their Elf magic, still lingers throughout this book, and it was fun to pick up on all of the clues that were littered throughout the story. I can't wait to see this mystery revealed, and how the events of Half the World unfold in the future!

All in all Half the World is a fantastic sequel to Half a King. It will probably not satisfy those who were disappointed with Half a King, or those who yearn for Abercrombie to return to the days of The Blade Itself, but it will definitely enthral younger readers and those who loved Half a King. 

Abercrombie has, with Half the World, delivered a fast paced and adventurous tale of action, mystery, and blood that is easily accessible to new readers and fans alike. One of my reads of the year so far... highly recommended!

4 out of 5 stars.

A review copy was provided. 

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