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Half a King (Shattered Sea) Hardcover – July 15, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 680 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Shattered sea Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Yarvi succeeds to the throne of Gettland when his father and elder brother are killed. But Yarvi is a reluctant king. Because of a deformed hand, he has always felt an inadequate son to his father and now an inadequate king. He is engaged to his cousin, but his uncle is not interested in having a weakling for a son-in-law nor “half a king” for the country. The uncle’s coup topples Yarvi from the throne, but Yarvi escapes with his life. Yarvi’s escape leads, however, only to enslavement by people from neighboring Vansterland. Out from this situation emerges a long and arduous quest as Yarvi swears to avenge his father’s and brother’s deaths and dislodge his uncle from the throne. In the process, Yarvi attains a new maturity, the most important component of which is a newfound confidence. Defeat of his uncle does not mean that Yarvi steps up and occupies the throne again. Instead, he wisely effects an alternative scenario. The world building here is complete and convincing, and the characters are arresting in their all-too-human nature. --Brad Hooper


“A fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”—George R. R. Martin
“The Shattered Seas trilogy has worked its way into a very exclusive group of my favorite fantasy novels of all time. The pacing is perfect, the characters deep and true and real, the world rich and authentic, the plot full of twists and turns. Perhaps my favorite part is that no one is purely good or evil: Each and every character has layers upon layers that are a joy to discover. I tore through all three books and truly hope that someday Joe Abercrombie returns to this magnificent, captivating world.”—James Dashner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Maze Runner

“Tremendously entertaining . . . lightning-fast and filled with a wonderful collection of rogues, villains and two-faced bastards . . . From the first chapter [Joe Abercrombie] wastes no time as the reader is swept up in a gripping tale of betrayal and revenge.”SciFi Now
“Once this plot has its teeth in you, it will not let go. . . . Abercrombie’s masterful storytelling means that everything, from the characters that you come to love and despise, to the sprawling world that is explored, is enthralling.”Fantasy Book Review
“Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea is a fantastic yet believable backdrop to Yarvi’s struggle, a vivid imaginary land.”—The Seattle Times
“Intriguing characters . . . nonstop action.”—Chicago Tribune

Half a King is my favorite book by Joe Abercrombie so far, and that’s saying something.”—Patrick Rothfuss
“As in all Abercrombie’s books, friends turn out to be enemies, enemies turn out to be friends; the line between good and evil is murky indeed; and nothing goes quite as we expect. With eye-popping plot twists and rollicking good action, Half a King is definitely a full adventure.”—Rick Riordan
“Enthralling! An up-all-night read.”—Robin Hobb
“Polished and sharp, perhaps his most technically proficient novel yet . . . I dare you to read the first chapter and try not to turn the next page.”—Brent Weeks
Half a King can be summed up in a single word: masterpiece. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a Viking saga. It’s a revenge tale and family drama and the return of the prodigal son. But most of all, it’s this: a short time alongside people as weak and blundering as we are and, in the midst of it all, as heroic. Far too short a time, as it turns out. What a wonderful book.”—Myke Cole
Half a King is full of all the adventure I’ve come to expect from Abercrombie and a tenderness I never knew he had.”—Sam Sykes

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Product Details

  • Series: Shattered Sea (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (July 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804178321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804178327
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (680 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #499,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After six excellent books filled with grit and gore, written for adults, Joe Abercrombie decided (as I understand it) to recharge his batteries by writing a fantasy YA trilogy, starting with Half a King. You’d be forgiven if you thought, after reading the first few chapters, that this was going to be a normal, mundane, (if well written) coming of age YA story. Well, you’d be wrong. And not half wrong, but all wrong. (How many half-jokes can we fit into this review? Because if a half-joke is a joke that is only kinda funny, well, I’m full of those - just ask my students...)

The story starts as one might expect after having read the back of the book: boy prince who unexpectedly becomes king only to have it snatched away from him, thus igniting a revenge story. That does indeed cover the first few chapters, and while revenge is the motivating force for our heroic half king, it’s not a glorious revenge (well, the book is glorious, but the revenge is sour). Half a King is an intelligent and powerful combination of adventure and vengeance filtered through the lens that reminds the reader revenge rarely turns out the way you think it should.

What’s not immediately clear by either the cover art nor the back cover blurb is that this book is less fantasy and more viking. Some of the beginning descriptions confused me until I stopped trying to visualize it like Game of Thrones, and instead visualized it like Eric the Red.

One aspect that I find most impressive about the book is how lean and focused the writing is. Let’s be honest: when was the last time you read a great fantasy book that didn’t require a six month’s leave of absence to finish? Half a King is fit and trim. There is only one point of view, characters come and go, and the plot moves quickly.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The latest from Joe Abercrombie is something that, if this book remains a stand alone novel, will probably be viewed as one of his lesser works. But that's not at all to say that it's not an enjoyable read. The tale of a prince who is viewed as 'less than' because of a physical handicap attempting to get revenge on those that wronged him with the aid of mismatched crew of fellow underdogs isn't particularly novel (and is reminiscent of two popular characters from the books that inform our sword & sorcery zeitgeist, Tyrion and Daenerys of Game of Thrones). The author does infuse the tale with much of the sinister naturalism that made his earlier works so special (The Heroes is a my personal favorite, but you can't go wrong with any of The First Law trilogy or the three novels that followed set in that same world & time). Partially due to it's considerably shorter length, however, changes in the characters' behavior can seem to come out of nowhere and the major plot twist comes across as a pretty far-fetched coincidence and doesn't feel earned.

There is certainly enough very interesting world-building on display that, should Abercrombie return to the lands around the Shattered Sea, that this entry might seem stronger as part of a longer series. As it is, this is a quick, fun read, but if you're new to the author's work, I'd start with his debut trilogy to see what all the fuzz is about.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Joe Abercrombe is one of my favorite living writers. His genre-defying work in the First Law trilogy is so good I have forced every friend of mine who even remotely likes fantasy to read the books. And Best Served Cold is one of the best books I've read this century.

So when I say HALF A KING is not very good, please understand it comes from a place of love.

The story: a young, nerdy prince finds himself king after his father and brother are killed. And then finds himself quickly not-king after a sudden and inevitable betrayal. Not-the-king is left for dead, sold into slavery, sold as an oar-slave and then meets a ragtag bunch of lovable roughnecks.

Spoiler-Free, here is what went wrong.

1. Unlike Abercrombie's other books, Half A King is limited to one POV. Just Yarvi's. One of the delights in Abercrombie's writing is the way he plays with POVs to give us multiple, conflicting takes on events and characters. None of that is present. Instead we have a myopic, book-smart and world-dumb privileged, entitled boy to follow.

2. The hero spends like 4,000 pages on a boat. Doing boat things. Thinking about boats. Just . . . no. Nothing interesting ever happens on a boat in fantasy novels. It's just a treadmill the character hops on so that when they hop off they have become a man, or whatever. You may as well play a Level Up sound -- DING! -- and just have the main character add a few points to his stats and get automated followers, for how obvious and trite it is. I have a friend who literally skips to the end of a boat scene in ever fantasy book, based on the theory that story-wise it's just treading water (pardon the pun). That is totally true here. Just skip past it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Half A King" is the first volume in Joe Abercrombie's Shattered Sea fantasy trilogy, and is, to sum it up in one sentence, a coming-of-age story that is set in a Viking-age fantasy world. I'll give the bare bones of the main story-line and try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, before I give my reasons for the star-rating I chose for this book.

"Half A King" tells the tale of Prince Yarvi, the youngest son of the Gettland king. Because he was born maimed - he has a twisted, knobby hand on one side - he is seen as only "half a man." Not suited to be a warrior, Yarvi is studying to become a minister. On the night before he's to take his final Minister's Test, which will make him renounce family and birthright, his uncle Odem brings world-shattering news: his father King Uthrik, and also his heir, Yarvi's elder brother, have both been treacherously murdered by the Vanstermen. And now, Yarvi is suddenly thrust into the kingship.

The thin golden band of the King's Circle on his brow, his bottom about to be planted on the Black Chair and a marriage to his cousin Isriun in the very near future, Yarvi now has to prove to his people that being maimed doesn't make him only "half a king." He must take up his father's sword and lead a raid against the Vanstermen in revenge, even though the High King has forbidden open war. As usual with Abercrombie, a lot of things end up having double meanings. Take for example the oath of vengeance he swears before he sets out: "Let it be a chain upon me and a goad within me."

Before long, Yarvi is in chains indeed. Treachery during the raid has him make a desperate dash for freedom. Although everyone else believes he dies in his escape attempt, he manages to survive by the skin of his teeth but ends up in Vansterland.
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