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Half a War (Shattered Sea) Hardcover – July 28, 2015
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Praise for Half a War
“Filled with swift battles, quick plot twists and witty dialogue.”—New York Daily News
“A fantasy for all ages, and all times [that] rends the soul as compulsively as anything [Joe] Abercrombie has written to date . . . Half a War is a success in every way, putting a stupendous capstone on the entire Shattered Sea Trilogy.”—Tordotcom
“There’s all the sword-swinging and Machiavellian machinations you could ask for in this tale of a final battle between countries and kings.”—Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star
“Engaging, mesmerising and jaw-dropping.”—SciFi Now
“Abercrombie piles on shocking betrayals and charges his characters a high price for vengeance in this powerful and fitting final volume.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King
“A fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”—George R. R. Martin
“Tremendously entertaining . . . lightning-fast and filled with a wonderful collection of rogues, villains and two-faced bastards . . . From the first chapter [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 masterly storytelling means that everything, from the characters you come to love and despise to the sprawling world that is explored, is enthralling.”—Fantasy Book Review
Half the World
“An excellent page-turner . . . full of drama and energy.”—New York Daily News
“Another entertaining burst of battle, magic and political machinations from the always reliable Joe Abercrombie . . . a thoroughgoing blast, a violent, beautiful rabbit hole of craft that is well worth disappearing into.”—Shelf Awareness
“Compelling . . . [Thorn] makes Katniss Everdeen look like Dorothy Gale.”—Chicago Tribune
About the Author
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Abercrombie is a fantastic writer who describes scenes, emotions, battles, etc all extremely well. I would rank him in the top 5 fantasy writers of all time that I am familiar with (Tolkien, Martin, Rothfuss, Staveley being the other 4)
He writes extremely human characters, not archetypes
His books are not super predictable
He has an extremely realistic, gritty feel for fantasy
He doesn't take forever to finish his series, he has 2 solid series out that are totally complete
I would give the first 2 books in the series 5 stars
For point of reference I would give The First Law Trilogy - his other series - 5 stars
Here are some things you may not like depending on your taste:
This is an incredibly low magic world. The only magic thing is that a few birds can speak and that really has no part in the story, I think he was going to do something with that in book one and then never developed it.
Because the characters are incredibly human like and not archetypes, at least to me that makes it hard to like or hate them, they kind of are what they are. I don't aspire to be like them and I don't look up to them and personally in fantasy I look for that.
Good and evil is extremely blurred. Something like Star Wars or Harry Potter has very clear good and evil, Game of Thrones is pretty clear, but in this it is all about perspective. There might be one character you can say is truly 'good' in the whole story and she isn't introduced until book 3.
And here is what really pissed me off: SPOILER ALERT
There are guns in the story. Not just one gun, not some old arquebus that fires an inaccurate shot once a day, I mean M-16's and grenade launchers. To his credit he does just about as good a job as one could do including them and describing them and the horrors they can inflict, but personally I don't pick up sword and sorcery novels and read through 700 pages of knights fighting with sword and shield to have main characters ultimately blown away by an M16.
My advice to the author. Don't be afraid of an archetype here and there. They are overplayed by B level writers, in the hands of someone as skilled as you a classic storyline could become truly brilliant. Give me a character I can admire who fights evil and does good in an interesting way, throw in a bit of magic, and let's keep it medieval and not post nuclear. Would it be so bad to have a story hailed as "The Next Lord of the Rings?"
Half a War begins with the narrative of young princess Skara of Throvenland. After witnessing her homeland put to the torch and her grandfather the king and his minister viciously murdered by Bright Yilling - a ruthless warrior of the High King's army - she narrowly escapes death with the help of the old pirate Blue Jenner. Together they flee to neighboring Gettland and seek refuge with Queen Laithlin, King Uthil, Father Yarvi, and many other characters we met in the previous two books. As Gettland and Vansterland still struggle to look beyond their long-standing wars with each other and try to forge a very shaky alliance against the High King's armies, Princess Skara finds that she may be the glue that can bring them together....if only she can overcome her fears, find her own voice, and become the leader she was destined to be for Throvenland and her people.
We also follow fearless young warrior Raith - a proud, reckless killer and King Grom-gil-Gorm's sword bearer, as he is forced to confront the terrible ghosts of his past and make difficult decisions that may ultimately change the course of his life.
And then there is Koll, the young master wood carver and Father Yarvi's apprentice to the Ministry, who must try to look beyond what others expect from him and decide what it is he really wants - love or the ministry - and how he can change the world no matter which decision he makes.
Through these three narratives, the big picture of the inevitable war with the High King and Grandmother Wexen is told and finally comes to a head. And all hell breaks loose. If you think you know what's coming and if you think you know who the real enemies are, think again. Everything is NOT as it seems. And that's one of the reasons I think this is the best book of the three. Abercrombie spins this tale with superb skill and all of the pieces finally come neatly together, but perhaps not how you might think they will.
As always, Abercrombie is the master of some of the greatest, bloodiest battle scenes you'll ever read, and this book is no exception even though it's YA. These battles will play out in your mind like they would on a big screen as you're reading them, which makes for some bloody great reading if you're heavily into action.
Great narratives, solid, interesting characters, superb writing, a fantastic plot, and rich storytelling made this one of the best books I've read this year. A brilliant ending to a great series! Highly recommend.
The third is good until the very end. In fact, it was headed to "Great!".
Then, suddenly ... within a chapter, the story collapses. The author completely corrupts 3 volume theme of ‘good’ vs ‘evil’. Did the publishers time run out for this 3rd installment? Turn principal characters from 'good' into 'bad' after 3 books? Destroy them in the last few pages? Certainly ends the book fast.
The trilogy makes absolutely no sense in the whole. Most beastly bad ending ever from among the genre’s top writers.
Of no social value. Deceit and fraud is the strength of the ‘heroes’? You gotta be kidding me. No lessons to be learned here. It's just wrong.
Also, I love the strong female presence we get in this book once again. This entire trilogy has been packed with powerful females and I absolutely loved it.
Top international reviews
I could not help myself feeling emotional at the loss of one of the main characters, he wrote it in so well you just had to feel for everyone involved.
He never glorifies battle but shows it in its raw state and delivers the story.
The ending was as I expected, a little week and disappointingly so, but this leaves questions unanswered, there are still battles to be fought! I feel there is scope for more adventures and this story is only Half Done!!
My big hope had been that a visit to the forbidden island of the Elves would have delivered a new level of intrigue but alas it turned out to be nothing more than a vehicle in which to guarantee a superiority in order to end the story: an opportunity spurned.
A sentence that will some up my summary review for, when in full flow, characterisation and humour are powerful tools in the author's work box. More plot, a deeper world, more technological, historical, thaumaturgical, and cultural backstory could propel Mr Abercrombie to the next level. Be brave!
Abercrombie contemplates really fascinating ideas here including post traumatic stress, how meaningless perpetual violence is (this is written in a much better way here compared to book 2) and most importantly that no one is wholly good or evil. This isn't good guys versus bad here. Raith, Thorn, Yarvi are all incredibly ruthless and they are just as guilty as the high king and his followers.
As with the previous books the pace is fantastic and the story has a good mix of mystery (regarding elf magic; an absolutely brilliant concept executed to perfection by the author) dialogue and action.The conclusion is also very satisfying.
It only loses a star from me because the action sequences - whilst important and well described - are not something I'm particularly interested in so those parts dragged a bit for me. However people who love action, combat fantasy will lap that part up as well so any criticism stems from own preferences, not regarding the substance itself.
Having really enjoyed the first book; 'Half A King', which focussed on a main character of Yarvi, I expected the second book, 'Half The World', to continue the story with Yarvi as the main character. When, instead, it introduced a new main character in Thorn Bathu, while keeping Yarvi as a significant player, I found this writing device to be fresh, interesting and a delight. Prepared as I was, then, I wasn't too surprised to find that the story continues in 'Half A War' with a new central character and, again, Yarvi and Thorn Bathu are there too in significant roles. If I think about it, many good authors use this device but most do it through huge books, such as GRR Martin's Ice & Fire series wherein each chapter focusses on one character with almost no link to the earlier folk. Joe Abercrombie's version of this device works strikingly well.
Like the other two books, what makes these so good is the combination of a rich depth of well developed characters that move through a dynamic story filled with gory action and all backed by a thoughtful sub-text that allows heroes to 'go bad' and villains to redeem themselves. No monochrome here but infinite shades of tone and colour.
One criticism that I picked up from a reviewer was that Mr Abercrombie kills off important characters in careless fashion. Having read it for myself, I understand what was meant by this as at least two of the more significant characters (hero and sort-of-villain) die in ways that, to me, don't seem to fit their character. If, at the end of a Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film the villain just died of old age or choked on a pretzel, we'd all be disappointed. And the amusing scene in the Indiana Jones film that has Harrison Ford simply shooting a sword twirling thug rather than engaging in a full-on fight only worked because the recipient of the bullet was an unknown thug and not a major character. Yet that's the tone of a couple of events in 'Half A War'. There are, however, a couple of mitigating considerations. Firstly, one of the major successes of books like this is that the reader recognises a very real possibility that the hero might, actually, die, generating a proper sense of jeopardy. I dislike fantasy books that use too much 'magic' as, even if a hero dies, he/she can simply be magically brought back to life. Joe Abercrombie always stays on just the right side of this line. Secondly is a tenuous connection to real life; a strange thing to say about a fantasy novel I know. Yet, by inserting a few mundane events, it makes the more bizarre events that bit more believable. Ernest Tidyman was a prolific and hugely successful author who, among other triumphs, wrote the series of books using 'Shaft' as his private detective hero, translated into several blockbuster films (and some less-blockbuster too). When Mr Tidyman decided that the time had come to kill off his hero, before he became stale, he did it by waiting until the very end of a novel and, after surviving yet another adventure and emerging the hero, an exhausted Shaft enters the lift to his apartment only to be meaninglessly knifed to death by a totally unconnected drug-fuelled youth in an amateur mugging. Shocking as this was, I think that it was entirely appropriate for that series of books. So I'll forgive Mr Abercrombie his brutally inappropriate ends of a few characters.
But is this the end? Part of the brilliance of these books is the slow turning of characters from hero to, well, if not villain, then at least a less attractive character. So, at the end, the monsters have been vanquished but only to be replaced with fledgling new monsters. Perhaps I'm clutching at straws but the never-actually-seen monster of Grandmother Wexxen vanished from the story in an ambiguous manner. And many of the characters arrive at the end of this book with a conclusion of one saga but looking at a beginning of all sorts of other stories. There is also the matter of villain-turned-hero characters too. Unlike other novels at least one of these survives to sail away into the sunset. Really? Is Joe Abercrombie going to leave all of these delicious inventions to fade into memory or will there be a resurrection that prevents this 'Half' series from becoming a trilogy?
I do so hope so 'cos I've loved all three of these and I would welcome another episode with open arms.
Raith is an interesting addition, a less complex version of Thorn in some ways, he adds some humour in his mindless violence.
And Skara is another unusual choice for a character who grows into strength as the plot progresses.
The politics from the previous stories finally comes to a conclusion and all of Yarvi's plots and the introduction of elf weapons acts as a smart way of turning the war on its head. There is plenty of action too as we get to the final conflict to resolve everything.
The pace is quick and there are a few twists and turns, certainly some unexpected deaths, and the ending is intelligent.
Yarvi was a good character, utterly ruthless and intelligent, and the change in him right at the end is a small sour note, he seems to change too easily.
A good conclusion to a good series, less humour than previous books but still good.
I'd have to say I don't think this is his absolute best. Just very enjoyable indeed. It all makes sense, but doesn't quite line up to the first two books in this trilogy.
It's an interesting approach - to move onto a different central, point of view character (or two) in each book. But it does rather mean the characters you came to be interested in, in the preceding volume, are suddenly relegated to bit-part players - and thus easily and somewhat carelessly disposed of in some cases. A touch of the George RR Martins perhaps...
So, overall: another really riveting and exciting read, beautifully and robustly written as ever, with lots of wonderful snappy dialogue and moments of gutsy emotion and high drama. But just a wee bit laboured in places, whilst the need to wrap up the saga neatly makes it feel a bit rushed and pat towards the end. Definitely well worth the read, but also not one of my favourites of Joe's works to date.
And I don't get the 'young adult' label at all. While it's true that the several main protagonists / POV characters in the trilogy do indeed start out as young adults (and there is a certain amount of teen agnst / unrequited love around the edges), there's nothing else young adult about it. Just the usual blood-and-guts-and-in-yer-face Abercrombie. So whatever you do, don't be put off by the notional YA tag.
Imagine Game of Thrones. Now what would you think if in the last book Kings Landing turned out to be New York, and Tyrion Lannister shows up to kill Daenaerys' army and smushes her dragons with a dozen Abrahams tanks he 'found' in an abandoned city...? YUP it really is THAT cringe enducing.
Whomever is test reading Joes work needs a slap. Employing friends and 'yes men' doesn't always work. Sometimes someone has to say "No Joe, just no".
I did struggle to finish this and felt slightly let down by the ending, but despite that this was an enjoyable series and the experiment into YA writing worked.But I am looking forwards to the return to the First Law world.
This is the perfect blend of clever dialogue, characterisation and plots within plots and more than a few twists. Have to say I was never sure why this was described as a YA series, it didn’t feel like one and while not quite as dark as some previous works, this had plenty of darker and more adult themes in it. But all in all this was a fine ending to a very satisfying trilogy.
I regard Joe Abercrombie as Britain’s top fantasy writer and this book has not made me think otherwise.
The backdrop is a post apocalypse society which has clearly regressed and now worships a twisted version of the Norse pantheon.
The main characters are well developed and their story arc keeps you hooked.
My favourite aspect of this trilogy is that they are set in a new world, one that Joe has not shown us before. There are new rules, laws, magic and history.
Basically, if you like (or love) fantasy novels then these must be read.
Also, if you are buying for a younger reader,15+, then these books are perfect.