Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Just finished reading Half a King by Joe Abercrombie which I really enjoyed.  I confess that I haven’t read Mr Abercrombie’s previous books although that’s not for the want of owning them so I can’t compare his YA to his other works.  What I can say is that I was riveted to the pages of this story.  The tale itself is just a really intriguing read and the storytelling voice quite mesmerising.

The story begins with Yarvi.  Yarvi is a Prince but only half a man in the eyes of most of his kingdom.  Born with a deformed hand, unable to wield a sword and shield at the same time his worth as a warrior of the kingdom is greatly diminished.  At the start of the story Yarvi is perfectly happy.  Little does he realise just how obliviously happy he is.  Apprentice to the King’s Minister – a role usually held by women – he awaits his final test before throwing off the mantle of prince and becoming a successor to the current advisor to the King.  Jarvi is the second son and therefore was never intended for the throne but a cruel twist of fate will bring him a crown, a throne, a betrothed and an army bent of vengeance sailing head first to the start of his troubles – or adventures into manhood.

One thing I will start out by saying is that Joe Abercrombie doesn’t beat about the bush.  There’s no going around the houses with this guy he just literally plows right in with both boots and gets the action off to an immediate start.  Within a chapter you have the gist of how it’s going to be, a few chapters later and the course of the young Prince’s future has been turned on it’s head.

This really is an excellent story.  The characters are interesting and pop out of the book before your very eyes.  You will care about them and develop likes and dislikes.  On top of this we have war, treachery, slavery, life out on the rough seas – and plenty more.  It really is a thoroughly entertaining book!

I went to an event of Joe Abercrombies recently at which he made very clear that his main focus lies in characterisation and he isn’t kidding.  I love character led stories and so I confess that basically Mr Abercrombie had me at ‘hello’ and to be honest he was sincere.  The characters are interesting, the vocabulary is sharp and friendships are formed where you least expect.

The thing with Yarvi – he’s his own worst critic really which is no surprise when you consider how constantly he’s been put down by others.  Mocked and laughed at Yarvi does have a sharp intellect.  What he lacks in braun he certainly makes up for with his wit and mental abilities and he puts these to use very effectively constantly.  On top of this his training kicks in quite often.  Yes, he’s not your typical hero – he’s not going to rush into the fray wielding his sword and felling enemies in one swoop.  He takes the course of action open to him and whilst that doesn’t always feel like the best course of action in terms of others he at least has the honesty to sometimes feel regret.  Basically put, Yarvi uses the gifts he’s been given in life.

This is to a certain extent a coming of age story and also, although being nothing like the actual story or style of writing, has a Tolkien feel in terms of the friendship/fellowship that is formed.  I don’t doubt that this is different than JA’s more adult novels – specifically in terms of the ‘f’ bomb and the level of graphic violence, however, let me be perfectly plain, whilst this is YA – the emphasis is undoubtedly on the ‘A’ in YA and if we get back to comparisons – plenty of adults have read Tolkien and yet those books aren’t graphic, etc.

The other winning point for this book is that it is a self contained novel.  I love that.  I’ve finished it and it feels complete.  Now, iroinically that’s probably more a bonus for those who don’t like this as much as I do – there’s nothing more grating than feeling like you have to continue with a series simply because you’re completist or want closure and cliff hanger endings do have a certain feeling of torture or even strong arming!  Now, personally, I do want more from this series – that is without doubt.  But, I still love that it doesn’t end on one of those horrible notes of suspense.

Well done indeed.  Will absolutely without doubt read more in this series.

Which cover?  (I thought I liked the black best but I’m no longer sure – the white and blue is very effective and has more of a feel for the story.)  Thoughts??


23 Responses to “Half a King by Joe Abercrombie”

  1. Rabindranauth

    The limited edition one by Subterranean Press is the best. Too bad the minimum is $125 per book.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, that is a good cover! Not sure I’d pay that much for it, particularly as it would ultimately end up underneath a whole lot of other books! But, it is a good cover.

      • Rabindranauth

        No way I’d ever consider buying it, lol. Just seems like a plain waste of money to me. But then, I’m mostly broke and not a collector 😀 But it is an awesome book . . . . .

      • lynnsbooks

        Yeah, I’m not a book ‘collector’ – even though I do collect a lot of books.
        Lynn 😀

      • Rabindranauth

        That’s an occupational hazard in our case 😀

      • lynnsbooks


  2. Genki Jason

    Good write-up! I haven’t read this one but it sounds typically good like Abercrombie’s other books. Plenty of action and cool characters!

    • lynnsbooks

      It was a very good read. It will be interesting to see what his following make of it – it is for the YA audience after all and this is Lord Grimdark! Even so, it was very enjoyable and I like that he’s written a book that a slightly younger audience can enjoy.
      Lynn 😀

  3. jdbookworm

    I like the UK white! Looking forward to reading this bad boy 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      I like the little group of characters that you can see. My automatic reaction was to like the black – because, well, it’s black! But having read the book I now prefer the white! I think that’s a first for me – changing my opinion of a cover after finishing reading – well, maybe not a first, because sometimes after you finish reading you look back at the cover and think wtf but… never mind! The white is it!

  4. Mogsy

    I love that he doesn’t beat around the bush – a lot of YA these days spend too much time focusing on things that don’t pertain to the story. This was like his adult books, slightly simplified and the language is adjusted, but it reads like his work and he doesn’t hold his punches or sacrifice plot in any way. Really liked this book and glad you did too! I also like the white cover – I just noticed it’s got some nice imagery in the background that I missed the first time around, versus the complete nothingness of the background in the black version.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s like he’s decided ‘let’s just cut the crap’! He just gets stuck in and the book gets off to a flying start and you’re literally in the thick of it – he’s so good with the characterisation though and the plot is excellent. Yarvi was such a good character to read about! Plus – I didn’t see the ending coming at all (well, technically speaking there are two reveals at the end – one was a bit like, ‘oh right’, the other was a bit like ‘Wow!’ (Trying not to give away spoilers is so tough!`). Now I’ve finished it I feel like the white has more relevance to the book not just the characters on the front but also the snow and the cold.

  5. Grace

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! It’s on my TBR pile. 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      I have no idea how it compares because I’ve not read his others (yet) but I thought this was really good.
      Lynn 😀

      • Grace

        I haven’t read his others either, but I’ve heard so many good things about him.

      • lynnsbooks

        I know, ditto. Reading Half a King has definitely made me want to get to the others. I realise they’re a lot darker – but, I like dark!
        Lynn 😀

  6. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    gahhh I can’t decide which book cover I like more!

    As for the tolkien feel – I like the sound of that. I’m going to read this one any day – heck why not today right? Yeah why not. Especially since you say it jumps right into the action.

    I haven’t read any of his adult books either (not that I don’t own like a bunch of them lol)

    • lynnsbooks

      I know – I really want to read his other books – soon! Having read it I’ve decided on the white (even though I started off preferring the black! – well, black is black after all!)
      Lynn 😀

      • Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

        I agree – I do love the white though. I’ll be reading any day.

      • lynnsbooks

        It’s a really good story. It’s made me very keen to read his First Law books!
        Lynn 😀

  7. They seek him here, they seek him there.. | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Half a King by Joe Abercrombie – this one defo counts! […]

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    […] Half a King by Joe Abercrombie – my first Abercrombie – really good and I’m looking forward to No.2. […]

  9. “Our lives are all different and yet the same.” (Anne Frank) |

    […] Half a King by Joe Abercrombie – in which the main character Yarvi was born with one of his hands badly deformed and in a world where your sword arm is valued above everything else this definitely places him at a disadvantage in this harsh world. […]

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