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??