Half a King Is ALL AWESOME

I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want the hills to be alive with my joy. I want YOU to read this book.

Finally! A fantasy I can wholeheartedly support! It's full of treachery! Slavery! Cruelty! Humanity! Mystery! All those words that end in "y"! I mean, I seriously feel like pulling a Maria and spinning around, arms outstretched, great big grin on my face. Yep, it's that good.

Now, I've not read any of Abercrombie's other works (but am adding them to my TBR as I write), and evidently this is a lot less intense than his other stuff. I would have placed this in the YA camp but it's definitely crossover material, and I think it's being sold as adult fic, which is fine. This style of cleaned-up-but-still-raw sci-fi and fantasy reminds me of Red Rising by Pierce Brown (another revenge novel!). I would have zero qualms about handing Half a King to a teen who already reads YA, because I'm pretty sure there's less cussing in this book than in most YA titles. Also, no sex (hooray!), and NO LOVE TRIANGLE! Abercrombie proves that yes, you can write a book without relying on the crutch of a love triangle to "create drama" (gag me). 

Yarvi is the second son. He was born with a left hand that doesn't work--it's twisted and weak and it's seen as a sign of weakness. He is called "half a man" just because one of his hands (through no fault of his own) is malformed. Yarvi longs for the approbation of others, but quietly works with Mother Gundring, who is teaching him to be a Minister. Yarvi won't be king--he has an older brother perfectly suited to the task. Instead, he'll work behind the scenes as a minister--a sort of diplomat/politician/spy hybrid. His mother Laithlin, the Golden Queen, is an expert at negotiations and trade. Her moniker suits both the gold of her hair and her plan to mint uniform currency for the lands that surround the Shattered Sea. 

One day, the unthinkable happens. Both Yarvi's father and brother die in an ambush staged by their next-door neighbor, enemy, and all-around bad guy Grom-gil-Gorm (try saying that three times fast!). Laithlin moves quickly to position her son as the king. Yarvi is crowned and swears an oath to avenge his father's death. The type of oath he swears is very, very serious. He sets out with his Uncle to raid Grom-gil-Gorm's lands. Then: betrayal. Near-death. Slavery.

Next thing you know, Yarvi is an oar-slave on a pirate ship captained by a woman who's so far in her cups she's mostly sober while drunk. Yarvi disguises his true identity (what use would it be?) and plots his escape from drudgery. It's not that simple. Even when an escape path opens, who should he trust? The man he betrayed? His oarmates? The navigator? The guy who's definitely a bit off but who can wield a sword like no one else? 

There are epic journeys across blasted landscapes. There is some serious Ben-Hur style rowing and slavery. There's plotting, counter-plotting, and counter-counter-plotting, topped off with plot twists galore and fantastic revelations. Betrayals pile up as fast as the body count. Half a King grabs you, chains you to the oars, and drags you along for the ride. You're panting to keep up.

Yarvi is an interesting character. He's not a goody two-shoes, but he's not a bad guy. He's a survivor. Survival requires tough choices. Unpalatable ones, even. But Yarvi's growth is fascinating to watch, and I look forward to more books about the lands of the Shattered Sea.

A note: someone put it into my head (was it Patrick Rothfuss?) that this may not be your standard fantasy world, but the elf-metal and elf relics described may actually be remnants of our own civilization. That's how I prefer to read it, actually, but either way this is a fantastic book. 

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


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