by The Wanderer
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Random House
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Shattered Sea Book ThreePages: 384
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Half A War delivers an excellent conclusion to Abercrombie’s YA trilogy, The Shattered Sea, and it certainly can be placed in the class with the great YA fantasy trilogies by Pullman, Nix, and Stroud. Following the same format as the previous two books, readers are once again introduced to a new set of young narrators that must endure difficult circumstances, come of age, and rise to the occasion.
For a YA novel this is a pretty brutal book, but for Abercrombie, this feels pretty optimistic.
Father Yarvi narrated Half A King, Thorn and Brand narrated Half The World, and Koll, Raith, and Princess Skara narrate Half A War. Each new book adds an extra narrator, as well puts the other previous narrators readers knew and grew to love in the background, or at the very least Abercrombie doesn’t let us see what they’re thinking. A particularly useful device, especially where the now enigmatic Father Yarvi is concerned.
Koll, the slave that was freed on Father Yarvi’s expedition across the world, is training to be a minister. He is clever and his potential to be a manipulative minister is great, but he is haunted by his past as a slave, and his mother’s wish that he be “the best man he can be.” Rin, the expert blacksmith and Brand’s sister, becomes Koll’s new lover, but as Koll already knows, a minister cannot marry.
As Half The World introduced us to the hardships and sufferings of Thorn Bathu, Abercrombie quickly had readers hating anyone who bullied her. In Half A War that’s how we’re introduced Raith, and he easily begins the story as the most unlikeable narrator. Raith fights for Grom-gil-Gorm, drinks his wine, and does his bidding. He is placed as a guard for Princess Skara, whom he begins to fall in love with, and ultimately brings him into conflict with his loyalty to Grom.
Skara’s story begins similarly to Father Yarvi’s. She witnesses the death of her grandfather due to betrayal, and she has the heavy burden of leadership thrust upon her at a young age. With her homeland conquered, she must maintain the fragile peace between King Uthil and Grom-gil-Gorm and find a way to defeat Bright Yilling, the leader of the High King’s armies if she’s ever to reap her vengeance.
As is typical of Joe Abercrombie’s books, Half A War has plenty of surprising plot twists, major character deaths, and plenty of brutality – the latter of which makes you wonder what the boundaries for violence are in YA books? Despite all these storytelling pluses, the questionable moralities and the decisions the characters make (or are forced to make) remain the most compelling part of the book. As Princess Skara comes to realize, along with many of the other characters:
“The world is full of monsters, after all. Perhaps the best one can hope for is to have the most terrible on your side.”Not the most inspiring view of humanity, nor the most positive outlook of the world, but sadly there is oftentimes a lot of truth in that statement. Heroes can be villains and villains can be heroes. Abercrombie’s continued exploration of blurred lines remains a highlight, and the reason why his books never get old.