After reading so much young adult fiction, I must have been craving fantasy. I read Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons, which I enjoyed. But after that and the other kinds of “soft”, young adult fantasy I’d read—Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Mortal Heart, Girl of Fire and Thorns—I felt ready to get back into my old, more hard core, fantasy reading habits. Luckily, Emily gave me Half a King by Joe Abercrombie.
Half a King is a fundamental fantasy novel with a couple twists. Self-doubt is not the only thing that plagues the hero. Yarvi is not only a prince, but he was only born with a deformed hand that leaves him crippled in the tasks that define a king in his world—strength and courage in battle. But as the second son, Yarvi does not have to worry about being king. He plans to join the religious ministry of his day, but his plans are thwarted when his father and older brother are killed and he becomes king. To retaliate against the king who allegedly killed his father, Yarvi sets sail across the Shattered Sea, only to be betrayed by the person closest to him. This sets him down a path of revenge and redemption, a road lined unexpected friends and even more betrayal. Through it all, Yarvi becomes the king he needs to be, but that’s when Abercrombie throws the reader his final twist.
Half a King has the basic elements of fantasy—kings, queens, pirates, untried heroes thrust into adventures, battles, betrayals, schemes. The cast of characters is a varied and eclectic group of all ages and backgrounds who meet as slaves on a merchant ship. This motley group sails the high seas, goes on the run, and stands together with swords drawn against common enemies.
But for all the typical fantasy elements, Abercrombie also throws in enough unexpected twists to keep it interesting. Fantasy and sci fi readers will enjoy it. While it wasn’t my favorite fantasy book, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading Abercrombie’s other books.