PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series comes to its terribly interesting conclusion with the third and final book, Half a War. The book follows the formula of the previous two, following the life and motivations of a previously unseen younger character. At the same time, it expands on the consequences of the actions of previous main characters.

The world of the Shattered Sea is at war. The High King has had enough of the Viking-like Gettlanders and their barbarian allies, and thanks to the manipulations of the vengeance-driven Father Yarvi, peace is not an option. Alas, the High King has more resources and the Gettlanders are on the back foot. Worse still, the Princess Skara has lost her kingdom, which is a pity as her homeland also happened to be the most tactically valuable piece of land in the war.

The two new heroes are the Princess Skara and her reluctant bodyguard, Raith. In a theme common to the series, both have their own coming of age stories with plenty of angst. We don’t get quite as much time with these characters as they deserve; there’s also a war story to tell and the characters from the previous books still have their own tales to tell.

Elements of Half a War feel rushed; though key events (such as a journey to the Elf Ruins) have long been foreshadowed, because there is little build up in this book it feels as if the story is incomplete.  More so than the others, Half a War is very much part of a series; it won’t make sense as a standalone, and the (extremely) satisfying conclusions to multiple story arcs need the novel-length run-ups they’ve had to work.

For a war story, there is less grime and horror here; Joe Abercrombie does not quite live up to his title as Lord GrimDark. War becomes abstract at points, and though the author touches on the reasons why violence should never be taken lightly (or made easy), this doesn’t carry the weight it needs to in order to replace the gore and despair of the previous books. Half a War is a strong conclusion to an outstanding series. We look forward to seeing what Abercrombie does next.



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