BOOK REVIEW: HALF THE WORLD / AUTHOR: JOE ABERCROMBIE / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 12TH
Half the World is the second book in Joe Abercrombie’s young adult series, The Shattered Sea. The previous novel, Half a King, told the tale of a young prince who became a slave and fought to find his place in the world. This latest instalment picks up from the events of the last book, and though it features much of the cast from book one, it focuses on two new characters; the slow yet noble Brand and the violent yet determined Thorn Bhatu.
The Shattered Sea books are set in a fantasy world in which elves and magic are long gone, lost to some poorly understood calamity, and focuses on the inhabitants of Gettland, a Viking-like civilisation attempting to fend off the political machinations of its allies whilst keeping a wary eye on its Gaul-like neighbours. We are first introduced to the main characters in the training grounds, where the well-intentioned actions of Brand lead to Thorn becoming set up for murder. Things are not easy for Thorn; sexism is part of Gettland’s traditions and this extends to any woman looking to become a warrior. Events conspire to send the two on an epic quest across half the world, under the guidance of the characters from the previous novel.
Abercrombie’s writing is compelling and addictive. Not one to shy away from harsh realities, the author creates a grimy world in which heroes do not win because they have a destiny or any special quality; just hard work, practice and determination. Both Thorn and Brand are sympathetic and engaging characters. Thorn is especially amusing, partially because she has no idea when she’s on to a good thing, but mostly because she has a spectacular capacity for violence and this makes for rather thrilling fight scenes. Brand will appeal to anyone who has ever been shy and lacking in confidence, which is probably everyone.
As always, Joe Abercrombie doesn’t pull his punches, delivering exquisite action on every page. Half the World explores The Shattered Sea setting even further than before, and much like his characters, what seems simple on surface is rich and engaging once you dig into the details. The book works fine as a standalone novel (though it contains spoilers for the previous book) and we look forward to the next instalment.
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