Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

July 20, 2014 4 stars, Book Review 31 ★★★★

Review: Half a King by Joe AbercrombieHalf a King by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Del Rey on July 15, 2014
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

How one becomes half a king

Half a King features young Yarvi, the youngest prince and now King of Gettland as his father and eldest brother have just been murdered. This thrusts Yarvi into a role that he never wanted nor one that anyone seems to think he is fit for because of a deformity he has to his arm / hand – essentially lacking one hand all he has there is a stub and one finger. He has spent his youth studying for the Ministry. A path of study, healing, wisdom and advising. Now that he is to be king his dream of being a minister is over.

No betrayal could cut deeper

Not even days into his kingship he suffers a terrible betrayal from one he thought the closest to him. With the scene set we have the makings for an extreme revenge story. Due to the betrayal Yarvi subsequently finds himself sold into slavery and is placed on a trade vessel. I have to admit that everything that transpired up until the point Yarvi lands on the trade ship I had a hard time getting through. Yarvi is such a whiner and seems to do a lot of wallowing in self pity. Much of it because of his deformity and then much more because of how he thinks everyone views him. I had a hard time with this because I have known people close to me that have a similar birth defect and it doesn’t seem to embitter them to the world and have this petulant behavior. Maybe I’m reading too much into his behavior and perhaps his inner dialogue is harder on himself then he outwardly showed, but there is no way for me to really know that since we got to see so much of his self pity.

Friends in the lowest places

The saving grace of this novel for me was most definitely the companions that Yarvi makes along his journey for revenge. They are dynamic characters with seemingly more personality than Yarvi himself. I do have to admit though that Yarvi did grow on my considerably as the story progressed and he matured. Such that by the time the book ended I liked him instead of being annoyed by him.

“Pick your enemies more carefully than your friend,” Nothing was muttering at the flames. “They will be with you longer.” – pg 186

I have to admit one of my favorite characters in the novel was a man named ‘Nothing’ – he had a habit of saying steel was the answer to everything and that ‘death waits for us all’ heck at one point I thought I should have counted the number of times he said it but he also said some of the funniest things.

“Death waits for us all,” said Nothing. “But she takes the lazy first.” = pg 171

“What is the world coming to when an honest man cannot burn corpses without suspicion?” – pg 186

As you can see, there were a good number of cool one liners in this book and I found myself frequently stopping to save them. It was fun reading and had me smirking. I also liked the fact that the book sparked some great conversation between myself and several other buddies who had read it, in regards to authors writing in adult genre fiction and then releasing a young adult book of the same genre.

It is for one’s own sake that one does good things.- pg 99

The author that wrote this is known for his grimdark adult fantasy (none of which I have currently read at this time). I’ve noticed a few people note that they consider this book to be a very watered down version of his writing. I however didn’t find the grimness to be watered down and think its a decent book to introduce say a young adult or even adult reader to the fantasy genre if they haven’t already read his previous books. Depending on a reader’s tastes, reading this first might entice them to read his darker works. Or if they already know they want something very dark then according to my friends you should just jump straight to his adult books bypassing this one. Bear that in mind when deciding to pick this up. This is definitely a good book worth reading regardless and I don’t believe that it should be categorized as a young adult book just because it has a young protagonist. Could it be considered a young adult novel? Yes. But it also makes a great crossover adult fantasy novel. Read it and hopefully enjoy but prepare for some gritting of the teeth through the first fourth of the book until the pace picks up a bit.

*quotes taken from an advanced reader edition of the book and may be different in the published version*

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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31 Responses to “Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie”

  1. Megan (Adrift on Vulcan)

    Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a GOOD revenge story before. Most of the time the reason for revenge is at most acceptable, and at worst just plain dramatic, so I’m not quite sure what to think of this one because the revenge story doesn’t seem that good either? I totally get what you mean about Yarvi, though. I wouldn’t be able to stand a whiner — even if he did have a deformity. Like, get over it, man! Self-pity is just a huge no on so many levels.

    Good friendships are definitely a major plus. I rarely see them in YA books these days; the romance overshadows everything, and it’s starting to grate on my nerves. I also love it when a secondary character has more depth than the main character — shows that the author really put a lot of thought into carving out the different people of the story!

    There were a good number of cool one liners in this book and I found myself frequently stopping to save them.” — I save so many of these cool quotes from books, but then totally forget to use them in reviews. Genius, right? *facepalm* But hey, you totally should have included some of those awesome lines here!

    Glad that you enjoyed this overall, Tabitha, despite the not-very-nice main character. Oh well, I guess that just as long as there are other likable characters around, the book will still be bearable enough for intolerable people like me. xD Great review!
    Megan (Adrift on Vulcan) recently posted…This Week: How Do You Cope?My Profile

  2. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy

    I finished this book recently and I definitely agree with you on the beginning of this book. Yarvi was a little annoying, but thankfully he develops well by the end. I have such mixed feelings about this book though, as I did enjoy it, but also felt like I won’t really remember it a few months from now. I did really enjoy Yarvi’s companions though – maybe if the second book has more engaging secondary characters I’ll be eager to pick it up!
    Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy recently posted…Suspense Sundays (106) Analytical HourMy Profile

  3. Danya @ Fine Print

    I think being a whiner is one of the worst qualities that a protagonist can have. Yeah buddy, you got a raw deal. Suck it up and move on! Glad that Yarvi improved as the book progressed. I think I’m going to start with Abercrombie’s adult stuff before this one, since those books seem to be universally loved while this title has received more mixed reviews. Bring on the grimdark, I say!
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: Three Parts Dead by Max GladstoneMy Profile

  4. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    I’m so weird. You know how I am about zombies and horror, but “grimdark”<—–I love it. I loved this book too, and it never occurred to me that some might consider it dark and grim. It seems obvious now, LOL. Anyway, lovely review, Tabitha! FINALLY, we both like the same YA fantasy 😉

  5. Kirsty-Marie

    Ugh, he would annoy me, whiny characters alone are annoying enough, but self pitying? Nope. Maybe it’s supposed to be meant as what you think people see you as is what you really see yourself as? but that would’ve annoyed me. I don’t have anyone around me with that kind of birth defect but my Aunts disabled, and it doesn’t stop her. And just look at the paralympians. I’d probably like the co-characters a lot better though, but hey, at least you liked him by the end. I didn’t even know this was YA (maybe because of the cover?) looked more Adult-y to me, oops.
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: The Young WorldMy Profile

  6. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I enjoyed this story (like, not love) but, yeah, Yarvi is such a little whiner! I wouldn’t want him for my king, either. (Though I wouldn’t betray him or sell him into slavery, either!) I like that word “grimdark” because that’s what this was — very cold, very dark, not really a whole lot of hope.
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  7. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I absolutely loved this. I don’t know that I would consider it “very water downed”. It is very much grim dark, very much Abercrombie, just a faster pace and the world building is less defined (more hinted at). If that makes any sense. If you enjoyed it, definitely give his adult books a try.
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