Actually, I’ve read Half a king some time ago but haven’t gotten around to jotting anything down. Simply put, it’s an excellent dark fantasy if it’s fantasy at all (fictional world but no magic, no fantastical or supernatural elements,).
Half a King is set in a new world and doesn’t continue or spin off from The First Law series, but the realistic gritty aspects are the same. All bad things come from people looking out for themselves or choosing the lesser evil in the better case. Abercrombie is an excellent writer who mixes characters motivations, luck (or lack thereof) and action into an exciting mix. The story doesn’t have the megalomaniac scope like The Song of Ice and Fire does but rather goes straight to the point.
350 pages start a bit slow when Yarvi, the younger crippled prince meant for Ministry, takes the crown after the death of both his father and older brother. The story deals with him trying to earn some respect among warriors and settling into his new role. The real beginning comes when Yarvi’s uncle tries to kill him during a revenge raid, fails and Yarvi ends up becoming an oar slave on a ship of lovely captain.
Quickly, he becomes friends with his two oarmates, makes an enemy of the slave in charge of the cargo and stock, brown noses to the captain, proves his value by applying the skills he learned in his training, tries to escape and eventually succeeds with his new friends. Pitiful freedom in a cold wasteland without food or pretty much anything gives him chance to set on a path of revenge. They almost die multiple times on the way, some die and those who help them die.
In the end, after executing his masterplan to divide the powers of his uncle, he attempts to seize the throne back and is superseded by Nothing who turns out to be yet another uncle. I really didn’t see this twist coming. I’m not much for trying to guess who’s who and what will happen and let myself be surprised. It was apparent that Nothing will have some role but since this is the first book in the series I figured that it’ll only be a setup for him (maybe he has some score to settle with the high king who gets mentioned a lot).
The story flows easily, there’re no distractions, dialogues are great and snappy (even though sometimes trying to be a little too deep), the relationships are interesting (however the romance with Sumael is a little strange, which makes it more interesting). What really annoyed me was the name Sumael. I kept reading it Samuel and then went back to read it correctly. Every time. Just annoying. Abercrombie doesn’t do happy endings and many characters die even when you wish they didn’t, those who survive have to deal with the world. I’m looking forward to the next book which should come out this year.
I’ve always been uncommonly insightful, but you were blinded by your own cleverness.
Joe Abercrombie: Half a King