Review: Half the World
This book is a gem.
No, seriously, I mean it. Don’t be rolling your eyes at me. Although… I must admit that if I were to leave this review at that, and not elaborate at all, then I’d very much expect you to roll your eyes, blow me a raspberry, and click on to the next review. How many times have you read a comment like that about a book and been like, “What the freak does that even mean?” So don’t worry. This book is so worth talking about. In fact, I’m getting kinda giddy just thinking about it all.
HALF THE WORLD (Amazon) is the second novel in a new YA trilogy being written by a favorite author of ours and yours (at least he should be), Joe Abercrombie. The Shattered Sea Trilogy is the author’s first foray into the world of younger readers and, somewhat surprisingly, and he adapts to it very well. I mean, you HAVE read Abercrombie before, right? He’s not exactly known for being… um… genteel.
HALF A KING (EBR Review) started the tale with Yarvi, the betrayed prince of Gettland, on his journey as a rower on a slave barge as it traveled around the Shattered Sea. He made some friends; both savory and un-. He gained some wisdom, and the knowledge of how to use it. And then he returned to face his betrayer. Or at least, the first of them. HALF THE WORLD jumps forward several years and Yarvi fades into the guise of a secondary character, making way for two new YA heroes: Thorn Bathu and Brand.
Although Father Yarvi is a secondary character he very much dictates the direction of the story, making a large beginning portion of this novel very reactionary, which is consistent with the way its predecessor handled things. And yet this is the time when we learn both who these characters are and what they will become. Yes, Father Yarvi has his plans for them (he has plans for everyone, it seems), but again it is character definition and growth that makes up the bulk of this story.
Thorn starts out as an ill-tempered, brash girl with designs on being the young champion of the sands arena. With a wooden sword and shield she’s going up against the other boys her age and older and beating them. With the direction of Father Yarvi and teaching of a mentor in the art of fighting, she learns to be more than herself though. Brand wants to be part of something larger than himself, to be part of a glorious deed, but clings steadfastly to his desire to stand in the light and to do the right thing. He finds out just how difficult that is, and that sometimes winning isn’t really winning (as most of Abercrombie’s characters seem to learn along the way). And then, of course, there’s the expected story of young love… as it is spitted and roasted over a bed of red-hot coals and then laid out for your supper.
Does HALF THE WORLD break any new ground? Not really. Does it use a lot of the same tropes and means by which to tell a story about children of this age? Sure. But honestly, it doesn’t really matter all that much to me if I’ve seen a certain method or a setup before. If it did, I wouldn’t enjoy anywhere near as many novels as I do. The thing that HALF THE WORLD does do? It tells an extremely engaging story and it does it in brilliant form. I loved it. Every minute. Every page. Never a disappointment.
In retrospect, I enjoyed Half a King. It was a great novel. Still, there was a little something missing for me. A little of that prototypical Abercrombie flair perhaps, but I haven’t been able to nail down my thoughts on the matter. HALF THE WORLD, however, hit all of my buttons and set the lights to blinking. The book was brilliant. Impossible to put down. Painful to step away from. So yes–
This book is a gem.
But that gem is cut from stone tough as steel. With a heart cold as a glacier’s core. And edges sharp as the finest blade. Pick it up, and it will slice away your world in exchange for its own, making you remember once more exactly why you love to read. It is the essence of everything that makes Joe Abercrombie an amazing story-teller. In some respects, I think this book has been my favorite out of everything that he’s written. And one of the best parts? We only have to wait til July for the conclusion, HALF A WAR.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Nothing very strong, but a decent amount of it.
- Violence: There's quite a bit more violence in this book than the previous one. Not very gory, but somewhat detailed in parts.
- Sex: A fair amount. Mostly lead-up and aftermath. Nothing overly titillating.