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“The fool strikes. The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.” – Joe Abercrombie, Half a King

British author Joe Abercrombie partnered with Harper Voyager (UK) and Del Rey (US) to publish Half a King in 2014. The novel is the opening salvo of The Shattered Sea trilogy, following the dramatic tale of Prince Yarvi of Gettland. The genre is fantasy; what opens as epic high fantasy migrates and mutates to a speculative sci-fi / fantasy hybrid over the course of the trilogy. There are distinct chapters and themes, wherein Abercrombie will share one character’s POV for inner monologue and narration for the duration.

Half a King does not compare favorably to The First Law Trilogy, Abercrombie’s incredible freshman offering.

The aim of The Shattered Sea trilogy is more ambitious than its predecessor, but falls short of its lofty target. Abercrombie employs a type of literary leitmotif via both repeated dialogue and narration, which is done not quite subtly enough to go unnoticed, but neither done heavily enough to seem on purpose. Abercrombie includes some of the flair with composing action sequences as we see in earlier works, but the plot (specifically the timing) seems off – leading to several twists ruined by several “well, he’s going to have to do X next chapter. Oh, here we are, doing X.” reactions.

If you have time for only one fantasy novel this year, I cannot recommend Half a King.

If you are trying to pad your annual reading goal: Half a King is a fast read, mildly-to-moderately entertaining, and is written well enough (specifically with well-turned and humorous bits of dialogue and narration) to keep one turning the pages, even when it fails to keep one guessing.

Half a King won the 2015 Locus Award for Best Young Adult novel.


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