There are different types of bookbuyers out there. You have those who buy a book, read it and when they like it enough, buy the next book in the series. Then there are those who get excited about a book and/or author, buy said book, neglect it until the sequel comes out and get excited again. Thus the cicle continues. I belong to the latter category and thus it happened to be that I owned eight books by Joe Abercrombie without having read any of them. Thank god for BookTube SFF Awards where Half A King got nominated for best YA.
Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.
But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy…
I lost count of the books where a blurb stated that “If you love Game of Thrones…” or “Game of Thrones meets random other book”. Almost all of them came nothing close to the works that were blurbed and it makes me wonder if the people who blurb actually read the book.. However, if there is one book I read recently where said kind of blurb would be more than half a truth – pun intended – it would be this book.
Joe Abercrombie bears the nickname of Lord of Grimdark, especially in reference to his adult works. Having read his first YA offering, I can tell you that his nickname is no lie. This is by no means a happy book. Having no point of reference with his adult novels, I can only guess that he toned it all down for this trilogy, but still there is blood, violence and brutality galore. The hardships Yarvi goes through are legion, and it seemed like he couldn’t catch a break. If there is one element that I believe to be toned down quite a lot, it is the complexity of the plot. It’s all pretty straightforward, easy to follow. I’m tempted to say also easy to predict, but Abercrombie did a good job of keeping the reader in the dark till the final twist. There is a fairly big hint near the end, so I knew what the finalised puzzle would look like, but how the pieces fitted exactly was still unclear. Then again, I figure these things out once in a blue moon, so yes…
“blood, violence and brutality galore
While the plot was perhaps a bit simple, the worldbuilding made up for it. This is one of those books that you have to read during winter, near a fire, cause it’s such a cold and bleak world. Still, despite the harsh environment, I was really intrigued by the Norse-inspired world and I hope to learn more about it in the future books. If you’re looking for a fantasy straying from the Medieval Western Europe, read this and go north. Consequently, the inhabitants of these lands are also harsh, brutal, grimdark..
The characters are pretty peculiar bunch, I have to say. They are far from likeable, and even Yarvi, our main character, could be pretty annoying. But the great thing is, while I didn’t particularly like any of them on their own, they worked so well as a group! You have this little band of outcasts, and little by little you’re getting to know them better. It’s through this, through the efforts of the group, that Yarvi is able to grow as a character. When finished, I was actually amazed by how different he was compared to the Yarvi we met at the very start. It’s perhaps a well used cliché, but I still like the idea of the underdog overcoming it all.
Another thing that really struck me, was how fast a read this was. I am by far not the fastest reader out there, but I breezed through this one. The writing style wasn’t overly complicated, which made this really fast and there was a perfect balance between tension and slower parts, with a focus on the former for the biggest chunk of the novel.
When people say that, perhaps, I should try the first book in a series before buying the next ten sequels, I counter this with my great intuition of which books I’ll like enough to buy and which I won’t. Joe Abercrombie is a perfect example of this. Was I blown away? No. But did I have a good time and was this a solid first book? Yes it was. Even more, as far as YA fantasy goes, this is one of the better I’ve read. It’s missing a lot of the same old same old that the popular books out there have, which makes it really refreshing to read. And refreshing it is, cause even though I read it in summer, the cold and bleak atmosphere made me shiver my socks off.
★ ★ ★
Don’t be half a fan, and read the book now.