Book Review: Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) : by Joe Abercrombie

3.5
half a world

 

 This review contains major spoilers from the first book in the series. Those who are yet to read it, should skip this review. 

The first book ended with Yarvi becoming the minister and thus the right hand to the King of Gettland. He chose to leave the ambition of becoming a King in favour of breathing. Plus, he knew he could do so much better from a position where he was operating from behind the curtain all the while wielding the real power.

In my honest opinion, Half a King was a very apt title for the first book. Notwithstanding the fact that Yarvi does not actually sit on the throne, it is an indisputable truth by the end that Yarvi with his new position will hold half the strings that run the kingdom of Gettland.

In consideration with the first book in the series, Half The World clearly begins after an unannounced period of time has passed, by which time Yarvi has settled himself very well in his new role. FurtherHalf The World  portrays Yarvi thriving. Previously, he was used to scorn and used to be laughed at as he was “half a man”. But now, he is observed with awe as well as wariness. He is now famed to be:

“a deep cunning man”.

Yarvi is seen calculating the odds of winning the battle against those who threaten Gettland’s survival. He observes and assesses the need to put things in motion and so he gets things moving. If he needs to get his hands dirty, he has no qualms about it.
Yarvi is never to be let down. He is persistent and smart enough to change tactics when it is needed in lieu of failures. He acts ruthlessly and takes some cold-blooded steps but he has already realised that a wise man has to often speak the bitter truth but a smarter man has to make the cruellest of choices. It is quite clear that his character operates and thrives in different shades of grey.
Abercrombie puts Yarvi into the mould where he is seen indulging in what would most commonly be called “backseat driving”. And if the ride doesn’t go his way, he has planned for contingencies upon contingencies.

But Half the World is hardly only Yarvi’s story. The author introduces the readers to two new characters: a prickly natured girl named Thorn and a brave but calm warrior Brand.

Thorn has had a difficult time proving herself in the male-dominated society. Her father was a great warrior before he perished and she had a yearning to become a warrior herself since she was a kid. Now, in her teens she unwittingly ends up murdering a fellow trainee and is therefore sentenced to face death. When Yarvi offers her a chance at life, she readily accepts. Yarvi ensures that Thorn is then transformed into a lethal fighter, her killing instincts, the very reason she was doomed is then turned into the reason for her survival and then glory.

Brand’s righteous heart has always landed him in trouble but he cannot live with a heavy conscience. Knowing Thorn is innocent, he tries to save her. Every good deed is punished, so is his. His reward entails the crushing of all his hopes for the future-for a better life by his comrades. Yarvi then takes Brand under his wing.

This novel sees Yarvi, Brand and Thorn on a mission to find allies to aid them in the upcoming war against half the world.

I was suffering through a reading moratorium brought about by life getting in the way of things. I was not sure that I would be able to accord this book with the concentration or time it deserved. But as soon as I picked up this book, I forgot all my worries and was completely at the author’s mercy. I found the opening scene powerful. It was a good strong opening which ensured that the reader would not only be able to sympathise with Thorn’s miserable situation, but also be concerned regarding her future.

Unlike its predecessor, this novel employs multiple POVs which in my opinion serve to enhance the quality of the narrative. The subtlety with which the narratives are handled ensured that I could easily distinguish between the voices of two different characters, for which the author deserves praise.

I admire the fact that the author draws his characters with a number of flaws. Thorn possessed a number of them. In addition to that, Thorn doesn’t lose her pride quite unlike Yarvi who learned to be humbled during his struggle to survive. Due to this, the journey she makes from an impatient and insolent girl to a somewhat-wise woman was a very interesting one.

Brand’s character can be well understood from Yarvi’s words:

A man who gives all thought to do good but no thought to the consequence… that is a dangerous man.”

Indeed the old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes true for Brand. He does take the moral high ground in comparison to his peers but he is never a hypocrite. His journey from a boy to a man is the outcome of an exposure to the depravity of the world he lives in. The glorious war is nothing but the tyranny of the rich and mighty on the poor and the weak. Once Brand has a glimpse of the heartbreaking reality, he emerges the stronger for it. His development leaves him an even more balanced and wiser man. He acknowledges that he might be a brave warrior however his soul yearns for a peaceful life.

Abercrombie further instigates a romance between the two that quite frankly was not really required. On the other hand, Thorn and Brand’s romance isn’t neat and clean. It has its share of awkwardness associated with adolescence. The insecurities and angst is handled nicely and on the whole it is a nicely woven twist in the story. Surprisingly, it specifically adds to the ending with Thorn and Brand choosing such different places for themselves in the world.

Set in a post apocalyptic world, this story is fast-paced. The gritty truth of the pitiful life aboard a vessel during war times is revealed without any unnecessary profanities by the ones who suffer through it. On one hand, apart from the well-written battle scenes, nothing much happens in this book. On the other hand, the political intrigue and the diplomatic games take the front seat. Not at all complying with what is expected, this novel brings up some friends for the protagonists who are much welcomed and unexpected but at the same time dishes out Yarvi’s confrontations with some old enemies. Abercrombie pitts the brain versus brawn in this book and just like the last time, he doesn’t underscore brawn at all.

This book has driven characters and is held by a focused narrative. There are a few similarities that it shares with the first one. Thorn, very much like Yarvi is seen fighting against the odds. Previously, Yarvi’s naivety was questioned, this time it is Brand’s goodness. Very much like the previous book, a lesson is learned at each step of the journey, and of course, this book also involves a voyage like the previous one. It also remains true to its depiction of the harshness of war and a disillusionment with it. Like the last time, there were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming. In fact, most of the book is unpredictable, apart from one major plot move, which I was sadly able to guess. Still, I enjoyed the book thoroughly. On a side note, I would definitely suggest a re-reading of the previous book before picking up this one though, to better re-acquaint oneself with the world and re-emerging characters. It would definitely double the enjoyment.

 Half the World is a marvellously written book. I couldn’t rest before I finished it. It didn’t drag when not needed and served as a remarkable middle instalment to this series. I am all prepped to read the next one and I am glad that the last book is coming out in July and I won’t have to wait long.

For my review of  Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) click here .

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About Amethyst

Hi! My love for reading began at the age of 9, and now at the age of 23, its a passion. I read almost all genres (though I am moody about them). I prefer fiction and dislike tragic endings. And of course, I love good romances. View all posts by Amethyst

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