Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

Half the World (Hardback)


Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 755023 4
Publication Date: 12 February 2015

In Half a King, Joe Abercrombie introduced us to a new fantasy world based somewhat on the Vikings. The peoples which live around the Shattered Sea are split into competing kingdoms under an increasingly unpopular High King. Whereas once the High King was first amongst a brotherhood of kings, his conversion to the One God has made him increasingly autocratic and dangerous.

Half the World (2015. 484 Pages) is the second young adult book in the Shattered Sea trilogy. The first followed Yarvi, whose crippled hand had initially precluded him from the Throne of Gettland, until a twist of fate saw his father and brother murdered, his short ascension to the throne, which was followed by betrayal and a long journey back to his home. This current novel shifts the focus, somewhat away from the original characters.

Although many of the characters which appeared in Half a King appear here, the book is really about the journeys of Brand and Thorn, two young people who when we meet them for the first time are training to be warriors. Brand has a head full of romantic notions to travel and fight, bringing home riches, Thorn on the other hand wishes to fight to kill the man who killed her father.

When Thorn is tested against three other students, in her haste she accidentally kills one of them and is condemned as a murderer, only the intervention of Yarvi saves her from being stoned to death. Brand, because he leapt to Thorn's defence, is punished by not being chosen to fight, leaving him to find a bitter solace in the bottoms of his cups, until he too is rescued by Yarvi, who needs a crew for a dangerous voyage to seek allies for Gettland against the increasingly more aggressive High King.

It is difficult to know just how much time has passed between the two novels. Gettland has a new king and Yarvi is part of the ministry, an organisation somewhere between a permanent civil service and a means of controlling the various kings through their most trusted advisor. His mother, the queen, is with child, so the book has to be set somewhere between one and three years following Half a King.

The story is essentially a journey, both geographically, by boat and a coming of age for Brand and Thorn, both of whom discover that their initial reasons for fighting were equally naive.

As always the strength of Abercrombie’s prose lies in the creation of his characters, which is not to say that the book is short of intrigue or violent battle, this is after all a fantasy adventure. The book is also full of unexplained mysteries which remain just out of reach. The folklore of the lands say that the long vanished elves split the world and god with their magic, so it’s a puzzle that many aspects of their culture are not unlike our own and when one of their ancient weapons is wielded, the description is overly reminiscent of a gun. So, could this series actually be science fiction rather than fantasy?

The character of Yarvie has matured between the two books, Brand starts off an a little unworldly, but it is the character of Thorn which initially grates, as though she has some skill with a sword she is a pretty annoyingly whiney sixteen year old. Keep with the story though and the two,, through their experiences, transition into more interesting adults.

The novel is another well written Abercrombie book.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Kindle edition
iTunes GB
Digital Download
Kindle edition