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Book Review

Book Cover

Half a War


Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 755028 9
Publication Date: 10 March 2016

Much has changed since Yarvi was sold into slavery, only to win his freedom back and take on the mantle of a minister. The rivalries between the client kings has drawn the wroth of the High King, who sets free his most efficient killer, Yilling, to lay waste to Throvenland. In the midst of the carnage princess Skara flees for her life, hoping to find vengeance through the allies of her land, King Gorm and King Uthil...

Half a War (2015. 500 pages) is the concluding book in the trilogy, preceded by Half a King and Half the World. The book was written by Joe Abercrombie.

As we have gone through these books my admiration for Abercrombie’s work has only increased. Each of the books continues the tales, but each time the writer shifts the perspective around so that you can see events unfolding from different characters. In this latest novel we spend the larger portion of time seeing events unfold from Skara’s perspective.

Her introduction, as a character, is necessary as the previous books had established that whilst Gorm and Uthil both fear and dislike the High King, they find it just as difficult to get along with each other due to their endless border war, the backdrop of which started events in the first book.

Skara is young, but not stupid, having been groomed for power, but it is not a mantle which she thought she would take up so soon. Fleeing her ravaged land she becomes a queen without a country, adding to the list of characters who want vengeance on the High Hing and his chief minister Grandmother Wexen.

Ok, this could have been a straight forward babes and battles book, yet Abercrombie weaves numerous tantalising threads throughout, not always affording the reader the easy reveal or ending they might wish for.

The land is mostly the coastline around the shattered sea, where a Scandinavian medieval society engages in endless petty wars, in the ruins of the vanished civilisation of the elves, one which was so powerful that it destroyed itself when it went to war with god. Abercrombie never explicitly comes out and say it, but there were enough clues in the three books to feel that the ruins were left behind by us and that the characters and civilisation is what grew up after some apocalyptic disaster.

It’s frustrating, but at the same time understandable that the author neither confirms nor does he deny this. We are seeing the ruins through the eyes of the contemporary characters and can only know what they know.

In and around the main story of Skara, is weaved a number of smaller, but just as important sub plots. As Queen she slowly draws others into her court and they in turn have an impact on the stories outcome.

There is an inevitability to the end of the story, that said, Abercrombie is not above killing off characters - you may have followed from the first book - or revealing information which turns characters motivations on a dime making villains and fools of even the most honourable and high minded.

It stands as a worthy closing chapter to a series that is well worth checking out.


Charles Packer

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