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Half a King: Shattered Sea    by Joe Abercrombie order for
Half a King
by Joe Abercrombie
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie (author of adult fantasy including his First Law trilogy) now applies his talents to YA fantasy in Half a King, first in his Shattered Sea series.

The lead is young prince Yarvi of Gettland, despised for the crippled hand that leaves him half a man, unable to practice the martial arts in which his peers (and elder brother) excel. Instead, Yarvi has been apprenticed to Gettland's Minister, Mother Gundring, and trained to enter the Ministry himself. He is ready to take the final test. Mother Gundring tells him 'You will remember and advise, heal and speak truth, know the secret ways and smooth the path for Father Peace in every tongue. There is no nobler work'.

Yarvi's life suddenly changes when his father and elder brother are betrayed and killed. Yarvi is hailed as the new king of Gettland and betrothed to his cousin Isriun ... but not for long. He takes an oath of vengeance and joins the ships and army led by his kindly uncle Odem into 'the iron embrace of Mother War.' Like his father and brother, Yarvi is betrayed, but briefly escapes. Recaptured and pretending to be a cook's boy, he is sold into slavery.

Yarvi's time as a rower on the South Wind is brutal, but, for the first time in his life, he makes friends. They eventually plan an escape together and flee west across a barren land, their previous owner in fanatical pursuit. It's a thrilling adventure, well told. At their destination, Yarvi makes a deal with his father's enemy in order to defeat his betrayer. But the very best part of this story is the way it ends, as Yarvi comes full circle and fulfills the oath that he swore.

Half a King tells of a harsh coming of age and into understanding of the terrible things done for the 'lesser evil and the greater good'. I look forward to what comes next in this exciting series.

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