Half the World by Joe Abercrombie is the second of his Shattered Sea trilogy for teen/ya readers, the first of which, Half A King, I reviewed on Making them Readers earlier this summer.
I wasn’t sure I would go on to read the second book after I finished Half a King. I really enjoyed it towards the end of the book, but found it slow to start and I really didn’t warm to the characters initially. It did stay with me though, and I found myself thinking about what happened for quite a while after I finished the book. When I saw the second volume in the library I just could not resist picking it up. I’m glad I didn’t resist. It was excellent.
I enjoyed this much more than the first book. Firstly I think it was less slow because I already had the background of the first book to fill me in. Secondly I absolutely loved the characters of Thorn and Brand, who are the two main protagonists of the book.
It is set in the same world as Half A King, but time has now moved on. Yarvi, the reluctant king of the first book, has now stepped down in favour of his Uncle Uthil, who has married Yarvi’s mother. Yarvi is now wedded to his role as chief advisor/mystic to the throne. He is, as they say in the book, a ‘deep cunning’ man, and it is his intrigue and manipulation which make this book so interesting.
Thorn is a female warrior. They are few and far between, and she works twice as hard for her recognition, and struggles against the hatred of the man in charge of training warriors. In testing her, he pushes her too far and she ends up responsible for the death of another trainee. Her punishment is her life, until Father Yarvi intervenes, prompted by Brand, another warrior in training who is the only one brave enough to step forward and tell the truth about what happened in the training yard that day.
Yarvi takes Thorn and Brand with him on a deadly mission that takes him half way round the world in search of allies who will help him against the intrigues of the High King, intent on bringing all countries under his sway.
This is a fast paced, rip roaring adventure, much like the first book, but with more twists and turns. Thorn and Brand are great characters, full of life and interest. They sing off the page and make the book so much more entertaining than the first book. I particularly love Thorn, who is complicated and difficult and brilliant.
I highly recommend this book, although you will have to read the first book in order to really understand it. Persevere if it seems a little slow. It will come good in the end. It is equally appealing to both boys and girls and I recommend it to readers aged 11 and up. It has quite a lot of violent fight scenes which are fairly graphically rendered, and quite a few allusions to sex, although these are not graphic. Both sex and violence are entirely in context with the way you would expect the book to pan out and it would not be half the book it is without them.