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Half A War by Joe Abercrombie is the last in the Shattered Sea trilogy, of which Half A King and Half The World are the other two books, both of which are reviewed here on Making Them Readers.

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This series has just gone from strength to strength for me. My least favourite of the three books was the first one, Half A King, which I found difficult to get into, although it did pick up a lot by the end of the book. The second book in the series was better and this one was absolutely gripping all the way through.

The books together make up the story of viking style fantasy world in which small countries are pitched against each other in bloody battles, and the fragile power plays that consume them, leave them ultimately threatened by the High King. The High King’s  worship of the One God rather than the tradition of worshipping many, is his excuse for uniting lands under his rule, ably and deviously abetted by his first minister, Mother Wexen.

The books follow the character Yarvi, a king’s son who is deposed by treachery on the death of his father and sold into slavery. He uses cunning to fight his way back to power and restore his throne and country. This happens in the first book. In the next two books Yarvi is still present but we focus on different aspects of the story. The second book tells the story of Thorn Bathu a young woman warrior and her fight to be accepted by her male compatriots. Thorn is saved by Yarvi, and she accompanied him on a quest to find allies for their fight against the High King.

In this, the third book we see things through the eyes of princess Skara, deposed, much like Yarvi, from her kingdom and her rightful title, she is forced to ally herself with Yarvi and his queen, Laithlinn to seek justice and get her country back from the death bringer, Bright Yilling, who has been sent by the High King to subdue all the unruly countries who have rebelled against his edicts and continue to seek independence.

Skara is a fantastic character. She is well drawn and believable. She is strong, but unlike Thorn in the previous book, Skara has to learn to take strength from the untenable position she finds herself in and use what few advantages she has to power play those around her. I loved her development as the book progressed and was genuinely sad to leave her behind at the end. I want there to be more of these books, and there is, at the end, a distinct possibility that the author has left the way open for more.

I love the fact that the books are great adventures in themselves, but taken together have such a rewarding plot arc and work to give the narrative great depth. I love the twists and turns of the novel. In this one in particular there are some real shocks in the story which work brilliantly and are totally unexpected. I love the fact that you think the trilogy is going to be all about Yarvi, and it sort of is, but it is so much better than that and the drawing to the foreground of the two, key women characters in the second and third books, leaving Yarvi behind the scenes, is a touch of genius.

These are marketed to a teen/Ya audience and there are mildly descriptive sex scenes which are not graphic in any way, and a lot of violence which means that they are not really suitable for primary aged readers. I’d recommend them for readers aged twelve and up, boys and girls.

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