Review: Half a King

September 14, 2014 Randomz 2 ★★★

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Half a KingHalf a King by Joe Abercrombie
on July 15, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Source: Netgalley
3 Stars

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy

It’s probably just me, but I had a very hard time writing a review for Half a King. I mean, this, right here, is probably my fifth opening, and it’s still not great. But, I’m dealing with it and just letting it fly. It may be because I haven’t composed a full-length review in a while (read: since July). But all the same I had to reconsider my original rating for this book because if I have nothing to say it’s not just because I’m rusty. It’s because it is a fine book. Not spectacular, not terrible, but fine.

There are a few reasons why I did not find this to be exceptional:

  • I didn’t anticipate a travel story. I’m not a huge fan of stories that take place on the road, characters who spend their entire lives on the page moving to the interesting stuff. I have read exceptions to this: Prince of Fools was a hit with me, despite the journeying.
  • Yarvi complains a lot. I can see why no one wants him to be king. He is pretty self-centered and self-righteous. I know he has half a hand (half a “__” was repeated about ninety-million times), but he just is spiteful to everyone around him. I know, I’m being insensitive, but he just didn’t do it for me as a main character.
  • S-L-O-W moving, until it isn’t. I don’t want to give anything away, but there is betrayal. Up until that point, we have sulky Yarvi and it just didn’t fly off the page.
  • Characters aren’t that complex. Maybe because this was penned for YA, the author felt that the characters needed to be easier to grasp? If so, that’s not true, and they felt pretty predictable. (Well, except for one character with a surprise!)

And, on the other hand, there are a few reasons why I did not find this to be terrible:

  • Traveling wasn’t easy. So, at least there was hardship along the way for Yarvi and his eventual gang of misfits. The author didn’t make it a care-free trip, and I do appreciate actual struggles being had instead of the threat of it. Make those characters suffer!
  • Yarvi does get some gumption. There is an arc for Yarvi, which was good. He’s definitely not the same character at the end, and that’s another aspect I appreciate in my reads.
  • Fast-paced and doesn’t linger. To counter the above, or rather support the point, once Yarvi is betrayed the story goes along quite nicely. The writing style is really good, and I never felt stuck reading.
  • Characters have interesting dialogue. The interactions between the group was great. Everyone had a distinct voice, and it was true throughout. Obviously the author is well established and respected, and it was obvious that he knew what he was doing in this regard. Also, some memorable one-liners!

For every negative, I have a counter positive point. And that’s a good summary of the book for me. It was the very definition of a three for me, right off of my rating systems page: I had a couple issues with this book that kept me from developing our relationship further, but it was nice to meet it. The book wasn’t a waste of my time.

three rating book review
Would I read it again: No, I can’t say I will.
Will I read the next in the series? Probably not — this seemed to be a good stand-alone novel. It really depends on what the plot of the next book involves.

book reviews by anne engelhart

I haven’t really seen any reviews below a four for this, so don’t just take my word for it! Have you read any books by Joe Abercrombie before? Could you recommend an adult read for me? I hear those are darker and more complex.

2 Responses to “Review: Half a King”

  1. Stephanie

    I gave this one three stars too even though I LOVE Joe Abercrombie. In general I thought the ending of this book was pretty darn fantastic and more typically how I would expect a Joe Abercrombie book to be but the awesome ending didn’t quite fully compensate for all the blah that came before it. Even if the blah was all designed to make the ending kick ass and take names. I wouldn’t let any lack of enthusiasm for this book keep you from picking up The First Law series which I never found boring and which has complex characters and plot to spare.

  2. Anne

    Good, I’m not the only one! I will check out the First Law series — I’ve heard great things about Abercrombie otherwise.

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