Book two of the Shattered Sea series
By Joe Abercrombie
Available now from Del Rey (Penguin Random House)
Read my review of Half a King
Joe Abercrombie returns to the world of the Shattered Sea for another globe-trotting adventure. This time the heroes are Thorn, a prickly young woman who wants to be a warrior like his father, and Brand, a young man who wants to be a warrior to secure a life for himself and his sister. Both of them are from Gettland, and their lives become entwined when Thorn accidentally kills another warrior-in-training during an exercise.
Gettland's growing power does not sit easily with the High King. Therefore, Father Yarvi needs to gather up a crew to go find allies for Gettland, if only to prevent his country from being easily subjugated. Thorn and Brand, of course, become two of them members of his crew.
I preferred HALF THE WORLD to HALF A KING. Some of it might be as simple as the fact that the world is more established and less time can be spent building it up. Some of it is the prickly relationship between Thorn and Brand, which I loved. Some of it was getting to see an outside view of Yarvi, who is a few years older and now a minister. From the outside, his ongoing quest for vengeance is a bit more oblique. Other characters from HALF A KING also make an appearance, but the fact that HALF THE WORLD focuses on new protagonists means that it can be read without knowledge of the first book.
I loved getting to see more of the politics of the Shattered Sea. The alliances between countries are delicate things, honor less of a binding promise than gold. I also liked that there was plenty of action to liven up passages between the negotiations. The pace of HALF THE WORLD is very solid, and made me forget just how long the book was as I read.
Thorn's growth as a character appealed to me too. At the beginning of the novel, she's impulsive, rude, and expects combat to be rule-bound and fair. She has to learn self control and improve her skills to be an effective fighter, because a small girl can't take on a large man if she tries to beat him with brute strength. Brand has some lessons to learn too, although the changes in his character are less drastic.
HALF THE WORLD is a fun novel for fantasy fans, full of swashbucking and double-crossing and a mix of personal and political triumphs. I am looking forward to the third book and hope that the Shattered Sea series keeps improving.