Half A King by Joe Abercrombie | Book Review

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

Half A King by Joe Abercrombie | Book ReviewHalf a King by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea #1
Published by Random House LLC on 2014-07-15
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Sagas
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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“A fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”—George R. R. Martin“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 that his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.Advance praise for Half a King   “Half a King is my favorite book by Joe Abercrombie so far, and that’s saying something.”—Patrick Rothfuss   “As in all Abercrombie’s books, friends turn out to be enemies, enemies turn out to be friends; the line between good and evil is murky indeed; and nothing goes quite as we expect. With eye-popping plot twists and rollicking good action, Half a King is definitely a full adventure.”—Rick Riordan   “Enthralling! An up-all-night read.”—Robin Hobb   “Polished and sharp, perhaps his most technically proficient novel yet . . . I dare you to read the first chapter and try not to turn the next page.”—Brent Weeks   “Half a King can be summed up in a single word: masterpiece. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a Viking saga. It’s a revenge tale and family drama and the return of the prodigal son. But most of all, it’s this: a short time alongside people as weak and blundering as we are and, in the midst of it all, as heroic. Far too short a time, as it turns out. What a wonderful book.”—Myke Cole   “Half a King is full of all the adventure I’ve come to expect from Abercrombie and a tenderness I never knew he had.”—Sam SykesFrom the Hardcover edition.

I really wanted to love Half A King by Joe Abercrombie, given all the blurbs by fantasy authors that I love. Unfortunately, I am not very impressed with Half A King. A few reviews that I’ve seen have stated that perhaps this isn’t the best book because it’s a young adult book. However as a frequent reader of young adult fantasy as well as epic fantasy, I can’t help but think that a certain something, a certain spark feels missing from Abercrombie’s young adult debut.

Half A King follows young Prince Yarvi as he goes from studying to be a minister to being crowned king of Gettland after the death of his father and brother. Unfortunately, Yarvi is not king for long and finds himself betrayed by someone very close to him. Yarvi is sold into slavery and much of the book revolved around Yarvi rowing a boat while only having one working hand and plotting his vengeance. With the help of a ragtag crew, Yarvi undertakes an incredible journey to restore his birthright. I will say, one thing I really enjoyed about Half A King was the plotting. I thought it was fantastic and contained a lot of action and high points. The plot is not convoluted and quite easy to follow.

Unfortunately, the characterization leaves a bit to be desired. I kind of felt disconnected from the main character. I felt like this book was overly simplistic and just never really explored different emotional scenes. Like, I would start to connect to the main character Yarvi because he was feeling something, but then the book would just move on instead of following the emotion to a logical conclusion. I guess the best way I can describe it is that the book felt really sort of abrupt. As for character attributes, Yarvi is a pretty good guy. He’s very thoughtful and considerate. He works hard to overcome his lack of a hand which plays a huge role in the story, but he’s no Eugenides (from The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner). Yarvi is definitely not a tough guy at all. That’s okay though. I liked that he didn’t look like a typical hero. I liked that Yarvi relied on his education and his brains instead of brawn. That stated, aside from Yarvi, main characters include a slave called Nothing, another slave name Juad. There’s a female navigate named Sumael who plays quite the interesting role. However, the characters were overwhelmingly male, not that there is anything wrong with this. However, I would have personally liked more female characters.

As for the world building, Half A King by Joe Abercrombie seems to be based on a Viking world. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around picturing the world, though. There’s not a map included in the edition that I read. A map likely would have helped in picturing Yarvi’s journey. As for sociology of Abercrombie’s Shattered Seas world, I liked the use of ministers to advise. It was neat seeing how ministers gain their positions (by taking a test) and how valued they are in this society. In addition, I liked the idea of the Black Chair which is what the kings of Gettland sit upon. Although, it sounds a lot like the Iron Throne. Further, there is an interesting discussion of slavery which is a part of Yarvi’s world. We see Yarvi develop from a  character who does not give a care either way about slavery, to someone who actually considers the issue.

As for Abercrombie’s writing, well, this was a fast read. The pacing works well for the story. However, it wasn’t one that I thought about while not reading. I was never so enamored by Half A King that it crossed my mind during times where I could not read it. I would recommend Half A King to people who are already fans of Joe Abercrombie and for people who want fantasy about unlikely heroes and the triumph of underdogs.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Darn it! I was hoping this would be great. I already have it on my TBR and it’s blurbed by George RR Martin 🙁 I’ll still give it a chance and see what I think.

    • I think that’s a good idea — you might like it better than me. Like, this book reminded me a tiny bit of The Wizard Of Earthsea which I also did not love but a lot of other people think it’s the greatest ever.

  2. I love the cover, but I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought you would. It’s sad!
    Also, I love the new look, April and Allison!

  3. When the blurb is mostly recommendations from other writers, I tend to avoid the book, and this looks like no exception to the rule. Sad, I really do love that cover.