Within minutes of writing my review of Half a King (the first novel in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea Trilogy), I leapt to my bookshelf and tore Half the World from it, eager to find out what happens next in this fantasy adventure.
Don’t worry, no Half a King spoilers here, but it was clear to the end of the first instalment that a war was brewing. In Half the World we see old friends and new journey far beyond the regions of the first book to recruit allies for the inevitable conflict with the High King, Grandmother Wexen and their One God.
This second novel expands on a world that is cruel and mysterious, savage and wonderful. Despite travelling much further east than in Half a King, meeting ruthless barbarians and pompous glitterati on the way, and despite the sharpening goad of their enemies towards an unwinnable war, Half the World is, for me, a character driven novel.
A few chapters in I realised, and was disappointed to realise, that the main cast of Half a King were not point-of-view characters in Half the World. Most still feature at some point, and Yarvi is still integral – quietly operating towards beguiling potential allies and the completion of his oath – but the two POV characters this time are new… and are probably the two best characters so far in the series.
Both Thorn, a thin, young girl who doesn’t know when to give up fighting, and Brand, a big strapping lad who wants to win a better life for his sister, have war on their minds. Following a horrible accident in the training square, Thorn and Brand end up leaving their home in Thorlby and rowing next to each other at the back oar of Yarvi’s ship, the South Wind. The choices of these compelling shipmates, the trails they face and how they, and their relationship, develop, are the best part of Half the World. More and more this series becomes about the story of people, remarkable in some ways, ordinary in others, and we explore how vastly different beings adapt in troubling times. It is these characters and how they live, how they survive, that makes you read on.
The complicated lives of Thorn and Brand, and the eerie wisdom and mysterious shadow lurking of our old friend Yarvi, make this an exceptional fantasy novel. Many fingers across the Shattered Sea are twitching at their hilts come the end of Half the World. Can Joe Abercrombie deliver a satisfying end to this brilliant series? We will find out later this year with Half a War.
By D. C. Ward
Thanks for reading our review of Half the World. We’re looking forward to reviewing Half a War, the final instalment of the Shattered Sea Trilogy, due out in July. To find out when we post this review, or any other of our reviews, stories or writing guides, please email subscribe or follow us @Sentient_ink
If you haven’t read our review of Half a King yet, there it is. And if you’re enjoying the Joe Abercrombie fantasy series, you may like some of our own fantasy stories: The Demons’ Cry | The Yesterday Key