Some books create a visceral reaction in you. “Half a King” did for me. It took me back to my teenage years when I was delving into fantasy, growing up at the same time as my characters in their coming of age tales. It made me think of Garion in ‘Belgariad’ specifically ‘Pawn of Prophecy,’ Rand in the ‘Wheel of Time,’ and Fitz Chivalry in ‘Assassins Apprentice.’ Joe Abercrombie did justice for his main character Yarvi. Yarvi was no ones first choice for King, including his own. He knew he was disfigured and in his own words only half a man and could only be half a king. He’d made plans to enter the ministry but then his father and brother both die. He is left with no options but to become a King to a kingdom of doubters that include himself.
This is not a kind tale where everyone looks at Yarvi’s disfigurement as something to overcome or a challenge he can triumph over. He is looked at as a danger that will sink the country into ruin. He is disposed of by treachery on his first raiding party and left to die. Yarvi survives and becomes a slave. He grows into a man focused on vengeance to fulfill an oath. He’s not a terrible person, but he is a child who must learn to overcome self-pity, childish vengeance at the cost of others, what cunning costs, what must be done to survive, and how and where you find true friends. As in any coming of age tale you don’t always like Yarvi. At times you will find him whiny. Likewise, you will not like every trait of the supporting characters, but the purpose is to learn from them not necessarily like them.
This is the first novel by Joe Abercrombie that I have read. I enjoyed it. I plan on reading the next book when it comes out. It was well written and I felt attachment to characters at the same time I wanted to tear my hair out in frustration at some of their actions. ‘Half a King’ is a well executed first novel of a series, a good portrayal of a young boy who succeeds against all odds, and successfully supports a theme on the consequence of actions. I recommend this for those that enjoy a coming of age tale, and enjoy high fantasy. While it is a story about a young boy I would not place this in the YA genre. There is nothing to cause a parent to be alarmed at their child reading it, however. There is violence and some profanity but it is minimal, and there is no sexual content other than an innocent kiss.
A fellow blogger booksbrainsandbeer gave me a wonderful idea to add links of others I know that did reviews of this book. Almost all are as positive as mine, but here are some links below.
I received a copy of ‘Half a King by Joe Abercrombie from Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group – Del Rey Spectra in return form an honest review.