‘Half the World is the second book in the Shattered Sea Series. The second book in coming of age series typically explore the same protagonist as a new adult swiftly taking it out of the young adult category, but Abercrombie is clever. ‘Half the World’ remains young adult by giving us two new young ones to follow. They provide us new perspectives of Father Yarvi’s and Gettland’s struggles with the High King. Instead of being inside Yarvi’s head we see him through the eyes of new characters, Brand and Thorn. I think it was smart. It allows characters to grow up and accomplish great tasks with the required, realistic maturity needed. We also get to experience a story with a longer ARC than a few years in a traditional young adult format. Brilliant!
We meet Brand and Thorn as they are finishing their training to become warriors. In Gettland, being a warrior touched by Mother War, is esteemed above all else. Thorn as a young woman, I can’t say lady because she discourages the idea, is challenging social norms. Her father died at the King of Vasterland’s hands when she was young and idolized him. She wants nothing more from life than to be just like him. A young woman of Gettland can be touched by Mother War but it is rare and discouraged. She deals with opposition by being prickly, and challenging. She sees everything as a fight but the result of training continually and being unwilling to give up has made her capable. Brand’s challenges are nothing like Thorn’s. His parents both died when he was young, his father was a drunk, and he lived as an orphan caring for his young sister by eating out of the midden heap. Everything he has he earned by doing jobs no one else wanted. Being a warrior he sees as the answer to providing for himself and his younger sister. He is the opposite side of the coin from Thorn. He holds dear to the idea his mother gave him that if you do good it will one day return to you. Thorn holds to the ideals her father molded into her – you have to fight for everything you get.
As fate conspires, these two learn that no matter how hard you work, life isn’t always fair. For different reasons they end up in Father Yarvi’s hands on a mission to find Gettland allies for an inevitable war with the High King, maybe more accurately in a war with Mother Scaer. The road to either war or peace is littered with bodies, and these two young ones learn the world is not black and white. What oaths must you keep and which ones do you have to bend to survive?
Abercrombie did a wonderful job with this book. Their were some awkward moments in his interpretation of a young girl, but being a teenager is awkward. The moments that make you cringe relate to maturation and romance. A part of me was questioning why Abercrombie had to include them but the answer is clear. He is writing young adult fiction and a huge portion of surviving being a teenager is surviving these experiences with all the a gawky and ungainly skill of youth. It made me laugh companionably. I grew to appreciate it.
Aside from the themes of youth, ‘Half the World’ is a compelling story about Gettland’s survival. The politics of war and peace is muddy. Those who are supposed to speak for Mother War and Father Peace are not that different. They just use different weapons. Do you prefer sharpened steel or coercive tactics? Both take force of will. Gettland, for all its strength as a warring nation, is small with enemy’s surrounding her. If they are to succeed in not submitting to the High King they can’t do it alone. Yarvi must find allies in this book. These first two books, aside from individual character themes, appear to be preparation for war of a grand scale in the third.
I was impatient for this book. ‘Half a King’ reminded me of reading coming of age, high fantasy tales when I was a teenager. It was well written. Abercrombie did not disappoint with his second book. I’m just as excited to read the third when it comes out. The Shattered Sea is the first series I have read by Abercrombie but what he has created here makes me want to read more of his work. I’m impressed with what he has brought to young adult fiction with this. It is a creative format for a series. I like the growth and story arc it allows. This second book boosted my already high impression of Abercrombie and The Shattered Sea. I believe anyone should be able to enjoy it.