Joe Abercrombie goes in swords and axes swinging in his third volume of the Shattered Sea series of Young Adult novels. War looms over Father Yarvi, Thorn Bathu, and Gettland through the eyes of three new point-of-view characters for a novel that is closest in tone to The First Law trilogy. Only detraction is the non-stop action and abrupt ending leaves Half A War with less room for moments of character development but otherwise satisfying conclusion. Read more for spoilers.
Where Half A King disappointed, Half the World picked up the pieces to build up the world and tell the story of Thorn Bathu and Brand while seeding a grander story for war against the High King in order to fulfill Father Yarvi’s sun-oath and moon-oath to be revenged upon his father and brother’s killers.
The book suffers but isn’t completely undone by its pacing. Everything happens so quickly from the moment the book begins that there is no time to breathe, take in what has happened, and reflect on what the consequences might be before they happen. It’s as if it was a part two to a two-parter episode of a television show, except all your favorite characters are now in the background.
To conclude his Shattered Sea trilogy three new point-of-view characters, Raith, Skara, and Koll (Ankron’s son seen in the previous book.) Like Thorn and Brand, Raith and Koll work as a point-of-view character because they’ve come from lower class worlds into a higher one with kings and ministers. On the other hand, Skara suffers from the same problems as Yarvi did in the first. She’s queen, she’s clever, and that combination can leave the reader feeling they know her goals will be met. The difference is, her main goal of regaining Throvenland occurs before the novel is halfway over. Unless her goal is revenge against Bright Ylling. If that’s the case she was a passive participant behind Father Yarvi, who is the one to kill Ylling uses the elf-relics. Skara will have her moment later on but whether the reader is more interested in her or Yarvi’s part at that moment can be debated.
The difference between the coming-of-age tales of these characters compared to Thorn, Yarvi, and Brand is that while the first three point-of-view characters were searching for their place in the world Raith, Koll, and Skara are struggling with decisions involving their place in the world. For each of them, their resolution comes when they decide for themselves what they feel is right rather than what others do.
Their decisions though are outshined by Father Yarvi’s and the revelations around them. His wisdom, cunning, and ruthlessness casts a shadow of a much older person over the twenty-one-year-old minister. So much so that I forgot how young he was until his confrontation with Skara at the end of the book. He’s sixteen in the first book, nineteen in the second. Therefore, if Koll was fourteen in the second and is now the same age as Yarvi was when he was learning to become a minister we can assume two years have passed since Half the World. That shadow falls at the end of the book and when it does it is the first glimpse of the Yarvi we knew returned again. Freed of the weight of his oath he is left now with the weight of his decisions.
There. There are my thoughts and criticisms of Half A War by Joe Abercrombie in coherent sentences. Now, let’s talk about elf-relics guys. Elf-relics are fucking guns. They’re guns, and we’re the elves. Where the hell did that come from? Why? Yarvi’s cane was a gun the entire time. The magic Skifr uses is a gun or some kind of explosive. What is wrong with Strokom that all of Rolf’s crew died there? Is it radioactive or full of pollution? Those beans Skifr, Yarvi, Mother Scaer, and Koll take, are they pills from our time? What the fuck? A quick google search shows other people picked up on this beforehand but man, I had no idea.