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Joe Abercrombie

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Review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie at SFSignal

Review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie at SFSignal

My review of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie has been posted by the wonderful, bagel-loving JohnD over at SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:


REVIEW SUMMARY: The world-building is not as deep asBest Served Cold and The First Law trilogy, and there is a bit of a quick twist at the end but Half a King is a fast paced enjoyable read.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Yarvi, second son of a King, born with only a partial arm, is heading for the ministry when both his father and older brother are killed. As King, he is quickly betrayed, and must survive on his wits as he plots his vengeance.

PROS: Fast paced, with Abercrombie’s expected action and bleak world.
CONS: Not much new in the setting as the world is similar to Abercrombie’s other novels; ending has a convenient twist; could have been an awesome fantasy.
BOTTOM LINE: The world feels familiar, the revenge theme is present again, the ending a bit rushed…but if you enjoyed the worlds of Best Served Cold and The First Law trilogy, you’ll enjoy Half a King, the first novel in the Shattered Seatrilogy as well.

Joe Abercrombie’s world’s are harsh. There is no middle class, only Royalty and those associated with Royalty and the poor, the slaves, the wretched, living in the mud (many of them going “back to the mud”).

So what can Abercrombie do to make one of his world’s worse? He makes one of his lead characters handicapped. Not “Nine Fingers” handicapped but half an arm, unable to hold a shield, in the usual harsh Abercrombie-esque world where warriors rule. Then he makes him a King, and then a slave.

Yarvi is second in line for the throne. With birth deformities which keep him from being a warrior like is father and older brother, he is trained for the “ministry”, to be educated as an advisor to Kings. But when his father and brother are both murdered, he future changes direction and he must try to prove himself a warrior.

His shield was lashed tight about his withered forearm with a sorry mass of strapping, and he clung to the handle with his thumb and one stub of a finger, are already burning to the shoulder from the effort of letting the damn thing dangle.

He gets his butt kicked in the training ground, challenges his opponent again (who is the same age, but well-trained), then selects a champion to take his place. The champion promptly returns the butt kicking that Yarvi received.

“That was ungenerous, my king,” said Uncle Odem, falling into step at his shoulder. “But not unfunny.”

“I’m glad I made you laugh,” grunted Yarvi.

“Much more than that, you made me proud.”

Yarvi glanced sideways and saw his uncle looking back, calm and even. Always he was calm and even as fresh-fallen snow.

“Glorious victories make fine songs, Yarvi, but inglorious ones are no worse once the bards are done with them. Glorious defeats, meanwhile, are just defeats.”

Yarvi is smart but inexperienced, so it is little surprise that, on an invasion to avenge his father and brother, he is betrayed, attacked, and left for drowned as his jumps into the sea. Sold into slavery, he vows revenge and must use his wits to try to escape and seek vengeance.

Without spoilers, the rest of the book follows Yarvi, who was a protected part of the Royals/upper class world, as he works to survive with the dregs of the Shattered Sea world, as a less-than-two-armed slave on a boat that takes him to parts of the world he has only read about, meeting people from other lands.

ALthough this new series has similar themes and action as Abercrombie’s other series, it doesn’t have the depth in the world building. There were lots of characters (like the folks they meet in the snowy north) and parts of the world that were interesting but were touched on briefly as the story rushed on. Yarvi’s “oar-mates” and the other people on the ship are the deepest, most enjoyable characters in the book, but many others were not given much time on the page. At 350 printed pages, it is quite a bit skinnier than each of The First Law books (which were 500-600 pages each). And there is a bit of a twist in the end; maybe I’m getting slow in my old age and missed the foreshadowing.


Read the entire review at the two-time Hugo-award-winning SFSignal.com.

Review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie on SFSignal

Review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie on SFSignal

My review of Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is up at SFSignal.


Set in the world of Abercrombie’s The First Law series, Best Served Cold has no sorcery like that series, but does turn some magic in making a seemingly ordinary revenge story into multiple interesting character studies wrapped in a few bloody messes. I was certain I had figured out the plot and ending multiple times, only to be pleasantly surprised by unpredictable characters…and not by convenient out of character jumps. Now where did I put the third book in The First Law series?

General Monzacarro Mercatto, the Butcher of Caprile, the Snake of Talins, victor in many battles, returns with her brother Benna to the castle of Duke Orso, who wants to be King of Styria. In minutes, her brother is slain and she is left for dead, by a Duke who is worried that she is becoming more popular than he, and will try to take his throne. Nursed back to health by an unknown savior, Monza vows revenge against the Duke and the six (including his sons) who helped in the betrayal.

To achieve said revenge, Monza surrounds herself by a motely but interesting crew:

  • Friendly, the counting convict;
  • Morveer, the misunderstood poisoner, and Day, his ever-eating female apprentice, who may be getting better than the master;
  • Caul Shivers, the Northman (who knows the Bloody-Nine from the series) come to Styria to make himself “a better man”. Shivers makes an appearance in Before They Are Hanged, book two of The First Law (and don’t tell me if he’s in book three, it’s in my reading pile!);
  • Vitari, the female torturer, who is also in Before They Are Hanged;
  • General Cosca, who led the Thousand Swords before Monza, and became a drunk, drowning his past;
  • Monzacarro Mercatto (sounds like a race car), the victim and revenge seeker…or is it the other way around?

Read the entire review (with comments about The First Law series) here.

My son and I review a book without throwing food at each other

SF Signal asked me to review Kevin J. Anderson’s forthcoming novel Enemies & Allies, The Dark Night meets the Man of Steel. My son Josh and I have been into Justice League and the rest of the DC and Marvel universes since he was born. So we turned this into a “joint dialog review”, with only a few age jokes and jabs (but no throwing of food).

You can see the review on the SF Signal Web Site.

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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