Half a King, by Joe Abercrombie


The book’s blurb… from Goodreads

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand. The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge. The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

 What I liked…

I’ll admit it, I just didn’t like this book. I found the plot, the dialogue and the fearless wielding of a million fantasy tropes clunky. But as this is the part where I’m positive, I’ll have to dig deep… There is a danger that I’ve really misunderstood this book, and that it is deliberately aimed at an audience I am not part of. Young Adult, perhaps? If so, I can find positives in the pacing and simplicity of the style. It’s a coming-of-age story, the blurb sums it up well enough, and the protagonist suffers from doubt and is filled with righteous vengeance, and if you love that sort of thing, then this is the book for you. The next bit will be longer…

What I didn’t like…

I knew the time would come when I’d have to review something I didn’t like, and I have fretted long and hard about what I should say. I respect Joe Abercrombie, whose First Law books are among my favourite examples of the genre, but I can only say how it feels. I may or may not be right on a lot of this, but it’s how I feel, and if you’re going to review something, then you have to be true to your opinions, right?

The characters seemed very two-dimensional, and the dialogue between them lacked any fizz whatsoever. It was almost like the author was parodying a younger person in prose as much as style, and not enjoying himself when he did so. Joe Abercrombie is a great writer, but this seemed to me to be un-polished and un-cared for. I found it very frustrating to read, and I found myself having to force myself to get to it. The last half took an age to finish. It felt like a bad movie, like those you might catch on the sci-fi channel. Trope-heavy and pedestrian with it, it lacked any punch at all. I think I have definitely misunderstood the point of this book. I am clearly not the intended audience, which is strange, because I don’t mind young-adult stuff, so long as it’s done convincingly. If it’s not young-adult, why does it feel like it’s trying to be? I am confused!

The world built to encompass this book starts off being intriguing, but ends up fading into a mish-mash of  blah, and all of it feels as though the author simply did not give it his all. It all felt formulaic and derivative. I know there are plenty of reviews of this that love it, but there is no way I can be one of them. Apologies feel necessary…!


I prefer to think that Joe Abercrombie is trying out something particular I just don’t get. I am going to re-read the Three Laws now, as I know full well they feature everything lacking in Half a King. I am very disappointed.


Can’t believe I’m doing this to a Joe Abercrombie book! 2.5/5


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