Half a War constituted a great return to the series, and from initially not enjoying Scandinavian-inspired fantasy, I’ve found myself becoming a fan of it. No doubt this is largely a result of Abercrombie’s fantastic writing style, and the sheer brutality of the world. In a book filled with entertaining, bordering on hilarious, moments, the point at which you realise exactly what ‘elf weapons’ are is fantastic. Without wanting to give anything away, a Viking shieldwall advances against something it really shouldn’t.
Abercrombie’s writing continues to be grimdark in the extreme, and I found myself revelling in Yarvi’s Machiavellian-style politics. The sheer cold brutality of his decision-making is enough to provoke goose-bumps at times. As with all of his writing, Abercrombie has dozens of twists, some of which are perhaps predictable, but most come out of nowhere. As usual, the dialogue is fantastic, and the plot includes good twists, brutal reality and gritty fight scenes. A highly enjoyable read.
‘Half a War’, by Joe Abercrombie is the third in the Shattered Sea Trilogy.
Half the World seems more of a ‘coming of age’ story than its predecessor Half a King. Normally I have to say, I’m not a fan of traditional ‘coming of age’ stories, as there are all too many which are badly written or move along at an unrealistic pace, with a farm-boy becoming a weaponmaster overnight, or likewise mastering the arcane arts in scant weeks. Half the World however was good, and I remain a massive fan of Abercrombie’s writing. The ‘coming of age’ story moves at a believable rate, but there are enough swirling subplots alongside it that mean the pace of the book does not drag.
As always with Abercrombie’s writing, there were numerous and varied twists as well. The whole plot seems from about the halfway point to be racing towards one climax with a particular outcome, but it turns out pretty much opposite to the way I expected. It provided a refreshing change. Such was not the only one however. There was a significant change in main characters, with Brand and Thorn becoming the point of view characters in place of Yarvi. This might have seemed jarring, but all the old favourites from Half a King were still both present and central, if not point of view characters.
Aside from this, the further exploration of the world was fascinating, and as a history student, I enjoyed it when I recognized the parallels between the Empire of the South and the later Byzantine Empire, and especially those regarding the politics.
As well as all this, Half the World manages to set up the final book in the trilogy, Half a War in a fantastically epic fashion, and I cannot wait to read it.
‘Half the World’, by Joe Abercrombie is the second in The Shattered Sea Trilogy.
Half a King seems a departure of sorts, from Abercrombie’s earlier style. I very much enjoyed it, as the sense I get, it seems somewhat more refined than his earlier books. It retains the fantastic dialogue, but is not quite as ‘cheeky’ or perhaps ‘immature’(?) as such. His trademark style remains, while also somehow managing to veer towards far more traditional styles as well. I very much enjoyed the amalgamation, and really feel Abercrombie has struck the balance perfectly.
The characters, as always in Abercrombie’s works, are fantastic. In particular I am a big fan of flawed protagonists, especially those which are physically flawed. Aside from Yarvi, the rest of the central group of characters are as colourful as always, and the interactions between them are amazing.
What turned this book from a great book to a fantastic one however was the massive twist at the end. There was no warning whatsoever, and it was so completely unexpected that I had to go back and re-read the preceding pages again, to see if there was any hint whatsoever of what was about to happen. As far as I’m concerned, such an impact can only be a good sign.
‘Half a King’, by Joe Abercrombie is the first in the Shattered Sea Trilogy.
The journey across the Far Country described in Red Country is very reminiscent of an old Western, something which makes me all the more surprised that I enjoyed it so much. I read it almost straight after The Heroes, and enjoyed the presence of more northerners, as well as the return of some old favourites, including Cosca, and a cameo appearance for Shivers. As always, Abercrombie’s characters are fantastic, and I found myself massively enjoying the group dynamic of the small, ragged bunch of extremely colourful and well-developed characters as they travelled through a great deal of adversity, both from nature and human enemies.
As stated in my review of The Heroes, I massively enjoy Abercrombie’s dialogue, which I find very easy to read and very entertaining. It certainly adds something which I have rarely found in any other books. A combination of funny and very blunt, a certain ‘realness’ is brought to his writing that helps readers empathise all the more with his characters. My favourite part of the book is the somewhat macabre battle scene towards the end involving a certain well-known north-man, and I would certainly recommend this book to any lover of the fantasy genre.
‘Red Country’ by Joe Abercrombie is a standalone.
As previously stated, I am a big fan of Joe Abercrombie’s writing. I have enjoyed any and every mention of northmen in all of his books to this point, and so to have a book with so many of them made it immensely enjoyable. I found the book very easy to read and as a lover of military fantasy, massively enjoyed the fact that the entire volume was concerned with just one military engagement between the northmen and the Union. Too often in fantasy books are battles simply over in a few pages, and it was a refreshing change to have something which fully captured the intricacies of an entire military engagements.
The number of subplots maintained throughout the book made for a very satisfying ending, while still leaving room for further exploration. As with all of Abercrombie’s books the characters are very human, something aided by the fantastic dialogue, and this allows readers to empathise with characters much more easily, even if they do turn out to be somewhat fickle at times. The style of writing is another massive aid to this, with its somewhat informal tone making it very easy to read at considerable pace. I would certainly recommend this book to any fantasy enthusiast.
‘The Heroes’ by Joe Abercrombie is a standalone.
A very good, entertaining read. It’s been coming up on five years since I read The First Law trilogy, and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get back to Joe Abercrombie’s writing. While I’m always slightly sceptical about the amount of worldbuilding which can be fit into a standalone book, the way in which Abercrombie manages it is nothing short of artful, revealing the world a little part at a time. While he is aided by the fact that his books are all set in the same world, the level of detail is breath-taking.The style of writing as well makes it very easy and fun to read, with interesting characters.
In terms of content, I do always enjoy –as non-sensical as it might sound- fantasy which does not emphasise magic, as it is all too easy nowadays to find books with poorly thought-out systems. The plot develops very quickly, in the potentially predictable arc of a classic story of revenge. The setbacks encountered are entertaining and unpredictable however, and there is no shying away from maiming main characters – something which, in the least morbid way possible, I also tend to enjoy in books.
In short, I would certainly recommend Best Served Cold, and am looking forward to starting on The Heroes. I cannot believe I’ve managed to read so many other authors without reading Joe Abercrombie again, and it will not be another five years before I read another of his books.
‘Best Served Cold’ by Joe Abercrombie is a standalone.