Half the World (Shattered Sea)
by Joe Abercrombie
Cover Artist: Mike Bryan
Review by Scott Harkless
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780804178426
Date: 17 February 2015 List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War, and Thorn was undeniably one such girl. Thorn fought every day of her life to break free of the patriarchal limits of her society and become a warrior. One day she hoped to avenge her father, instead the day of her final test she is accused of murder. Soon she was sentenced to die, but for the intercession of the King's minister and the word of an honest man. Now she and the honest warrior Brand must put aside their ambitions and sail half the world with the dark minister Yarvi if they are to save their home.
Half the World is a low fantasy story in a similar style to Game of Thrones. There are elements of the fantastic, yet they may be more post apocalyptic than magical. The nation the main characters are from, Gettland, is a Germanic Norse sort of nation for which steel is the answer to all problems.
The focus of the story is on intrigue, what keeps the piece interesting is that the viewpoint characters are somewhat separated from it. We, as readers, can see the board; however we look through the lens of a pawn. The story continues the fight for autonomy from the overreaching High King and his One God from the previous book; yet the change in characters allow us to enter it new.
Thorn as a character is a fairly standard obsessed female warrior who must strive against adversity and also learn to love. Although she fits strongly with the trope, circumstance turns the cliché on its head several times in a rather enjoyable manner.
The same can be said for the male lead, Brand. He's incredibly focused on doing the right thing; but as the story goes on, it is often hard for him to determine what precisely that is. His character arc is fairly predictable, but his natural stoicism and good nature make him a likeable character anyway.
The supporting cast are a mixture of old and new faces. Yarvi from the previous book is no longer the naïve cripple he appeared, but a confident and somewhat sinister master of intrigue. Most of the rest of the cast is likeable but otherwise forgettable. Although the old witch woman and her cheeky son provide the much needed quantities of mysticism and comic relief.
Overall this book has a strong if fairly standard quest narrative. It is perhaps lacking a little in imagination for readers of high fantasy, yet it makes up for this with strong chemistry between its characters and a clever hand for turning tropes on their head. Readers of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones or other enjoyers of low fantasy should probably add this to their reading list.