Published: July 16th 2015 by HarperVoyager
Format: ARC, 497 pages
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Words are weapons.
Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. She must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge if she is to reclaim her birthright.
Only half a war is fought with swords.
The deep-cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head – a man who worships no god but Death.
Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.
Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness...
Half the War concludes the journey we embarked on with Yarvi in Half a King, bringing his tale to its stunning conclusion and reminding us why we love to read Abercrombie’s stories so much. This novel encapsulates the best of Joe’s writing and world-building, and has left me awed and wanting more.
The novel introduces us to three new point of view characters – Raith, Grom-gil-Gorm’s sword-bearer, Skara, princess of Throvenland, and Koll, who we know from Half the World, apprentice to Father Yarvi. The introduction of new characters might throw off some readers, but just as I really liked getting to know Thorn and Brand in Half the World, I loved exploring these new characters in this book. Readers shouldn’t fear – there’s plenty of Yarvi, Thorn, and Brand in this book, and again, it’s fascinating to see these characters from an outsider’s perspective.
Of the three new characters, I liked Skara the most. There was something amazing in the way she conquered, or at least hid, her fears, and mediated between King Uthil and the Breaker of Swords. The Gods know those men aren’t easy to deal with. I spent most of my time feeling sorry for Koll – the smiling boy I loved in Half the World been replaced by a young man who is conflicted by what he owes Father Yarvi, what he owes Brand, what he promised his mother, and what he wants for himself. And then there’s Raith, who had the most heart-breaking story. I really liked Raith.
But it’s Yarvi who will take up everyone’s attention, unsurprisingly – the hero we met in the first book of the series has morphed before our eyes into a creature of darkness. Hard, relentless, remorseless. Or so it seems. This series has always been his story – the other characters come and go, lend support where they can, but The Shattered Sea has always been about Yarvi and his sun and moon oath to avenge his father. Vengeance, whatever the cost. But seeing him change has been hard. Readers will curse him, and in the same breath, sympathise with him, because he is one of most complex and interesting characters to have ever graced the pages of a novel.
The world of The Shattered Sea expands beautifully in this book, and we find out more about the ‘elves’ and the relics they have left behind. I particularly loved the trip into an ‘elf ruin’, where they had to eat ‘beans’ to protect them from the evil that lurks there. One of my favourite things about this post-apocalyptic world is how the characters see the remnants of our society, how they describe what they see and attach meaning to it. It’s both amusing and scary.
There’s death and destruction aplenty in this novel – readers who feared that Abercrombie pulled back a little for a YA audience have nothing to fear. There’s blood, there’s brutality, there’s chaos. The path to vengeance passes over many dead bodies and demands many sacrifices, and this book holds nothing back. Fight scenes are wonderfully choreographed and well executed, the horrors of battle vividly conveyed, and throughout it all, there’s a kind of hopelessness. All this madness is for the greater good, but those words mean different things to different people.
The Shattered Sea series has only gotten better with each book, and I have loved every moment of it. I’m sad to let these characters go, to let this world go, but I’m exceedingly happy to have experienced it. This is the kind of considered, richly imagined, well told YA fantasy that every fan needs in their life.