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Review #8: Half the World

Today I'll be reviewing one of the books read this summer, Half the World, the second book of the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. While a war brews between the people living on the shores of the Shattered Sea, each book focuses on a different set of characters and the role they play in the battles and political tensions growing around them. Half a World focuses mainly on Thorn Bathu, a girl set on becoming a warrior for Gettland despite it usually only being a job for men. She will barely manage to escape execution for her ambition and will have to embark on a desperate journey to save her country, alongside other rejects like her, such as the orphan Brand or the witch Skifr, all lead by the cunning minister of the king, Father Yarvi.

We're in a world inspired by the vikings and the northern people and Joe Abercrombie was very good in writing the story in a language appropriate to the setting. The group of rough, hard men traveling alongside Thorn swear, fight and make sexual jokes and it's something that made the characters really come to life for me but that not all readers appreciate. The language spans from that to very epic-sounding catchphrases that can sometimes result as a bit too much. Thorn herself is a gruff and violent girl who is initially difficult to like but that throughout the story you start to find it impossible to not support her and her crazy journey, despite all her edges.

I think the great asset of this book was the realism that made it believable despite it being a fantasy and that really gets a reader enveloped in its world. It's not a perfect happy ending, the road is full of uncomfortable difficulties and the characters keep their flaws, even the bad ones, until the end. But no light comes without darkness and it's only through those imperfect sides that the characters can really become who they're meant to be. The main romantic subplot was one of the most well executed I've read in a while, despite it not being very promising in the beginning and the final battles had me reading the last 100 pages in one sitting. The voyage part of the book, which is usually the most boring part for me, was fast paced and entertaining.

It's also worth mentioning that most of the characters are morally gray. No one is fully a hero and no one is fully a villain and that's another side that makes this such particular read. Perfect example for this is Father Yarvi, the minister who narrates the first book in the trilogy and that we now get to see from the outside as he keeps fighting for his goals and what he calls the "lesser evil." Love him or hate him, Father Yarvi is one of the smartest men to ever live in the Shattered Sea and a daunting enemy to have against you.

Half the World is great for readers who like fast, adventurous reads and unconventional main characters. It is not a book for everyone but I found myself highly enjoying it and buying the third volume of the trilogy the same day!



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