|Read (July 13-28, 2014)|
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Number of Pages: 352
Genre/s: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
I love fantasy because of its grandiosity in world-building and characters, and although I don't read much from this genre anymore, I always find myself gravitating towards it whenever I felt like embarking on an epic adventure. As my first Joe Abercrombie fantasy novel, I could say Half A King didn't disappoint.
In a way, Half A King is a tricky novel to judge. I do believe my whining is entirely subjective but it deeply correlates with how I rated this book. It is engaging and gripping, yes, but I never got the urge to finish it like I usually get with a fantasy novel. It probably had something to do with me not being completely invested about Yarvi's quest. Now, don't get me wrong. I rooted for Yarvi and I wanted him to be successful in his revenge. It's just that I never really wanted for him to become a king in the first place. I wanted him to be as far away to the Black Chair as possible. It's a little silly, I know.
Yarvi, our main protagonist, loathes himself and his physical handicap. I am positive that Yarvi's character would endear him to anyone that will read about him. He's a boy broken by his father, the King's angry disappointments, his mother, the Queen's coldness, his brother, the preferred heir's mock-up tolerance and his subject's disregard and contempt for him. He was never good enough for anyone and he had hated himself for the longest time because of this.
“...I spent half my childhood in the shadows. Hiding from my father or my brother. Creeping from one place of solitude to another. Seeing while unseen, and pretending I was a part of what I saw. Making up a life where I wasn't an outcast.”
Yet, we'll come to know how all these will inevitably shape him as he experienced almost never-ending hardships and sufferings in such a short time span. Betrayed by all those he had come to trust, Yarvi unexpectedly became someone who was more suited for power. From a boy who lacked brute strength, he became a man brimming with deep cunning. His thirst to prove himself and fulfill his oath made me realized which ability is more effective—and by extent—more lethal of the two.
“The fool strikes, ...The wise man smiles, and watches, and learns. Then strikes.”
As with a fantasy novel, Half A King presents an array of characters. Yarvi formed an unlikely fellowship among his group of misfits whose luck are as rotten as his. They build an odd relationship that started simply as a necessity but resulted in trust and genuine attachment in the long run. This is the best relationship arc, in my opinion.
“He had been betrayed by his own family, his own people, and found loyalty among a set of slaves who owed him nothing. He was so pathetically glad of it he wanted to weep. But he had a feeling he would need his tears later.”
There's not much world-building here, which I didn't really mind because Abercrombie made up for it with his wonderful characterization. Abercrombie will make you think of his character's actions, and I really appreciated that no character is ever fully good or bad and that Yarvi is no exception. Abercrombie additionally introduces brilliant female characters that are as cunning and clever as the males in this novel. Also, after the readers have traveled with Yarvi and his crew all around the Shattered Sea, the story had somehow managed to come full circle. I love circles, have I told you?
Overall, Abercrombie achieves to write a novel that is as fierce as the best warrior's sword-fighting skills and is as solid as its dialogues. Half A King would greatly appeal to readers of the fantasy genre, no matter what the age group is.