Review of Half a War – Book 3 of The Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie

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I’ve been following this highly enjoyable series since it started – see my review of Half a King here, and my review of Half a World here. Would this third book maintain the high standard set so far?

halfawarPrincess 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. 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 only Death.

We revisit established protagonists, such as Yarvi, and follow the fortunes of new characters like Skara in this latest slice of the ongoing adventure. This epic fantasy is purportedly on a YA scale and while it certainly isn’t on the doorstopper scale of many fantasy reads, but that doesn’t mean it’s light on characterisation or vivid worldbuilding. I far prefer the tighter focus on a smaller cast and concentration on the narrative drive which makes it a highly readable, engrossing tale.

The joy of a series is watching how characters progress and develop throughout the ongoing story arc. Abercrombie drops in plenty of these moments as we get to follow the fortunes of Thorn, the ferocious female warrior and Brand the smith. But if you haven’t got around to picking up the previous books, Abercrombie has constructed each book such that it can be read as a standalone without too much difficulty.

As the world erupts into war, the sharp-edged humour sprinkling the previous two books is less prevalent in this volume. While there isn’t the visceral edge that ran through Abercrombie’s First Law series, there is still plenty of blood and guts to earn his twitter handle @LordGrimdark. War is a wretched, violent business and while the ballad-singers might put a heroic gloss on it, Abercrombie ensures we aren’t under any illusions as to what the consequences are. And that includes having major characters die.

Having said that, there is enough forward momentum so that I didn’t get too bogged down in all the grimyuk stuff and still thoroughly enjoyed the book. Does Abercrombie continue delivering plenty of surprises and twists? Oh yes. I’ve come to expect a jaw-dropping reveal at the end of each book – it’s become something of a trademark of this series and the one at the end of this adventure is a doozy. However, in order to fully appreciate the fully enormity, you certainly will need to have read Half a King. I’d sort of assumed that this was a trilogy – and now I’m fervently hoping it isn’t as I would very much like a whole lot more. And I want to know if I’m right about where Yarvi is headed…

Yep. This is another great slice in a thoroughly engrossing series and if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, and you enjoy Fantasy adventure featuring sharp point weaponry, then get hold of it.
10/10

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