This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a LONGBOAT, so I’ve selected Half the World – Book 2 of The Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie.
This edition was produced by Del Rey in February 2015. I like the design – the huge wave rising out of the sea, with the breaking surf at the crest morphing into edged weapons. However, I don’t like the monochrome treatment – it looks rather drab and gives the impression that the book is a lot darker than it actually is. And other than that small flourish on the tail of the R, the title font is unforgivably boring.
Published in February 2015 by Harper Voyager, this cover makes my point. I think this one looks sooo much better than the bleak version above. We can fully appreciate the detailing of all those cool weapons, while the deep green water on the face of the wave gives a sense of the power of the sea, even without the plucky Viking boat fighting up it. And the title font is far more appropriately eye-catching – altogether a much better version. It never fails to surprise me how much changing colours can affect the whole feel and tone of a design. This is my favourite.
This edition, published by Harper Voyager in June 2015, is another strong offering. This time around we are on the longship, alongside the heroes as they negotiate a tricky strait. I love the prow of the boat, the back of the protagonist and the ominous sky, giving a sense of tension. The title font is both appropriate and eye-catching – I really like this one.
Produced by Arqueiro in January 2017, this Portuguese edition chooses to focus on the characters rather than the setting. While I think it is well executed and I very much approve of the clean, uncluttered look of the cover – and the fact they choose to let us know that it’s the second book in the series. However, I find the stern-faced, armed female protagonist rather generic.
This Romanian edition, published by Nemira in April 2016 is another attractive, well-crafted offering. However I think the scale is wrong. The longship is beautiful – that gold edging of the sail looks fabulous – but it’s too small and the grandeur of that epic landscape is simply lost. I’m itching to apply a zoom option to this cover, which has so much going for it… Which one is your favourite?
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?
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. 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.