The Shattered Sea Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

In the Shattered Sea trilogy, each book has a different protagonist, but they all appear in various capacities in all three books. The books in the series are:

Half of a King

Half the World 

Half a War

The protagonist in Half a King is Yarvi, the youngest son of the king and queen. He was born with a deformed hand, so, of course, he is seen as weak and not fit for the throne. After some tragic events he goes on a quest to find himself and to seek some revenge. We see him come to the beginning of his power by the end of the book, which leads us into the second book, Half the World.

In Half the World the protagonist is Thorn, the daughter of a warrior who gets herself into a fine mess, and goes on a sea voyage to the southern empire, where she helps her country secure help from a powerful empire. Yarvi makes some appearances here, and you get to see how far he has come since the last book.

Finally, we come to Half a War, where we have yet another protagonist, Skara. Skara is the princess without a kingdom, and she must make alliances to try to rebuild her kingdom, while also taking part in the war against the big bad of the series. Yarvi and Thorn are also in this book.

I have not read Joe Abercrombie’s other works, and I know that this one is definitely more YA than his First Law trilogy. I won’t say that I was disappointed- I liked the first book well enough. The pacing was good, and it was a nice page turning adventure. There’s not a lot of detail to the world, but there’s just enough to keep things interesting, and to provide the proper context for the action. If the rest of the series had kept Yarvi front and center, I would have liked it more. He was an interesting character with motivations that went beyond the “I must prove them wrong about my disability!”. He knew his limitations (personal and societal) so he went itnthe direction that he needed to go, and found a new, better path to power.

When we get to the second book, that’s when I had trouble. There was a big gap between my readings of the first and second books, so my memory was a little fuzzy, but the second book didn’t seem to move anything along as far as the plot goes. It was very much focused on developing the characters which is fine, but I found myself a bit lost. More than likely because I had forgotten a few things from the first book, but I didn’t have a firm grip on the plot. Lots of new characters, and mostly new places, were introduced, and I had trouble following who was who, and what country was on what side, and what the whole reason was for this mess in the first place. Even at the end, I still wasn’t absolutely sure what was going on. There was a long journey to the south to get an alliance but I couldn’t tell exactly what the good guys got out of it. And there was a very YA romance thrown in there too.

Then, there is Half a War. This started out much better, and I felt that we were finally getting back to the plot. Still more countries and places are introduced, and I found that I needed to just not get too bogged down in trying to figure out where everyone was and who was who. I had to just roll with it, so I did. The protagonist, Skara, was likable, although the princess who has to learn to be a queen of course is nothing new. There was a romance thrown in here too, but I liked that it didn’t end unrealistically, or with a convenient plot twist or reveal, like many others would have. There is a revelation that took me a bit by surprise, probably because I wasn’t able to remember any possible clues that came out in previous books, but I thought it was a nice twist. It kind of made the ending somewhat abrupt (and also made me wonder why they didn’t do what they did sooner), but it was ok. Not very much to go on with that, but, there it is.

Overall, I liked Half a King and Half a War, and could’ve done without Half the World.

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