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Half A War (The Shattered Sea Series) Audio CD – July 28, 2015
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About the Author
Joe Abercrombie is the author of Red Country and the First Law trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings. He is a full-time writer and freelance film editor.
- Publisher : Recorded Books, Inc. and Blackstone Publishing; Unabridged edition (July 28, 2015)
- Language : English
- Audio CD : 1 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1664422943
- ISBN-13 : 978-1664422940
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Abercrombie is a fantastic writer who describes scenes, emotions, battles, etc all extremely well. I would rank him in the top 5 fantasy writers of all time that I am familiar with (Tolkien, Martin, Rothfuss, Staveley being the other 4)
He writes extremely human characters, not archetypes
His books are not super predictable
He has an extremely realistic, gritty feel for fantasy
He doesn't take forever to finish his series, he has 2 solid series out that are totally complete
I would give the first 2 books in the series 5 stars
For point of reference I would give The First Law Trilogy - his other series - 5 stars
Here are some things you may not like depending on your taste:
This is an incredibly low magic world. The only magic thing is that a few birds can speak and that really has no part in the story, I think he was going to do something with that in book one and then never developed it.
Because the characters are incredibly human like and not archetypes, at least to me that makes it hard to like or hate them, they kind of are what they are. I don't aspire to be like them and I don't look up to them and personally in fantasy I look for that.
Good and evil is extremely blurred. Something like Star Wars or Harry Potter has very clear good and evil, Game of Thrones is pretty clear, but in this it is all about perspective. There might be one character you can say is truly 'good' in the whole story and she isn't introduced until book 3.
And here is what really pissed me off: SPOILER ALERT
There are guns in the story. Not just one gun, not some old arquebus that fires an inaccurate shot once a day, I mean M-16's and grenade launchers. To his credit he does just about as good a job as one could do including them and describing them and the horrors they can inflict, but personally I don't pick up sword and sorcery novels and read through 700 pages of knights fighting with sword and shield to have main characters ultimately blown away by an M16.
My advice to the author. Don't be afraid of an archetype here and there. They are overplayed by B level writers, in the hands of someone as skilled as you a classic storyline could become truly brilliant. Give me a character I can admire who fights evil and does good in an interesting way, throw in a bit of magic, and let's keep it medieval and not post nuclear. Would it be so bad to have a story hailed as "The Next Lord of the Rings?"
Half a War begins with the narrative of young princess Skara of Throvenland. After witnessing her homeland put to the torch and her grandfather the king and his minister viciously murdered by Bright Yilling - a ruthless warrior of the High King's army - she narrowly escapes death with the help of the old pirate Blue Jenner. Together they flee to neighboring Gettland and seek refuge with Queen Laithlin, King Uthil, Father Yarvi, and many other characters we met in the previous two books. As Gettland and Vansterland still struggle to look beyond their long-standing wars with each other and try to forge a very shaky alliance against the High King's armies, Princess Skara finds that she may be the glue that can bring them together....if only she can overcome her fears, find her own voice, and become the leader she was destined to be for Throvenland and her people.
We also follow fearless young warrior Raith - a proud, reckless killer and King Grom-gil-Gorm's sword bearer, as he is forced to confront the terrible ghosts of his past and make difficult decisions that may ultimately change the course of his life.
And then there is Koll, the young master wood carver and Father Yarvi's apprentice to the Ministry, who must try to look beyond what others expect from him and decide what it is he really wants - love or the ministry - and how he can change the world no matter which decision he makes.
Through these three narratives, the big picture of the inevitable war with the High King and Grandmother Wexen is told and finally comes to a head. And all hell breaks loose. If you think you know what's coming and if you think you know who the real enemies are, think again. Everything is NOT as it seems. And that's one of the reasons I think this is the best book of the three. Abercrombie spins this tale with superb skill and all of the pieces finally come neatly together, but perhaps not how you might think they will.
As always, Abercrombie is the master of some of the greatest, bloodiest battle scenes you'll ever read, and this book is no exception even though it's YA. These battles will play out in your mind like they would on a big screen as you're reading them, which makes for some bloody great reading if you're heavily into action.
Great narratives, solid, interesting characters, superb writing, a fantastic plot, and rich storytelling made this one of the best books I've read this year. A brilliant ending to a great series! Highly recommend.
The third is good until the very end. In fact, it was headed to "Great!".
Then, suddenly ... within a chapter, the story collapses. The author completely corrupts 3 volume theme of ‘good’ vs ‘evil’. Did the publishers time run out for this 3rd installment? Turn principal characters from 'good' into 'bad' after 3 books? Destroy them in the last few pages? Certainly ends the book fast.
The trilogy makes absolutely no sense in the whole. Most beastly bad ending ever from among the genre’s top writers.
Of no social value. Deceit and fraud is the strength of the ‘heroes’? You gotta be kidding me. No lessons to be learned here. It's just wrong.
Lots of backstabbing, lots of final twists, which quite frankly are such a staple in the author's books by now they no longer surprise. But hey its still an interesting read, the new characters are complex and fascinating and in the end war, war never changes.
Top reviews from other countries
Yarvi, for example, the main character of the whole series. He starts out as the victim, and it his oath of revenge that drives the plot throughout - but along the way he makes victims of a great many other people, some of them as innocent as he was at the beginning. And he himself is changed by that oath, not always in ways he likes.
This gritty realism is one of Abercrombie's great strengths as a writer, but it does make for some bleak conclusions. However, he also manages to weave in a thread of hope. Not all choices take people on downward paths. Sometimes, it is possible to stand in the light - even in the dark world of the Shattered Sea.
Another strength is his world building, and the way the plot is seamlessly integrated with that. The way things happen in the Shattered Sea can only happen in just that way because of the sort of world it is, which gives the entire story an authenticity that less well crafted fantasy fails to achieve. As in the 'magic' of this world - which we as readers recognise quickly isn't magic at all, but a technology not very different from our own. Given the clues scattered throughout the text, we soon understand more about this worlds past than those living in it. But to them it is magic (in accordance with Arthur C Clarke's law that 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic') and it is greatly feared - with the result that ancient weapons are still available and their use is crucial.
One bit of the world building which I felt was less successful than the others was religion - though the background and practices of the various religions and the conflicts between them are well thought out and integrated. But none of the main characters are significantly affected. They are all atheists or agnostics, in their thinking if not in their profession. When they struggle with decisions, or ethical dilemmas, their religion impacts their thinking only superficially, if at all. Yet in places where there is a strong a vibrant religious element, everything is affected by it: the spiritual is woven into every part of life. I don't see that in Abercrombie's characters.
But this is only a small caveat, and in no way spoiled my enjoyment of a masterful piece of storytelling.
Words are weapons
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.
Only half a war is fought with swords
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 no god but Death.
Sometimes one must fight evil with evil
Some – like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith – are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others – like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver – would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her iron wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.
Abercrombie follows his established method for the Shattered Sea and introduces us to new point of view characters for this third volume. To my mind this time they're not quite as strong as in previous entries. The almost caricatured naivety of Skara is just plain annoying but she does develop thankfully. This is only exacerbated by the the stereotypes that are Raith (cock sure warrior) and Koll (cocky minister in training). Again they do receive development but for me it was too late as I'd already made my decision on them. Maybe I'm being unfair to Abercrombie and these characters because the protagonists in the other books were, and are, so strong but hey-ho.
Right, on to the story, as the title and synopsis say "only half a war is fought with swords". The other half is fought with politics, so much politics, all the politics. Don't misunderstand it wasn't boring, there was just so much of it. Mind you there was enough fighting for even the most blood thirsty reader to get their fill.
I particularly enjoyed that the grey rather than black and white morality was explored more in this book. Decisions were made and outcomes were unexpected to both the reader and the characters. Plans are made that do not go as expected, outcomes once seen as a win become more dubious as time goes on. There's a quite a bit of talk about the greater good (and by extension the lesser evil) in this book and you just know anyone who talks like that is in for a world of pain when the dust settles.
I think this is probably the weakest of the three novels in the trilogy but it is by no means a bad book. Over all I would say it's the best ending any of the characters could expect even if it's not what they deserve. Read the whole trilogy you won't be disappointed.
My other reviews https://waylander101.blogspot.com/
My big hope had been that a visit to the forbidden island of the Elves would have delivered a new level of intrigue but alas it turned out to be nothing more than a vehicle in which to guarantee a superiority in order to end the story: an opportunity spurned.
A sentence that will some up my summary review for, when in full flow, characterisation and humour are powerful tools in the author's work box. More plot, a deeper world, more technological, historical, thaumaturgical, and cultural backstory could propel Mr Abercrombie to the next level. Be brave!
Having really enjoyed the first book; 'Half A King', which focussed on a main character of Yarvi, I expected the second book, 'Half The World', to continue the story with Yarvi as the main character. When, instead, it introduced a new main character in Thorn Bathu, while keeping Yarvi as a significant player, I found this writing device to be fresh, interesting and a delight. Prepared as I was, then, I wasn't too surprised to find that the story continues in 'Half A War' with a new central character and, again, Yarvi and Thorn Bathu are there too in significant roles. If I think about it, many good authors use this device but most do it through huge books, such as GRR Martin's Ice & Fire series wherein each chapter focusses on one character with almost no link to the earlier folk. Joe Abercrombie's version of this device works strikingly well.
Like the other two books, what makes these so good is the combination of a rich depth of well developed characters that move through a dynamic story filled with gory action and all backed by a thoughtful sub-text that allows heroes to 'go bad' and villains to redeem themselves. No monochrome here but infinite shades of tone and colour.
One criticism that I picked up from a reviewer was that Mr Abercrombie kills off important characters in careless fashion. Having read it for myself, I understand what was meant by this as at least two of the more significant characters (hero and sort-of-villain) die in ways that, to me, don't seem to fit their character. If, at the end of a Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film the villain just died of old age or choked on a pretzel, we'd all be disappointed. And the amusing scene in the Indiana Jones film that has Harrison Ford simply shooting a sword twirling thug rather than engaging in a full-on fight only worked because the recipient of the bullet was an unknown thug and not a major character. Yet that's the tone of a couple of events in 'Half A War'. There are, however, a couple of mitigating considerations. Firstly, one of the major successes of books like this is that the reader recognises a very real possibility that the hero might, actually, die, generating a proper sense of jeopardy. I dislike fantasy books that use too much 'magic' as, even if a hero dies, he/she can simply be magically brought back to life. Joe Abercrombie always stays on just the right side of this line. Secondly is a tenuous connection to real life; a strange thing to say about a fantasy novel I know. Yet, by inserting a few mundane events, it makes the more bizarre events that bit more believable. Ernest Tidyman was a prolific and hugely successful author who, among other triumphs, wrote the series of books using 'Shaft' as his private detective hero, translated into several blockbuster films (and some less-blockbuster too). When Mr Tidyman decided that the time had come to kill off his hero, before he became stale, he did it by waiting until the very end of a novel and, after surviving yet another adventure and emerging the hero, an exhausted Shaft enters the lift to his apartment only to be meaninglessly knifed to death by a totally unconnected drug-fuelled youth in an amateur mugging. Shocking as this was, I think that it was entirely appropriate for that series of books. So I'll forgive Mr Abercrombie his brutally inappropriate ends of a few characters.
But is this the end? Part of the brilliance of these books is the slow turning of characters from hero to, well, if not villain, then at least a less attractive character. So, at the end, the monsters have been vanquished but only to be replaced with fledgling new monsters. Perhaps I'm clutching at straws but the never-actually-seen monster of Grandmother Wexxen vanished from the story in an ambiguous manner. And many of the characters arrive at the end of this book with a conclusion of one saga but looking at a beginning of all sorts of other stories. There is also the matter of villain-turned-hero characters too. Unlike other novels at least one of these survives to sail away into the sunset. Really? Is Joe Abercrombie going to leave all of these delicious inventions to fade into memory or will there be a resurrection that prevents this 'Half' series from becoming a trilogy?
I do so hope so 'cos I've loved all three of these and I would welcome another episode with open arms.
Raith is an interesting addition, a less complex version of Thorn in some ways, he adds some humour in his mindless violence.
And Skara is another unusual choice for a character who grows into strength as the plot progresses.
The politics from the previous stories finally comes to a conclusion and all of Yarvi's plots and the introduction of elf weapons acts as a smart way of turning the war on its head. There is plenty of action too as we get to the final conflict to resolve everything.
The pace is quick and there are a few twists and turns, certainly some unexpected deaths, and the ending is intelligent.
Yarvi was a good character, utterly ruthless and intelligent, and the change in him right at the end is a small sour note, he seems to change too easily.
A good conclusion to a good series, less humour than previous books but still good.