Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read it straight through. Immediately wanted more. Abercrombie has a distinctive storytelling voice here, cultural mores woven seamlessly into narrative, like listening to a saga that reveals reality instead of romance. The blood, guts, and gore are here, but they are not gratuitous. One is at the same time living the story but grateful to be in a modern world with running water and machines.
The culture of Half a King is analogous to the old Norse, or older. The story is like all old stories, with men clashing, thrones lost and won, heirs lost and found. In this story, the prince is a reluctant king, being an introvert and trained from youth for the Ministry--meaning Administration. He'd rather be beside the throne than in it. But he is a man of his culture, and attempts to step up to the job--but others do want the kingship, and thusly the story starts.
Kudos for the strong, well-written women characters--there are a few. There is adventure, deception, merchantry, and personal growth. Stories are how we learn to live in the world, and there are some fine lessons here, lessons for heart and mind. This would make a great compare and contrast with Goblin Emperor; two young men with thrones unsought, two different but similar worlds, two different takes on duty and right behavior. Two different books marketed as YA and yet achieving far more range and power than typical coming-of-age stories. Highly recommended for mature teens and adults.
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