“Where do we find allies?"
Father Yarvi smiled. "Among our enemies, where else?”
British author Joe Abercrombie partnered with Harper Voyager (UK) and Del Rey (US) to publish Half the World in early 2015. The novel is the second act of the Shattered Sea trilogy, continuing the dramatic tale of Father Yarvi of Gettland. While the trilogy is fantasy, we begin to see themes and patterns emerge which suggest this might not be a tale from medieval yesteryear, but rather a futuristic tale in a setting closer to home.
Abercrombie opens Half the World by introducing a new POV character, Thorn Bathu, in the very first chapter. She has a clear goal: to be selected (allowed) to fight in Gettland’s army, prepping for a large battle. By the end of the chapter she has a well-defined obstacle: to avoid being executed for the apparent murder of her sparring partner.
The introductions of Thorn Bathu, and later that of Brand, an orphan ‘head of household’, make Half the World more palatable than its antecedent Half a King. Multiple protagonists, instead of simply multiple POV between protagonists and antagonists, gives greater dimension and depth to this novel.
If you have time for only one fantasy novel this year, and have read the Top 50 fantasy novels of the past decade, then you can do worse than picking up Half the World. Much like The Phantom Menance, I would recommend skipping the first bit, and beginning with part deux.
If you are trying to pad your annual reading goal: Half the World is a fast read, moderately entertaining, with deeper character development, more ambiguous heroes and villains, and greater political intrigue than displayed in Half a King. This is more of a popcorn-read than high-concept, but there are worse stories out there.