Half a King (Shattered Sea #1)
by Joe Abercrombie.
Prince Yarvi of Gettland never expected or wanted to be king. Born the crippled youngest son to a family that values fighting skill over all else, Yarvi has mostly been ignored while studying to be a minister. Until soldiers return from a skirmish with the news that both his father and brother are dead – and he is now king. Thrust onto the throne and mocked for being only half a king due to his crippled hand, it’d decided that he must lead a troop of men to seek revenge for his father’s death and establish himself as a man. He survives the battle, only to meet betrayal at its end. Left for dead and then taken for a slave, Yarvi vows to take back his throne, no matter the cost.
This book was a bit slow to get going (I was indifferent to Yarvi’s character at first), but by the end I was loving it. It’s definitely a coming of age story – or maybe we should use the phrase coming of maturity. Yarvi’s journey from a sheltered ‘weak’ princeling to a cunning, forceful man capable of exacting revenge is not an easy one. In fact, it is harsh and vicious and bleak. There’s a reason the author’s nickname is Lord Grimdark. But despite that, Yarvi manages to make friends, kindle a possible love interest, and plumb some surprising depths in himself. It is a fantasy world, but there has been no evidence of magic so far in the series- only mention of various gods, and some herb-witch type women who know plants and poisons. And there are some definite surprises in store, especially closer to the end. The big surprise was particularly well done- the author didn’t foreshadow it to death like some do, but once it was revealed you could think back and pick up on little clues. That is how a plot twist should be done!
Overall, once I got into the story, I was definitely hooked. Book #2 (Half the World) was just published this week, and I for one can’t wait to pick it up.