Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Description:  Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.
Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.
Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.
And weapons are made for one purpose.
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Half the World is the second book in the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. The narrative in this book is handed over from Jarvi, the half-crippled king from the first book, to Thorn Bathu. Thorn is a teen girl who only wants to be a warrior. She is unfairly sentenced to death for the accidental death of a fellow warrior-in-training when an exercise is rigged against her. Her friend Brand loses his own place for standing up for her.

Yarvi doesn’t disappear in this book, but he does take a back seat. Still, it his manipulation of events and long-range plans that drive the narrative. He manipulates Thorn and Brand into becoming tools he can use. He likewise maneuvers half the kingdoms in the Shattered Sea into unlikely allies.

Abercrombie does an excellent job of creating memorable and likeable characters. In somewhat of a departure from a lot of YA fantasy, the battle here is less a straightforward battle between good and evil and more the political machinations of persons with different goals. The extent to which the goals benefit individuals or their respective kingdoms or both is never clear.

The events in Half the World,  as seen through Thorn’s eyes, are fascinating. The thrill is watching Thorn’s growth, both as a young woman and as a warrior being sharpened into a deadly tool. Brand also undergoes a great deal of growth in understanding himself and his place in the world.

The action is top notch and the political manipulations add a level of complexity to what may otherwise be a simple story. The audiobook is narrated by John Keating who does an amazing job at bringing the characters to life. The voices are easily distinguishable and he underscores the drama and humor in the story without overpowering it.

Half the World is an exciting and intriguing middle book in the Shattered Sea trilogy and I look forward to its conclusion.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

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