Title: Half a King
Series Title: Shattered Sea
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Date Added: July 14, 2015
Date Started: May 27, 2017
Date Finished: June 18, 2017
Reading Duration: 22 days
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Grimdark
Publication Date: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Del Rey
Shares Paradigms With: Hamlet, The Lion King, ASOIAF, Radiance (Wraith Kings), An Ember in the Ashes
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
If life has taught me one thing, it’s that there are no villains. Only people, doing their best.
Prince Yarvi lives in a society very similar to the Ironborn of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: harsh, cruel, and unforgiving of weakness. They follow Mother War, eschew Father Peace and present a juxtaposition within the two ideals, as the mother or feminine side is usually associated with tranquility whereas war and battle are typically portrayed as masculine.
Seriously…you don’t get much more “masculine” than this, and he’s literally the God of War.
As the second and youngest son of King Uthrik, Yarvi had neither hopes nor ambitions for the throne. He was meant for the ministry, studying under Mother Gundring, where having only one good hand would make no difference. Yarvi’s bitterness bleeds on the page, because he cannot live up to his culture’s expectations, and neither of his parents let him forget this.
A man swings the scythe and the ax, his father had said. A man pulls the oar and makes fast the knot. Most of all a man holds the shield. A man holds the line. A man stands by his shoulder-man. What kind of man can do none of these things?
I didn’t ask for half a hand, Yarvi had said, trapped where he so often found himself, on the barren ground between shame and fury.
I didn’t ask for half a son.
His mother isn’t much better in the beginning. She has nothing but scorn for her disabled child, but considering their culture, his parents’ behavior makes perfect sense. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather is a product of the harsh climate and culture they live in, which could be overlooked through the lens of presentism. This is not to say that Yarvi deserves his plight. He doesn’t. No one does whether from ancient history or far flung future; however, his misery fits into that zeitgeist, and his reaction to the emotional abuse and gaslighting is timeless.