Half A King
by Joe Abercrombie
Del Rey, $26.00, 273pp
Publication Date: July 18, 2014
This story takes place in a sort of medieval Viking type of world. Yarvi is son to a King but was born deformed with only one good hand. All of his life he’s been ridiculed and he had determined to leave the court intrigue behind by becoming a “minister.” A minister is a sort of priest/physician/advisor to the king. But, on the eve of taking his ‘vows,’ Yarvi’s brother and heir to the throne along with their father are killed by a rival king. Yarvi has no choice now but to take the throne. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have it for long when his beloved Uncle Odem, the only one to treat him with love and consideration, tries to kill him to take the throne. Yarvi falls into the ocean instead of dying and is picked up by a slaver ship. He eventually ends up on a ship as an oar slave. It is an unlikely place to find friends or even his new-found strength of will, but that’s what Yarvi finds. Although Yarvi has never been physically strong or had an easy way of befriending people; he learns, on the oar, that he can be both.
strikes and Yarvi and his slave friends have the chance to escape but with their owner determinedly tracking them, it is a challenging trek of survival. Along the way, Yarvi comes to a decision to tell his friends his true identity and that he intends to return home to kill his uncle and reclaim this throne. It’s not a happy decision, ruling a kingdom is not to his taste; but he finds he cannot allow his Uncle’s betrayal to go unanswered. To his surprise, his friends believe him and believe in him, accompanying him back home. But to get there, Yarvi must make a deal with the King who put him on the throne when he killed Yarvi’s father and brother. On entering his city, Yarvi found his mother ready to support his claim but with little power to back him. It ends up on Yarvi to actually confront his Uncle and try to kill him. But the resolution was a bit of a surprise although the author did leave a couple obscure clues. Yarvi learns much about being a man, even with a deformity; but maybe not enough to be a King.
This was an okay story. It’s really about Yarvi learning to deal with his deformity, something he never had to do before. So it’s a coming-of-age story with a medieval/Viking background. And the author adds interest with a twist at the end. I liked the characters well enough; although I would have liked to know more about the Grandmothers who advise the Kings and train Ministers. ~~ Catherine Book