Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series continues with book 2, after Half a King, which featured the trials and tribulations of a young prince Yarvi. Yarvi is now Father Yarvi, counselor to the King and Queen of Gettland. Gettland is marching toward an inevitable war with the forces of the High King, and Gettland needs allies. Yarvi is charged with this task, and he undertakes it in a very untraditional way. But really, this tale of finding allies is not Yarvi’s tale. Rather, it is the tale of two teenagers: Thorn, a warrior girl touched by Mother War, and Brand, a calm, strong young man who only wants to do what is right.
When the story opens, Thorn is training to become a warrior, and accidententally kills one of her fellow trainees. Though the incident was truly not her fault, under the laws of the land, she must die for her crime. Enter Brand, who feels the injustice of Thorn’s plight. He takes the issue to Father Yarvi, who intervenes. Instead of being crushed by stones, Thorn will come with him on his journey to seek allies for the King. Brand will also join him. Yarvi brings together a large cast of characters to help, some familiar, some new, and off they go, sailing up the river on their quest.
One of Yarvi’s merry band is Skifr, a very skilled warrior woman who takes up Thorn’s training. Brand, who is still not sure of his place in the world, continues to try and do the right thing. And onward they go. And of course, adventure, peril, death, and even some victories follow. This is a story of the difficulties of growing up, of facing ackwardness and uncertainty with the help of those who can assure you it’s all normal. Yarvi, the star of the first book, is in the background, but clearly his is orchestrating the actions, and hoping for an outcome that only he can see.
I enjoyed this book more, in many ways, than the first book of this series. With both books, I will admit that the characters and plot took a little longer than I like to get going. Once the story is rolling along, however, it will keep you reading long into the night to find out what happens. Thorn is awesome, and Brand is cool, and Father Yarvi is a deeply cunning man. If you like fantasy, and like a fast-paced story, then this series is for you.
Full-discloser: I received my advanced reading copy from Edelweiss at Above the Treeline. Half the World goes on sale February 17th.