Given that Joe Abercrombie has spent the bulk of his writing career helping the fantasy genre shed its stuffy, stilted reputation by filling his books with rogues, violence, sex and swearing, it felt safe to assume that his first YA effort wouldn’t suddenly find the author diluting his storytelling style.
Indeed, Half A King, the first book in his Shattered Sea trilogy, is very much an Abercrombie book for younger readers.
From the first chapter it’s clear who the author is and he wastes no time as the reader is swept up in a gripping tale of betrayal and revenge.
Yarvi is the second-born son of King Uthrik and has no expectations of ever taking the crown. With only one strong arm, Yarvi has spent his days preparing for a life as Minister, so it’s a bit of a shock when his father and elder brother are brought home dead and Yarvi is expected to become king and avenge their deaths.
It’s even more of a shock when he’s betrayed and left for dead in enemy territory.
However, Yarvi’s years spent honing his mind have not been wasted. He is determined to survive and return to Gettland, to take back what is his and punish those who took it from him.
Half A King certainly has the structure of a YA book: our naïve young protagonist must take on a great burden, go on a great journey and discover the strength and the truth about himself to become the man he needs to be.
It’s also significantly shorter than Abercrombie’s adult work, coming in under 400 pages. What this translates into is the author not wasting a single page. It’s lightning fast and filled with a wonderful collection of rogues, villains and two-faced bastards.
Yarvi’s tale might be structuraly more simplistic than the hardcore fans of the First Law might want but this is a tremendously entertaining tale that will serve as a great introduction to the author and the genre for younger readers.