The final instalment in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, Half A War picks up right where Half The World left off, with the newly allied Gettlanders and Vanstermen facing the odds against the High King.
This new book comes with a different set of narrators: Skara, a princess of a fallen empire seeking refuge in Gettland; Raith, a Vansterland soldier with a dark past; and Koll, the wood carver from Half The World, now apprentice to Father Yarvi.
Once you get part the initial jarring sense of familiarity, these choices make perfect sense: the contrasting perspectives we get on old characters heighten the moral ambiguity and make us question everything we thought we knew.
Ostensibly aimed at younger readers, this in no way talks down to its audience: right from the start there is no let-up in the amount of killing, making this a great jumping-on point for Abercrombie’s more adult fiction. But that’s not all there is to this; the plot meanders from place to place, keeping you guessing and unsure of exactly who to root for.
Every character has their own goals and motives – even characters who have been present since the first book are suddenly put under the microscope.
The only thing that hinders it is the transparently rushed macguffin of an ending. Granted, it serves a purpose in terms of providing resolution, but it’s hard not to feel a sense of anti-climax. On a separate note, the death of a particular character is arguably the saddest death seen in fantasy since Fred Weasley in Harry Potter.
This aside, there’s precious little to fault. In his Shattered Sea saga, Abercrombie has created a series that is by shades engaging, mesmerising and jaw-dropping, possessing themes and complex characters so rarely interrogated by YA fiction. In Half A War, he has supplied a fitting coda.