Having already proven his capacity for producing hard-bitten fantasy epics via his First Law series, Joe Abercrombie sets his eye on a slightly younger target audience here with Half The World, the second book in the Shattered Sea trilogy. Anyone expecting him to dumb down or cater more towards this demographic will be surprised, however.
Kicking off a few years after the events of Half A King – during which the malformed but cunning Prince Yarvi took back the crown that was taken from him, only to give it up to return to the priesthood – Yarvi remains an important part of the action, only this time he takes a step back in favour of two new narrators: disgraced warriors-in training Thorn Bathu and Brand. With the nation of Gettland facing the prospect of war, Yarvi takes the two, along with a rag-tag band of warriors and criminals, on a quest along the Shattered Sea in search of allies – although things don’t exactly go as foreseen.
The rise in prominence of Game Of Thrones has coincided with gritty fantasy becoming very much in vogue, and Half The World rides the crest of this wave. This being aimed at younger readers, the characters exhibit less moral shades than those in Abercrombie’s earlier novels, although there’s a brilliant fusion of old and new. It could be argued that there’s perhaps too many of them, but it’s likely that the final book will take care of this.
This is easily as compulsive as his earlier novels – even if he does sometimes appear to forget himself and include elements that might give younger readers food for thought. While events occasionally take a turn for the predictable, this is balanced out by enough twists to render it a worthy sequel.