Normally, I’m not a fan of fantasy.
I don’t know why, but the second I see a gleaming broadsword on the cover of a book, I get this visceral dropping sensation in my stomach akin to that of the plummeting potted petunia in Hitchhiker’s Guide of the Galaxy, and like it, I have a singular thought: “Oh no, not AGAIN.”
And yet, Joe Abercrombie makes me happy, every time.
Maybe I end up liking his books so much because, at least in the Shattered Sea series, he’s secretly writing science fiction.
Yeah, there’s a lot of swords and shoulder-men and shields, but lurking deep under that ubiquitous fantasy surface there are hints that the story might be taking place in a far, FAR future, after the fall of our modern world. In Half a King, the book of his that I read last year, it was there, but fairly subtle. It’s far more obvious in Half a World that the “elf ruins” are the crumbled remains of our cities and that “elf magic” is actually our technology. As Clarke’s Third Law states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
I also really like that the ‘price of magic’ in these books is entirely man-made, if you will. We believe there should be a high price for using this magic, so we make one up, based entirely on our own superstitions and fears. The elves broke the world with their magic, after all, you don’t want to drop that on your head, if you can avoid it.
It’s all very clever, ‘deep-cunning,’ in fact, as the people of Getland would said.
Half the World continues the story started in Half a King… kind of. Instead of closely following Yarvi, the prince turned priest, we follow Thorn, a feisty female warrior in a man’s world, and Brand, a decent man trying to do good in a crooked world. But both of them fall into Yarvi’s… clutches? …adventures? …quickly enough, so we continue the main thrust started in the previous book. Yet, because the characters are new to the conflicts, you don’t have to have read the previous book to enjoy this one or understand what’s going on in the larger story.
Plus, Abercrombie is just a good storyteller. The conflicts hit you in feels and you find yourself pull through to the very satisfying end, even if it is fantasy.
Given to adult books that appeal to teen audiences. ↩