While reading Joe Abercrombie's HALF A KING, I was struck by the most peculiar sense of deja vu. Something about the story felt so familiar to me - which is weird, because I'd never picked up anything by this author before in my life!
As I continued reading, eventually it hit me. HALF A KING is like a fantasy version of Robert Louis Stevenson's works. Just think about it for a second, hear me out. You have your teenage boy protagonist who ends up losing everything he has because of a tragedy. The people who are close to him betray him. He ends up kidnapped/in poverty, and is forced to make the best of his circumstances, while endearing himself to others because of his cleverness or kindness, later ending up better off than he was before. Add to that a generous dash of adventure and a bit of Viking-inspired mythology in a land of ice and snow, and you have a pretty compelling setting and story line.
We ended up reading this book in another reading group I'm apart of, and when I was explaining the book to people, I told them to imagine a Game of Thrones-like book for younger readers, only with Tyrion Lanister as the main character. Yarvi, the protagonist, really is a lot like Tyrion. He's disfigured (one of his hands is deformed), and therefore will never be as useful in combat as someone who is not. His father hates him/is embarrassed by him because of this birth defect, and treats him like poo because of it. The rest of his family sneers at him. When his father and brother both die before his time, Yarvi becomes king. An event he isn't really prepared for, since he was in training to become a minister, not a royal. He takes the crown, gets married, and boom - BETRAYAL!
The rest of the story follows Yarvi as he escapes death, is sold by slavers, and then, later on, is forced to brave the elements...all in the name of revenge. There's always a lot going on, and even though the book isn't super long, it features a pretty large supporting cast. At times, it could almost be exhausting, trying to keep up with all the new developments! I was like, "Oh my God, book. Wait for me..." And the book was like, "Nah, keep up, wimp. We're almost there. Just a little further."
Even though I really enjoyed HALF A KING, I do think the pacing was a little off. Towards the end, the book slowed down noticeably. Then it picked up, and there were some twists that surprised me. Like, I literally did NOT see them coming, and I always see them coming. So that was kind of cool. But the beginning of the book was nonstop action, so it was annoying to have to slog through a very long journey. I hate journey sequences. I also thought that Yarvi felt a little wooden at times. Sometimes he felt like a robot with his constant swearing of revenge.
If you're into the idea GOT: #TeamTyrion edition, though, pick this book up. It really does deliver in that regard, and I must say that I enjoyed reading about a character who actually was clever and didn't just have the narrator tell us he was.
Also, the female characters in this book are unanimously bad-ass whether a villainess or a heroine, so that was nice, as well.
3 out of 5 stars