The second in the Shattered Sea series, Half the World finds the hero of the first story, Yarvi, now serving as the minister of Gettland. Under his watchful eye are two principle characters, the feisty, violent Thorn and the peaceful, balanced Brand. The kingdom of Gettland is under attack, and Father Yarvi takes these two young warriors on a voyage of self-discovery and of ally-seeking. It’s a serious, sophomore follow-up to Half a King that had me breathless in its final act.
Setting the stage for the internal tensions of the characters, Thorn accidentally kills one of her fellow student-warriors, while Brand watches helplessly. But on their trip south to find allies of other ‘Viking’ tribes, Thorn finds herself trained to use her speed and cunning in battle by a shadowy, old swords woman and Brand finds that his struggle, to embrace peace or engage in war, will be tested while he serves on Yarvi’s ship. The voyage is long, and the enemies are many, but the tangled motivations of Thorn and Brand keep them just close enough to make things testy.
When the final lines are drawn for this chapter of the nation-spawning struggle that George R.R. Martin has been verbally proud of, we know that Brand and Thorn will have major parts to play, but Abercrombie guarantees that it won’t be quite what we expected. Drama, action, romance, and humor are all ingredients that he’s willing to blend to entertain us and grip our hearts: we want Thorn and Brand to succeed, because they’re broken but resilient, not perfect and good. They make decisions we might make when faced with the alternatives they face, and we they struggle with insecurity and doubt, not just well-armored warriors and conniving backstabbers.
I sought out the second book in this series after loving the original, and I came away mightily impressed. Too many ‘second’ books falter, playing off the original’s success and steering us toward a third; Half the World delivers with justifiable fury and power that made it potentially more worthwhile than even the first. rating: buy it