NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND THE WASHINGTON POST · LOCUS AWARD WINNER
“The Shattered Seas trilogy has worked its way into a very exclusive group of my favorite fantasy novels of all time.”—James Dashner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Maze Runner
“A fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”—George R. R. Martin
“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
The deceived will become the deceiver.
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
Will the usurped become the usurper?
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds that his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.
Praise for Half a King
“Tremendously entertaining . . . lightning-fast and filled with a wonderful collection of rogues, villains and two-faced bastards . . . From the first chapter [Joe Abercrombie] wastes no time as the reader is swept up in a gripping tale of betrayal and revenge.”—SciFi Now
“Once this plot has its teeth in you, it will not let go. . . . Abercrombie’s masterful storytelling means that everything, from the characters that you come to love and despise, to the sprawling world that is explored, is enthralling.”—Fantasy Book Review
“Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea is a fantastic yet believable backdrop to Yarvi’s struggle, a vivid imaginary land.”—The Seattle Times
“Intriguing characters . . . nonstop action.”—Chicago Tribune
“Half a King is my favorite book by Joe Abercrombie so far, and that’s saying something.”—Patrick Rothfuss
“As in all Abercrombie’s books, friends turn out to be enemies, enemies turn out to be friends; the line between good and evil is murky indeed; and nothing goes quite as we expect. With eye-popping plot twists and rollicking good action, Half a King is definitely a full adventure.”—Rick Riordan
“Enthralling! An up-all-night read.”—Robin Hobb
“Polished and sharp, perhaps his most technically proficient novel yet . . . I dare you to read the first chapter and try not to turn the next page.”—Brent Weeks
“Half a King can be summed up in a single word: masterpiece. It’s a coming-of-age story. It’s a Viking saga. It’s a revenge tale and family drama and the return of the prodigal son. But most of all, it’s this: a short time alongside people as weak and blundering as we are and, in the midst of it all, as heroic. Far too short a time, as it turns out. What a wonderful book.”—Myke Cole
“Half a King is full of all the adventure I’ve come to expect from Abercrombie and a tenderness I never knew he had.”—Sam Sykes
From the Hardcover edition.
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Joe Abercrombie is the New York Times bestselling author of Red Country and the First Law trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings. He spent ten years as a freelance film editor, but is now a full-time writer who lives in Bath, England, with his wife, two daughters, and son.
From the Hardcover edition.
The Greater Good
There was a harsh gale blowing on the night Yarvi learned he was a king. Or half a king, at least.
A seeking wind, the Gettlanders called it, for it found out every chink and keyhole, moaning Mother Sea’s dead chill into every dwelling, no matter how high the fires were banked or how close the folk were huddled.
It tore at the shutters in the narrow windows of Mother Gundring’s chambers and rattled even the iron--bound door in its frame. It taunted the flames in the firepit and they spat and crackled in their anger, casting clawing shadows from the dried herbs hanging, throwing flickering light upon the root that Mother Gundring held up in her knobbled fingers.
It looked like nothing so much as a clod of dirt, but Yarvi had learned better. “Black--tongue root.”
“And why might a minister reach for it, my prince?”
“A minister hopes they won’t have to. Boiled in water it can’t be seen or tasted, but is a most deadly poison.”
Mother Gundring tossed the root aside. “Ministers must sometimes reach for dark things.”
“Ministers must find the lesser evil,” said Yarvi.
“And weigh the greater good. Five right from five.” Mother Gundring gave a single approving nod and Yarvi flushed with pride. The approval of Gettland’s minister was not easily won. “And the riddles on the test will be easier.”
“The test.” Yarvi rubbed nervously at the crooked palm of his bad hand with the thumb of his good.
“You will pass.”
“You can’t be sure.”
“It is a minister’s place always to doubt—-”
“But always to seem certain,” he finished for her.
“See? I know you.” That was true. No one knew him better, even in his own family. Especially in his own family. “I have never had a sharper pupil. You will pass at the first asking.”
“And I’ll be Prince Yarvi no more.” All he felt at that thought was relief. “I’ll have no family and no birthright.”
“You will be Brother Yarvi, and your family will be the Ministry.” The firelight found the creases about Mother Gundring’s eyes as she smiled. “Your birthright will be the plants and the books and the soft word spoken. You will remember and advise, heal and speak truth, know the secret ways and smooth the path for Father Peace in every tongue. As I have tried to do. There is no nobler work, whatever nonsense the muscle--smothered fools spout in the training square.”
“The muscle--smothered fools are harder to ignore when you’re in the square with them.”
“Huh.” She curled her tongue and spat into the fire. “Once you pass the test you only need go there to tend a broken head when the play gets too rough. One day you will carry my staff.” She nodded toward the tapering length of studded and slotted elf--metal which leaned against the wall. “One day you will sit beside the Black Chair, and be Father Yarvi.”
“Father Yarvi.” He squirmed on his stool at that thought. “I lack the wisdom.” He meant he lacked the courage, but lacked the courage to admit it.
“Wisdom can be learned, my prince.”
He held his left hand, such as it was, up to the light. “And hands? Can you teach those?”
“You may lack a hand, but the gods have given you rarer gifts.”
He snorted. “My fine singing voice, you mean?”
“Why not? And a quick mind, and empathy, and strength. Only the kind of strength that makes a great minister, rather than a great king. You have been touched by Father Peace, Yarvi. Always remember: strong men are many, wise men are few.”
“No doubt why women make better ministers.”
“And better tea, in general.” Gundring slurped from the cup he brought her every evening, and nodded approval again. “But the making of tea is another of your mighty talents.”
“Hero’s work indeed. Will you give me less flattery when I’ve turned from prince into minister?”
“You will get such flattery as you deserve, and my foot in your arse the rest of the time.”
Yarvi sighed. “Some things never change.”
“Now to history.” Mother Gundring slid one of the books from its shelf, stones set into the gilded spine winking red and green.
“Now? I have to be up with Mother Sun to feed your doves. I was hoping to get some sleep before—-”
“I’ll let you sleep when you’ve passed the test.”
“No you won’t.”
“You’re right, I won’t.” She licked one finger, ancient paper crackling as she turned the pages. “Tell me, my prince, into how many splinters did the elves break God?”
“Four hundred and nine. The four hundred Small Gods, the six Tall Gods, the first man and woman, and Death, who guards the Last Door. But isn’t this more the business of a prayer--weaver than a minister?”
Mother Gundring clicked her tongue. “All knowledge is the business of the minister, for only what is known can be controlled. Name the six Tall Gods.”
“Mother Sea and Father Earth, Mother Sun and Father Moon, Mother War and—-”
The door banged wide and that seeking wind tore through the chamber. The flames in the firepit jumped as Yarvi did, dancing distorted in the hundred hundred jars and bottles on the shelves. A figure blundered up the steps, setting the bunches of plants swinging like hanged men behind him.
It was Yarvi’s Uncle Odem, hair plastered to his pale face with the rain and his chest heaving. He stared at Yarvi, eyes wide, and opened his mouth but made no sound. One needed no gift of empathy to see he was weighed down by heavy news.
“What is it?” croaked Yarvi, his throat tight with fear.
His uncle dropped to his knees, hands on the greasy straw. He bowed his head, and spoke two words, low and raw.
And Yarvi knew his father and brother were dead.
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