Review: Half the World
Are you familiar with Grimdark? I'm sure most of the friends and families that felt interested enough to click their way here probably are unfamiliar with this sub-genre. Lucky enough we are talking about one of the masters of this thing, Joe Abercrombie aka Lord Grimdark.
It's an odd sub-genre. For the most part it conforms to the usual tenets of the fantasy genre, but there is one common characteristic that diverges it. Negativity. That might be simplifying a bit but it's kind of the truth. Does your fantasy story have a hero? Well now he's real pissed off about being that hero, or he started out as a mass murderer and started heroing all on accident or heroing has really ruined his life in the worst way possible. Does your hero need to save someone or something? Well doing so probably involves a lot of nasty business or saving that person is literally the worst thing you could do to them or you saved them which is exactly what the villain needed you to do so they can finally get to the really really nasty business. Basically take your common trope and make sure that the worst thing possible is the outcome of the story. Then give everyone herpes.
So this book is actually nothing like that. Sorry/Not sorry. It's one of the reason why Abercrombie is so loved in the genre. Because even though the author certainly adds as much heartache as he can manage to this series, he never forgets to give that same sad story a beating heart. Something that lets the reader feel like their always on last shred of hope or possible victory to be had even as the author rains holy hell down on his characters.
This one especially. The main character of Thorn takes a character journey that at first glance would seem to be a well worn path in the trope filled world of fantasy. A woman warrior trying to fit into a man's world. But the best parts are where Abercrombie does the worst thing he can to a character like this in a story like this and simply makes them stay human. They don't fall into mindless violence without consequence. They don't rationalize their actions with a shrug and a slice of their swords. They have to keep on being people and live in the world that they have without cutting it down to the usual pale two dimensional tropes that the sub-genre often falters with.
This is the middle of a series of three books, but I don't think that there is anything that you wouldn't be able to figure out from the easy context that the author provides. It's an excellent introduction for any reader into not only this trilogy, but all of Abercrombie's work that fits into this universe. I give Half the World four stars out of five.