I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Shattered Sea trilogy, Half a King and gave it a four star review. In the comments, narfna said, “I LOVED this book. The sequels were a bit disappointing for me, though.” Uh oh. After taking a non-fiction break, I picked up Half the World with a tiny bit of doubt that I would enjoy it as much as the first. While I can’t speak for book three yet, I did find Half the World a bit disappointing. I give it three stars for being a fun read but not terribly original and not as captivating as the first. Also excessive use of the phrase, “half the world”. You could make a drinking game out of reading this book by taking a shot each time “half the world’ is used.
The book opens with a change of characters providing the narrative. Instead of continuing to follow Yarvi, now Father Yarvi and minister to the throne of Gettland, we are introduced to Thorn and Brand, a like-able enough pair but I spent much of the book missing what was happening in Yarvi’s mind and wondering what machinations he was putting in place. Only a short period of time has lapsed since the events at the end of Half a King. The High King is displeased that Gettland refuses to bend the knee and Father Yarvi is scrambling to secure allies.
Only instead of finding out what plans he is setting in motion we meet Thorn Bathu. Her given name is Hild but she prefers and goes by the nickname given to her by her deceased warrior father. Raised on the stories of great warriors and the heroic deeds done by her own father, all Thorn has ever wanted was to be a warrior. She has trained for years with the young men of Thorlby waiting for the day of testing and to swear the warrior’s oath. But while a young girl may be admired for wanting to spar in the training square it is no place for a young woman and Thorn is derided and looked down upon, reinforcing the prickliness which inspired her nickname. Brand grew up with nothing but his sister and a desire to be good. Becoming a warrior would be pretty great too because then he would have his shield wall brethren beside him and he would get rich from raiding, like they sing of in songs. Once rich he would be able to provide better for his sister. Unfortunately for Brand, doing the good thing is not the same as what is best for him.
When Thorn passes what should be the final test, Master Hunnan, trainer of warriors and determiner of who can take the oath, decides being female she needs to prove herself above and beyond and sets three against her. Brand, who had just lost to Thorn, finds this very unfair but can’t find the words to speak up. In the fight Thorn accidentally kills one of the three young men she had been fighting. Labeled a murderer her sentence is to be crushed to death by stones. Feeling that he should have spoken up earlier, Brand appeals to Father Yarvi explaining that Thorn should be spared. Quickly recognizing Thorn’s value Father Yarvi binds her with an oath of service. This act is the end of Brand’s dream as Master Hunnan refuses him a place on the raiding ships, saying he’s a good fighter but not a good man because he didn’t stand with his brethren and instead spoke up for Thorn.
Father Yarvi is headed half the world away to the first city, Kalyiv, far in the south ruled by the Empress and hopeful future ally. He has collected as rough a crew as he rowed with previously with Thorn and Brand amongst them. Father Yarvi has brought a teacher along to train Thorn during the journey and turn her into a deadly fighter who relies on speed and brains over brawn. Brand takes a lot of beatings during her training sessions. The two spend the bulk of their day sharing an oar as they navigate the Divine and Denied rivers, heading ever southward. The two can’t stop worrying at each other and their eventual romance, with standard misunderstanding, is pretty predictable. Both characters have good arcs and come to happy endings, I just wasn’t as interested in their perspective of world events as I had Yarvi’s.
While I am interested in the events occurring around the Shattered Sea, and how Father Yarvi and Gettland will get through the eventual war that is coming, I hope that the narrative switches back to his perspective.