In my review for Half the World, book two in the series, I said,
“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.”
Sadly that did not happen in Half a War. Instead the narrative is taken on by three new people and there is another predictable romance. Like the previous book these characters have good arcs, with nice character development, and satisfactory endings but I kept wondering what Father Yarvi was up to as he moved about the margins of the story. When we finally do find out what Father Yarvi is up to, it felt out of character to me, but perhaps that’s because the reader didn’t get to journey in his head the way we had in the first book.
In my Half the World review I commented you could make a drinking game of the phrase “half the world”. You could do the same with this book and “half a war”. The near constant refrain of, “half a war is fought with swords, the other half with words”, or some similar iteration, grew somewhat tedious.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Half a War is that the reader finally finds out the truth about the ancient elf civilization that existed more than a thousand years before the start of the trilogy. Throughout the series the elves are spoken of in a combination of awe and fear, for they had “broken God” and used dangerous magic. It was a neat reveal when the truth of the elves comes out.
Overall I would rate the series as okay. It started off with a fantastic beginning in Half a King. Books two and three, while well written, just didn’t grab me nearly as much as the first. I found Joe Abercrombie’s “First Law Trilogy” to have been far more compelling, if significantly more gritty and gruesome, than “The Shattered Sea”.
For his newest trilogy, Abercrombie is attempting a new approach. He is plan is to draft out the entire trilogy before sitting down to polish each individual book. The thinking is this will allow for greater cohesion. And if he gets surprised by a new character, or something not going according to his original idea, he will have the ability to go backwards and work it in appropriately before the first book is even printed. A nice side effect of this process is that, if all goes according to plan, the books will be able to come out in quick succession. So far he’s drafted books one and two, given a second pass to book one, and is currently starting to draft book three. I am curious how this experiment will turn out.