Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

I got Half a King by Joe Abercrombie from NetGalley. There are some errors in the copy, but it’s an ARC and they’ll probably be fixed by time it’s published.

I found out that Half a King was a YA novel only a few chapters into the book. The main character is young, but I wouldn’t have twigged to its YA status if I hadn’t read it online. I will try not to spoil anyone. ;)

Back page summary from Amazon: 

“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 his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

 
I really like that line: I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath. It has a ring to it.

The main character, Prince Yarvi, is born crippled in a world that values only strength in its kings. One badly formed arm makes him a cripple, a half a man.

I have to ask: when was the last time you had a main character that was crippled from the get-go? Me, I can’t remember.

So, born unable to wield a weapon, Yarvi trains to become a minister. But his father and brothers are killed so he has to take the throne. He promptly declares war on those who killed his family. He is betrayed just as quickly. Then he vows to take back a throne he never really wants.

There is war and betrayal, all of it driven by politics.

But for all that Half a King isn’t a bleak book. Gritty, yes, but not bleak. I was expecting bleak; other Joe Abercrombie books are bleak. Perhaps that’s the YA effect. I am grateful; bleak books are so hard to read.

After the betrayal, Yarvi lives in harsh conditions. But he lives, and that’s more than his betrayer intended. He finds friends and companions that carry him to the end. His friends are all from different lands, different stations in life before they ended up together. They are all interesting, especially the one named Nothing.

My favorite part: the end.

The ending is a series of scenes, each dealing with a different character. Some of it I guessed from previous events. One part of the end, the most important part, I never guessed. It involved the betrayal of a character that I thought was trustworthy, that I thought fit into another role in the story. No. It was fantastic.

To reiterate: that one scene makes this book a standout. I will always remember that end. Always! It was perfect. Completely unexpected, but perfectly sensible, too.

My least favorite part: the middle.

This has less to do with sagginess in the middle – it has none! It is very sharp and tight in the middle! – and more to do because I thought briefly Yarvi himself was betraying everyone. It didn’t work out that way and I am glad. I was inspired to skim the end to reassure myself Yarvi was a character that I should root for. This, no doubt, is evidence of good storytelling.

Things I would like to know: more about the world.

The focus of Half a King is on Yarvi. That’s fine; he is the main character. But the companions are from other lands, and judging from them, the other lands are different. I am not even sure about the relationship between the other lands to Yarvi’s land. None of that is important to the story so it wasn’t included. But I still want to know.

I really, really liked Half a King and I am looking forward to the next one.

Teaser Tuesday: Replica

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!  

My teaser:

“Shouldn’t you be off talking to important dignitaries instead of flirting?” Nadia asked Nate.

Nate frowned, but at least he stopped looking down Jewel’s dress. “I believe that’s my father’s job. I’m the ne’er-do-well son, remember?”

- Replica by Jenna Black.

Expecting a First Book to Begin a Series

I read a description today and assume there will be a second book. That it is a series.

It’s a YA dystopian book, one Acid by Emma Pass. (Yes, I haven’t read enough of those yet.  LOL)

I’ve looked at Fantastic Fiction, at Goodreads, at Amazon and the author’s own website. There is nothing to indicate anywhere that it is indeed part of a series.

But the book description (from the author’s website):

ACID – the most brutal police force in history.
They rule with an iron fist.

They see everything. They know everything.

They locked me away for life.

My crime?
They say I murdered my parents.

I was fifteen years old.

My name is Jenna Strong.

It feels like it should be a series, you know? From this description, I expect a series, maybe a couple of series.

One that unravels the murder when Jenna is fifteen, maybe another one down the road that explores the revolution that takes down Acid, possible from the POV of another character.

Maybe an open-ended series, maybe not. It could go either way and there is no telling from this description.

I haven’t read the book, those are just assumptions I am making from the description.

But I am not finding anything that states there will be a second book. I wonder if my expectations are being shaped not from this description, but from other YA dystopian books that are series.

I still – still! – cannot quite convince myself this book isn’t part of a series.

Book Review: Catching Fire

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

I finished the Hunger Games trilogy. I read the first book a while ago, than read most of the third book and skipped the second entirely. Last week, I finished reading the second book.

In the aftermath of the first hunger games, Katniss and Peeta are both suffering from post-traumatic stress. Which only makes sense. Katniss is slowly realizing she’ll have to wed Peeta to stay alive and she doesn’t like the idea. Actually, I think she doesn’t like the idea of being forced to do something she hadn’t decided on doing.

There are lots of memorable parts in Catching Fire. The part where she learns she has to fight in the Hunger Games again. The part where she hangs a likeness of the evil president of the Capitol. (That was really good. LOL) The part where her wedding gown turns into a mockingjay bird’s plumage. See, that is something I would love see on the screen. The movie better not skip that scene. Watching Katniss and Peeta really fall in love. The speech she gives on tour to Rue’s people.

But the part that shocked was when Cinna was murdered. I don’t know why that hit me so hard. I wasn’t expecting him to die. Her family, yes, her friends, yes, I figured them to be fair game.

One of most often quoted rules of writing is to murder your darlings and nothing could hurt Katniss worse than to watch her family die. Her sister, Prim, in particular. Rue’s death in the first book was like a foreshadowing of Prim’s death, IMO. I mean, the number of times Katniss compared Rue and Prim, the number of times Rue reminded Katniss of Prim. I half-expected Prim to die in this book or at least come close to death.

Cinna, on the other hand, is a minor character. His death makes sense in the books. But it shocked me. Shocked me more on anything else in the books. But he turned her into the Girl On Fire. He turned her into the symbol of the rebellion. His death devastated me.

But Catching Fire was good. Really good. Catching Fire was better than both the first and second books. I read it faster than the Hunger Games, faster than Mockingjay. It is the best book in the whole series. That’s odd, because it is also a middle book and middle books are usually the weakest in a series.

It has a cliff hanger ending, but I didn’t mind since I had the next one at hand. Otherwise, I think I might have been a little upset. LOL

The Hunger Games Movie

I liked the movie version of The Hunger Games. They do a pretty good job of following the book.

They toned down the violence, but if the movie had same level of violence as in the books, the movie would have ended up with an R rating. It’s a little strange. The book is for young adults, but if they hadn’t toned down the violence, the young adults wouldn’t have been able to see the movie. In the theaters anyway. ;) They can read it, they just can’t watch it. It strikes me as bizarre.

The movie left out stuff, of course. But movies can’t ever be as detailed as the book. I am not upset about that.

But I do wonder if people who haven’t read the book will get the movie. I mean, there are so many things it doesn’t explain. It implies, yeah, and the characters say things in passing. But if you miss a line or two, there are lots of minor details you won’t get.

Like when Katniss tells her sister not to put in extra slips with her name because the extra food isn’t worth it. Would you get the characters can put in extra slips with their names, as many extra slips as they have family? And that the slips are cumulative? I am not sure I would.

It’s little stuff like that. Most people probably still understood the story, but still.

It was fun watching though. I liked the parade scene when both their costumes are on fire. ;) And the interview one where her dress ignites. She isn’t in public when Peeta announces he has a crush on her, but still. Not bad. ;)

I liked the scene where the tributes first break out. Everything is chaos and violent and bloody. There isn’t a lot of blood afterward, but that was a good scene.

And the scene where Rue dies? Fantastic. I had tears in my eyes.

One the last scenes, when the other tribute has Peeta in a headlock, Cato does this short monologue about how he’s already dead. I don’t remember that from the book, but it was pretty touching. In that moment he was a lot more sympathetic than I remember from the book.

On the train ride home, Katniss says she wants to forget what happened. It implies she faked/exaggerated her feelings for Peeta. Which she did, but the movie doesn’t state that explicitly. That kind of disappointed me.

Also, I wish Haymitch had looked like a drunk in the movie. He sobered up fast. LOL

Teaser Tuesday: Witch Eyes

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

This is some sort of joke. A test. My father was in the room with me. “What are you doing here?” I whispered, as if someone was listening.

- Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

Teaser Tuesday: Unnatural

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

What he saw made him disgusted, scared, but yes, just a little excited even though he knew what he was seeing wasn’t right. Tomorrow at church he would pray that it would all go away, that he would be able to change who he was, but tonight … tonight he would lock his bedroom door, block out the sounds coming from downstairs, and think about R.J. And he would convince himself that it was the most natural thing in the world.

- Unnatural by Michael Griffo

Teaser Tuesday: The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

He’d spent most of the night lying awake, thinking of One-Thumb lying dead in the dirt. Thinking of the horror on Lilissa’s face when she’d seen the blood on his hands. He’d gone to Trickle Street to save her, to win her, and somehow, in the saving, he’d lost her.

- The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice by Stephen Deas

Teaser Tuesday: Midnight’s Daughter

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

It’s five lines instead of the usual two, but I couldn’t pick which two, so I posted all of them.

My teaser:

Louis-Cesare and his opponent both looked at the clock; then the mage decided on the better part of valor and bolted for the door. I didn’t try to stop him; I was too busy following hard on his heels. Louis-Cesare trailed after me, dragging the limp body of the cabin attendant with him, and the three of us ran full out for the chain-link fence near the runway. The mage, unencumbered by bodies, reached it first and vaulted over. Louis-Cesare dropped the steward and sailed after him, jumping across the eight-foot fence like it wasn’t even there.

-  Midnight’s Daughter by Karen Chance

Teaser Tuesday: City of Bones, Take Two

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I teased this book last time, but I am still reading it, so here we go again. I didn’t finish because, well, because various other books got in the way.

My teaser:

She watched him walk away, and felt the mingled urge to burst into tears and to run after him for the express purpose of kicking him in the ankle. Knowing either action would fill him with satisfaction, she did neither, but went warily into the bedroom.

- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare