Jo Abercrombie brings his Shattered Sea trilogy to a close with Half a War, a mere 12 months after the release of the first novel, Half a King. Can I just start by saying: that's fairly damn impressive? Especially given we live in a world where certain authors take five to six years to release one book. So my hat is doffed to Mr Abercrmobie. Sure, none of these novels are 1000 pages long, but the man said he would deliver three books in a 12-month window, and he damn well did. Re-spect.
Now the smoke-blowing up ass is out the way, let's get on with it. As he did with the second book in the series, Abercrombie chooses to again shift POV protagonists in Half a War. Instead of Thorn or Brand, we this time get Koll (a bit character from Half the World), a princess of the thus far only glimpsed Throvenland named Skara, and Grom-Gil_Gorm's sword-bearer, Raith. Whether such a strategy of confining previous major characters that the reader has grown to care about to being minor characters in later works is one that works is likely a matter of taste. For mine, it was somewhat jarring, especially since Father Yarvi and Thorn Bathu stand as such well-defined characters. It was always going to be a hard ask for Raith and Skara to fill those boots, and though they both have solid and satisfying arcs, they never come close to being as memorable. And the less said about Koll, - by far the weakest POV character in the series - the better.
In keeping with this being a "lighter" series of novels than anything written in the world of The First Law, characters refrain from cursing and the violence is kept to a generalised minimum. Sure, heads are described as being separated from necks, but the mess such a death would create is rarely even sketched in. Instead, Abercrombie puts more romantic entanglements in Half a War than all of his previous novels combined. Again, mileage is likely to vary, but there was an over-emphasis on such concerns for mine.
Not that there is an absence of battles, and desperate stands, and even more desperate plans, and deep-cunning strategies, because there most certainly is. And most of it is as well described and thrilling as ever. If only there was more of it ...
Abercrombie also throws an impressive curveball toward the back end of the book, as it is all but revealed that the world all this is taking place in is a post-apocalyptic version of our own world, and we are the "elves" whom the characters have long-referred to.
All in all, I enjoyed Half a War almost as much as I thought I would. I knew by a third of the way into the second Shattered Sea book that it was not going to be a patch on The First Law series, but they were serving as a more than reasonable place-holder for more books from that world. I'd hoped the third book would wind everything up with something as captivating as that found in Last Argument of Kings, but in retrospect, that was probably wishful thinking on my part.
3.5 Mother Wars Overshadowing Father Peaces for Half a War.