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Editorial Reviews

Sunday Times best-selling author Joe Abercrombie has created a richly detailed fantasy epic in Half a King, Book One of the phenomenal Shattered Sea audiobook series, unabridged and narrated by American actor Ben Elliot. Young Prince Yarvi is an embarrassment to his father. He is small and intelligent, a far cry from the muscled thugs in the kingdom. It is in exile that he finds friends who accept him for who he is and together they form an army. Setting out to reclaim his right to the throne, Yarvi can use only his mind as the ultimate weapon. Available now from Audible.

Publisher's Summary

A classic coming-of-age tale set in a vivid and richly-imagined world from Sunday Times bestselling author Joe Abercrombie.

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 itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

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.

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.

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi's path may end as it began - in twists, and traps and tragedy…

©2014 Joe Abercrombie (P)2014 HarperCollinsHarperCollins Audio FictionHarperFiction - Fiction Audio - Digital

Critic Reviews

"Joe Abercrombie is doing some terrific work" (George R.R. Martin)
"Abercrombie writes fantasy like no one else" ( Guardian)
"This is my favourite Abercrombie book yet" ( Patrick Rothfuss)
"Joe Abercrombie is fast becoming my favourite writer. Half a King is a remarkable achievement - thrilling, enthralling, and relentless. The action is frenetic, the characters are as sharp as the blades they wield, and the humour is biting. It's sure to garner him a whole new legion of fans" ( Derek Landy)
"Enthralling. An up-all-night read" ( Robin Hobb)
" Half a King can be summed up in a single word: Masterpiece" ( Myke Cole)
"With eye-popping plot twists and rollicking good action, Half a King is definitely a full adventure" ( Rick Riodan)

What listeners say about Half a King

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great but short

loved this book it's was a little short. it was a bad choice for my free book I should have picked something that would go on and on so I could get my money's worth. otherwise really fun book

2 people found this helpful

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Where oh where is Steven Pacey?

Awesome story with some easter eggs. Would of been oh so much better if Steven Pacey was narrating.

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Buy this book. It is very well done.

Joe Abercrombie has fast become one of my favourite fantasy authors. This is a great book

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Just Not Abercrombie

I couldn't finish this book. Got close, but couldn't quite limp across the finish line, it was just that hard going. Let me setup this review by firstly stating that I'm a huge Abrecrombie fan and I'd probably class him, along with a handful of other writers such as Martin, Sanderson, McClellan and Watson, as one of the best, if not the best, of the modern fantasy genre. If I listened to this book without knowing the author I wouldn't have been able to guess who it was after a multitude of attempts, this book is just so far removed from his previous works. I know this new series is aimed at the YA market, but I still had high hopes and had been hanging out for anything new from him for an age. I was bitterly disappointed that this is what I'd waited so long for.

I found that all characters lacked depth and the lead character was simply unlikable. The real, gritty, interesting, if deeply flawed, characters of the 'The First Law' world were missing from this book. You may not have liked or were able to relate to all of the characters from this world, but they generally intrigued and always kept you coming back for more. I found the lead character of this book so irritating and annoying that I was hoping he'd be killed off, but no such luck.

I also found the narration mediocre at best. I've only listened to one of his books previously, I read all the others, but Steven Pacey was outstanding. This performance was not even close to that standard.

I will not be purchasing the rest of the series and will now need to wait until Joe, hopefully, returns to the world and/or style that made him one of my favourite authors. Let's hope he churns out the rest of this series nice and quick so that this occurs sooner rather than later. I want my old Joe back!

2 people found this helpful

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Always the Shattered hero

Joe Abercrombie always talks about the shattered hero. Or is this really saying we all have to make do with what we have.
A brilliant writter who takes me on a journey

2 people found this helpful

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Narrator is terrible but the story is impeccable.

Gutted that Steven Pacey didn't narrate this one. I understand it is designed to appeal to a different demographic than the First Law but why fix what's not broken? Abercrombie is my favorite author and Steven Pacey is one of my favorite narrators but this collaboration with Ben Elliott doesn't have the diversity, range or depth required to bring this beautiful story to life and do it the justice it deserves. A little bit of effort or a re-recording with a superior narrator would change the common disappointed theme I'm hearing due to this production choice. Nothing should be taken away from Joe Abercrombie here simply take the microphone away from Ben Elliott's monotony and the masterpiece will shine as It should

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Another great Abercrombie book

I’d left this sitting in my audible library after reading all the negative reviews of the narrator. I don’t know what everyone’s moaning about! Of course he’s no Steven Pacey (well who else is!) but he’s still damn good. He reads fluently and smoothly and you still feel the characters living. This trilogy is a little simpler than the others and seems a little more aimed at the YA readers, but I’m up to the 3rd now and still every bit as invested in the characters and plot.

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Narrator is the worst

I could not deal with this narrator. So incredibly slow and boring. I sped it up but it just ruined the story for me, which I think otherwise would have been good. I love the Abercrombie books narrated by Steven Pacey, bring him back!

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Not Worthy of Joe

Very Disappointing when compared to his other books. Would not recommend it to an enemy.

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bit of a disappointment

Nothing at all like his other books...the humour was lack lustre and Ben Elliott's narrating was boreing as watching paint dry :(

im generally a huge fan of Joe...but not of this series :(

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  • Elina Makhalova
  • 27-07-2021

Loved it!

Great book. I was hungering for Viking fantasy with a twist, and by God, it delivered.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-02-2020

A fun adventure

Was a pleasant read. Not too long and not too short. Requires a little bit of an attention span, if english isn't your 1st language.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-09-2019

Superb

Fantastic. Loved it. Abercrombie does it again. Great work by Ben Eliott aswell. 5/5 stars.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-04-2019

horrible narrative

I have no doubt the book is good since I've read most of the authors books. Sadly I couldent stand the narrator. A voice that shall haunt my mind for all time.

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  • Ivan
  • 23-05-2016

Great story. Mediocre reader.

Abercrombie doesn't disappoint. Good story, if a bit rudimentary. The speak is not great. But ok.

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  • Warren
  • 28-07-2015

Good Story, OKish performance

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

It was a good story, and i would like hear the rest of the shattered see novels. Yes time well spent!

Would you be willing to try another one of Ben Elliot’s performances?

Not really, i thought he was dead pan and missed some of Joe Abercrombies humor

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  • ola
  • 16-04-2015

Perfect

Just love his books. Hope Joe will continue write his dark fantasy with all his fantastic characters from that evil world he has created

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  • May-Helen Flatstrand
  • 13-11-2014

Enjoyable start to a new series.

What did you love best about Half a King?

The setting. Abercrombie have created a world that seem slightly more inspired by norse culture and nordic history than the average fantasy book. There are for example hints of parallels to the centralization of power which happened in Scandinavia during the Viking age. Not by any means to the extent of giving anyone a lesson in history, but it makes the book more enjoyable to those who already have an interest in norse history I think.

What did you like best about this story?

The ending. It might be argued that this is a much lighter read than what Abercrombie usually serves and the characters are not quite as strong or memorable as some of the others he have created, but as establishing a new world with new characters for a new series I think it works well.

I gave an extra star for giving the book an ending that creates anticipation of what comes next without making a cliffhanger. Reading George R.R. Martin have given me a deep aversion of cliffhangers.

Any additional comments?

Bloody good entertainment.

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  • Viv
  • 29-08-2014

Sadly repetitive

As an enthusiastic listener to Joe Abercrombie's stories I was sadly disappointed by this one. The story is quite 'thin' and the characters largely a rehash of the ones you find in his other books. Despite that I am hopeful that it is an opening for a much better story line as the series proceeds. The narration, whilst good, is not as captivating as the narration in his other audio works by (I think) Stephen Pacey.

14 people found this helpful

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  • a
  • 28-12-2014

An Enjoyable Story... shame about the performance

Any additional comments?

I liked the story, though I much prefer Abercrombie's First Law World. Unfortunately the performance really lets the side down. Bring back Steven Pacey. Where Elliot burbles his narration in a monotone drone, Pacey has the emotional range to bring the words to life. Where Elliot's character voices all sound the same, Pacey imbues each character with a unique identity capable of expressing complex emotions. I will buy Half a Land when it is released, but I don't think I'll buy the audio companion, not if it's narrated by Ben Elliot at any rate.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Paul
  • 24-07-2014

Least good of Abercrombie's books

when I finished a long non fantasy talking book I was pleased to see that Abercrombie had a new book out on audible and just downloaded it. Should have checked more carefully. This is clearly for Young Adults / teens as opposed to his normal output. That's not to say it's bad, it's just that compared to his usual excellent novels this one is obvious where it's going, no great depth or complexity to the characters. If you don't know Joe Abercrombie's work then it's fine and I listened to it to the end but if you have listened to the heroes, before they are hanged etc you will be disappointed.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Robyn
  • 14-09-2014

Great stuff

This is supposed to be Abercrombie for the young adult market. Well this "older adult" is quite happy with it too!

Not quite as gritty as the First Law Trilogy, but equally engaging and raw, and still enough blood and guts to satisfy an Abercrombie fan.

Roll on book 2......

15 people found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 10-07-2014

Not just for YA or (Joe you had me worried)

Any additional comments?

I love Abercrombies books, so had to listen/read this one when it came out, despite it being tagged a young adult story. I figured it would lose so much without his usual dark and gritty story telling.
But happy to be proved wrong, although I didn't enjoy it as much as his adult books I still enjoyed the story, it has his wonderfully deep and complex characters and as ever strong and capable female characters (thanks Joe) loads of plot twists and turns, humour and adventure.
Although a lot subtler and more condensed then in his adult books, the violence is still there just a lot less graphic, so if you like your fantasy gore free this is a safe bet.
Overall an enjoyable viking-esque fantasy story that sucked me in enough that I had to listen to it in one sitting.
Sum it up as a timeless adventure suitable for young adult and old fogeys alike.
And I can't wait for book two.



9 people found this helpful

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  • Ashley Sharif
  • 13-07-2020

Adolescent Abercombie

This is a good story, but not of the depth, darkness and immersiveness of adult Abercrombie. Unfortunately this narrator is not up to the high standards of Pacey (narrator of first law trilogy and first book of new trilogy). I will listen to the next two though as quite frankly it's Abercrombie and in my mind, he can do no wrong. The best 21st century fantasy author bar none. Abercombie would be outranked by Rothfuss if Patrick had actually bothered to finish his trilogy but that's a discussion for another thread.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew J Chamberlain
  • 26-01-2015

A decent enough story, a passable performance

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Worth a listen if you are a Joe Abercrombie fan, interesting sory with the rich background that we expect from Joe

Who was your favorite character and why?

The characters didn't quite reach the exceptionally high standards of the First Law Trilogy but were interesting enough

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Audible askes the rather loaded and unhelpful question "how did the narrator detract from the book" especially unfair for some of the great narrators I've heard. Ben Elliot makes a passable effort of this book, not as good as the excellent Stephen Pacey who did The Frsot Law but reasonable enough. Maybe Ben is more of a "YA" narrator, maybe he's new to Audible. It wasn't bad certainly, but theres room for improvement

3 people found this helpful

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  • Milad
  • 22-05-2015

Could have been better

Would you try another book written by Joe Abercrombie or narrated by Ben Elliot?

I loved the first law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie but this one is a lot shorter, the story is much milder (not necessarily a bad thing) but more importantly the narrator was not up to the job. Most voices sounded the same and/or were not suited to the characters. They were done in a way that made me feel as if I was listening to a children's book.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I found the ending to be interesting.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Ben Elliot?

To be honest, the first one that comes to mind when it comes to Mr Abercrombie's books is Steven Pacey. He did such a fantastic job on the other books that I would want to cast him for all of Mr Abercrombie's.

Was Half a King worth the listening time?

hmmmm...

Any additional comments?

Please redo these books with a different narrator.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mike
  • 12-03-2015

Gripping from the first page

I just finished this today and I'm sitting here slightly stunned. It's been a long, long time since I read something so packed with betrayal, violence, and dramatic plot twists which is also written by someone who draws vivid characters, creates a whole new mythology and has an ear for language and rhythm that lifts his prose almost into a song at times.

The plot of "Half A King", at least as it was described by the publishers, sounded like "Game of Thrones" without the dragons and the nudity. I didn't find that encouraging. I never got past the third chapter of the first "Game of Thrones" book, I listened to a sample of "Half A King" found it well-written and narrated and decided to give it try.

I was gripped from the first page, not so much by the plot as by the tone and pace of the thing: unhurried but focused, like a performer at the beginning of a contemporary ballet, full of controlled energy and potential passion.

Fortunately for me, I had a long commute this week, a round trip drive of nearly 700 miles, during which I could listen to "Half A King". I drank it in: a strange future world, fallen back into feudalism, murder and intrigue at court, a crippled prince unexpectedly becoming a king.

I thought to myself, "Ah, I know where this goes but I'll listen because I'm enjoying the ride". I did enjoy the ride but it turned out that I had no idea where the book was going. After the first plot twist, the ground my complacency was standing on fell away and I tumbled into the unexpected. Then it happened again. And again. And each time without me feeling cheater or tricked. It was more like opening one of those Matryoshka dolls from Russia and finding another doll within and then another within that.

"Half A King" is filled with violence, cruelty, death, betrayal, slavery and, above all, revenge. Yet it does not glory in these things but rather wades through them with the grim determination of someone who's only safe path is through the midden. What it rejoices at is freedom and courage and loyalty, if only because they are so rare.

This was my first Joe Abercrombie book. It won't be my last. Read it, preferably when you can give yourself up to it and let real life fade.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Graham
  • 28-07-2014

Well Preformed

What did you like best about Half a King? What did you like least?

I thought the book was short however well structured. The story itself was disappointing and basically followed the story of the Lion King!

What will your next listen be?

Currently listening to Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

What about Ben Elliot’s performance did you like?

Well voiced and good distinction between characters

Could you see Half a King being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

nope

2 people found this helpful

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