Since the events of Half The World, the High King has turned his gaze from Gettland and Vansterland and settled instead on Throvenland. Having his champion, Bright Yilling, slaughter its king and anyone else he can get his hands on should mean that Throvenland will fall easily. Except there’s someone that Bright Yilling has overlooked – a young princess, Skara, who turns to the only people left who may be able to help her: our bunch of ‘heroes’.
Changing perspectives once again, this time around we get the POV’s of Skara, Koll (who we already know and, in my case, enjoy) and Raith – former cup bearer to Grom-Gil-Gorm and now Skara’s initially reluctant protector. With the odds surely stacked against them, each take their place amongst those we’ve already come to know and love (well, I love some of them) as they make their stand against the greed and ambition of the High King and his chief enabler, Grandmother Wexen. But to get their last stand, some difficult choices must be made.
As with the previous entries, each of our new characters get to grow and change throughout the course of the story - Skara grows from a scared young girl into a woman capable of leading a country at war, and Raith was a stone cold killer who is slowly developing a conscience, while Koll serves as our window into the activities of Father Yarvi and is struggling with the decisions being made ‘for the greater good’. Through them we’re forced to recognise the ways in which the years of war and vengeance have altered our ‘heroes’ and reconsider whether they’re actually that heroic after all, a more unusual approach than that usually taken in series aimed at a slightly younger audience.
Less unusual for YA but definitely unusual for Abercrombie was the more overt romantic element in Half A War (not that we haven’t had characters develop feelings for one another in previous books, but this time around it was one of the more central threads). While I wasn’t initially sure that I was that keen on this, I somehow seemed to find myself inexplicably turning into someone who internally bellowed ‘KISS HIM!!’ at Skara every five seconds, and I liked the pragmatic outcome of this relationship even more. But – and there is still a but in spite of my fangirling – I still think that Abercrombie’s true strengths lie in other areas and I’d have preferred if the romance had been shoved a little further to the side.
Definitely a series that’s well worth a read, I’m now counting down the days until Abercrombie’s next.