Here is a review by a good Russian colleague of mine. (Reposted from “IsWinterComing.com”)
HALF A TRILOGY of Joe Abercrombie
Dobre Utra, comrades! At the insistence of Lori Petty I return once again to provide for you personal reviews of books I have read. Sister Mila has married rich capitalist in USA and she has taught me better English by correspondence, so maybe I do not embarrass myself in such a way as last few reviews.
Today I focus on SHATTERING SEAS trilogy of Joe Abercrombie finally deciding if STEEL IS OUR ANSWER????
(probably it is)
Before spoilers, I will say overall I am enjoying the trilogy but with weak third book…HALF THE WAR is repeat of many PRIMARY LAW elements for Young Comrade Literature. Characters are also not as good as first two books. So I recommend overall the series with that for consideration. Plot is good in third book but characters are boring. Overall is fine.
SPOILERS COME FOR US ALL!!!
HALF A KING
No comrades, in spite of title this is not a WILD CARDINGS book. It is HALF A KING meaning that Yarvi has hand of wither (half his hands) and is becoming Minister which is half of ruling kingdoms. To him I can relate, I have nephew Alexei who was born with gigantic hands like bear, useless for fine-tune tasks like polishing of hubcap or loading of Kalashnikov. But he is a gifted farmer!
Anyway Yarvi is brilliant but naive much like young Nicholas II (minus the brilliant part too in actuality). I have been told by friends of American Fantasy Message Boards (such as this) that world of Shattered Sea is one of much brutality and Yarvi is providing “contrast.” In any case he is relateable and very much fun to watch in scheming.
Theme of book is “without friend you are Nothing” and it is powerful message that is probably unfortunately missing from book 3. Yarvi puts in practicing his teachings and recruits ally. “Nothing” learns this too and gets kingdom back. Friends in unexpected situations. This reminds me of time I am working as Prison Guard in Novosibirsk and anti-Putin persons picket political prisoners outside and I am forced to be breaking up with “riot gear.” Anyway after clubbing man in rainbow shirt for ten minute I notice he has GREAT AND POWERFUL TURTLE (of WILD CARDS) tattooed on lower back. I stop and help rainbow-man up and we go out for terrible coffee and obscure meats once a week at LUDMILA’S KITCHENING, best restaurant in Novosibirsk, and I am realizing “we are not as different you and me” (quote of AUSTIN POWER). I make unexpected friend.
The rowboats Yarvi is on is perfect communist paradise. Each oarperson is strong and relies on oaring of others. All are equal, full stop. But wait you ask, what about moneychanger and captain? EVERY SHIP NEEDS CAPTAIN!!!! Look to Russian history for evidence, always we are having strong leader. STOREKEEPER IS CAPITALISTIC CORRUPTION AND IS DESTROYING SHIP! Reread if you are not believing me. Greed and lust for money undoes strong captain.
Book is fast pace and self-contained. I feel like I am on great rollercoaster except I am not pleading for sweet release as maybe-crazy Cousin Evgeny begs conductor to go faster.
UTHIL is favorite character in book and he has parallel journey as Yarvi I would say. STEEL IS OUR ANSWER!!!! For weeks after reading this book I am cradling American Colt AR15 in same way as Uthil cradles drawn sword at all times. I get more compliments on my eyes than ever before, comrades. Even high school sweetheart Natalya sees me and says “Oh this decadent American chrome pistol gripping makes your eyebrows so fierce, darling! Why am I ever leaving you?”
(Probably I made that last quote up.)
I also must be saying that women in trilogy are unique in most peculiar ways — probably this is intentional to reflect history of Ancient Slavic culture which was very masculine but had important role of women. Anyway women of Queen Laithlin persuasions — subtle power — gives me “Half an Erection” if you are understanding me. )))))))
OVERALL GRADES: A+. Good enough to become cosmonaut and fly with dogs and monkeys or whatever it is Russian Space Agencies are flying these days. (I do not follow aerospace.)
HALF THE WORLD
Thorn Bathu reminds me of American Propaganda star JOHN RAMBO. She does not talk much and is quite severe and has marketable hair. She is joining Brand, a hard-working drone for which Stalin would be immensely proud. He is blunt object pointed in many directions by masculine Thorn and effeminate Yarvi. Relationship is nice and reminds me of primary school sweetheart Natalya and that summer day when we hunted our first bear…
It occurs to me reading this book that elf-magic is old human technology. If I look at map I am realizing hey this is former Soviet Bloc areas around Baltic! Kalyiv = Kiev, Lunangad = Leningrad/Petersburg, et cetera. It reminds me of when I am in movie theater with Cousin Evgeny at first Russian screening of PLANET OF APES in 1985. He yells at end OF COURSE IT IS EARTH! AMERICANS ARE THE APES, THEY ALWAYS WERE, COMRADES! He is dragged out of theater by KGB and returned to house one week later with hair shaved off. “It was nothing Cousin Misha!” he says grinning with chapped lips and red eye. “They have given me medal for my courage!” but he never shows it to me.
Journey of Thorn has parallels to Yarvi but there are enough twistings to be different. Journey to Kalyiv and First of Cities (Istanbul???) is very pleasing and although is Young Comrade novel, has depth.
I guess worst part of book is that three months after finishing, I forget the plot almost in its completeness. When I pick up third book, I forget Koll and reason for trip south. Still, book 2 of Shattering Sea is quite nice.
OVERALL GRADINGS: B. is fine grade similar to what I get actually, could work as prison guard or bakery attendant. Or both which is what I did for numbers of years.
HALF A WAR
This is the book that is losing me. It is like Soviet-era stores. Koll is like knock-off Yarvi (like knock-off fur coat made of rat hide) and Raith is knock-off Logen (like expensive capitalist Five Eleven is ripoff of efficient Russian Makarov pistol). I have already read this story of these characters. Even Yarvi becomes like Bayaz but I am not spoiling FIRST LAW trilogy here.
Skara however is beautiful jewel amongst fouled sewage of character developments. She has nice story and growth and even is outsmarting Yarvi at times. She is special for reading people; something shared with Yarvi I suppose. But she is also more risk taking and wants to stand ground in Throvenland; something shared with Uthil.
Definitely Elf-magic is human technologies and Shattered Sea is post-apocalypse Earth. Translated: Skifr gives party pills of anti-radiation and takes into government building (probably Stockholm) and deep into contingency bunker where she turns on flourescent lights (probably of underground generator battery) and punches code into keypad. Inside is grenade launcher (she uses for herself) and many Kalashnikov for ministers to use in hliarious ways (how funny is Mother Scaer doing Scarface impression at end? Go look at book again and tell me that is not funny with her yelling and shooting automatic weapon. AND IS NAMING COINCIDENT? SCAER? SCARFACE???? I am cracking code, comrades.)
How am I feeling about Elf-magic? Is ok for young person literature I guess and ties into overall message of “war is not profit” which is so true comrades. You think because Russia changes flag and leader every once in a while is changing culture? Not as such my friends. Just watch news — speaking of news, I am having trouble finding news program when I visit USA because every channel is nothing but capitalist commercial. I change to one and is selling me hamburger, another is selling me Apple Watch. OR SHOULD I BE SAYING ELF-BANGLE???? (Perhaps Evgeny is right. Is Americans all along!)
Yarvi is fucking villain at end of book and that leaves bad taste in this reviewer’s tongue. Was whole point of journey in book 1 for him to become as bad as his enemy? Is true to real life, but is sad. I much prefer simple WILD CARDING plots of cards thrown at people and Boys with Jets.
Plot is great but simple, but Young Comrade literature is supposedly simple so this is OK. I wish for a happier ending; is perhaps too dark and copy-cat of INITIAL LAW TRILOGY.
OVERALL GRADE: C-. Is fine grade for young aspiring Breaker of Sword.