A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Half a King is bestselling fantasy author Joe Abercrombie's first foray into the young adult market. But here the fantasy mostly stems from the imagined, medieval, Nordic-style society and geography; magic and sorcery don't appear at all. There's a lot of violence in this swashbuckling adventure, mostly from fighting with weapons like swords and knives, with some detailed descriptions and gore, including a skull split halfway by an axe. Blood's mentioned a lot, and bloody injuries are also described in some detail. Profanity is moderate, with "s--t" used once but milder words like "arse," "bastard," and "bitch" used half a dozen times each. There's almost no romance, but hero Yarvi does start to notice his feelings of attraction for Sumael. He's a great model for a broad education in the liberal arts, wisely applying what he's learned to a variety of situations he encounters, and he also models strength of character with his kindness, endurance, loyalty, and commitment.
What's the story?
Yarvi, the king's second son, was born with one deformed hand. Because his family always makes him feel useless physically, he decides to concentrate on his studies so that he can one day become minister to the king. But the throne is thrust upon him when his father and older brother are killed. Little can he imagine how his solemn oath to avenge their deaths will lead him from the heights of the throne to the depths of slavery and despair. If he can make his way back home, can he prove he's more than half a king?
Is it any good?
Best-selling fantasy author Joe Abercrombie's YA debut scores on all fronts: swashbuckling adventure, political intrigue, fearsome enemies, and a compelling hero navigating a richly imagined world. Fans of his adult fiction will find simplified but not dumbed-down language, and may be surprised by the absence of magic or sorcery. But they'll be glad to find Abercrombie's talent for vividly realized landscapes and a large cast of colorful supporting characters intact.
Tweens and teens who can handle a bit of gore will learn, as Yarvi does, that even someone who wasn't expected to amount to anything can achieve great things, and they'll really root for him as he strives to find his rightful place in the world
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why fantasy books are so popular. Why do we find them so entertaining?
Would Yarvi make a good king, or do you think he would be a better minister (which is what he studied to be)? What characteristics would make a good ruler or a weak one?
In this society, power is pretty evenly distributed between men and women. How does the author show this? What gods do the people worship? Do men and women both have political power?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.