Half a War is the last in the Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. It finally brings us to the confrontation with the High King and Grandmother Wexen whose machinations have brought the Shattered Sea to a world war. While the characters from the first books are active and present in this final book, their thoughts and motivations are opaque to us now. Instead, we follow Koll, who carved the mast in the second book, Skara and Raith, two new characters.
Skara is now Queen of Throvenland which has just been invaded, the cities and towns burned, the minister and king, her grandfather murdered. She escapes to Gettland, seeking refuge and help to take back her kingdom from her allies, the kings of Gettland and Vansterland. Grom gil Gorm, the mythic king of Vansterland is still with us and his cup bearer Raith is seconded to Skara as her guard.
Skara is the central character–a young woman trained to rule with the wisdom of her grandfather and his minister a foundation on which she launches her struggle to regain her throne and avenge their murders. She was taught that battle is half the war and strategy and intellect is the other. She has more than enough of that to wage a war.
I think this is a great book. Engrossing, exciting and filled with interesting characters. I love that Abercrombie does not waste pages and pages catching us up on old friends, trusting his readers to be able to keep up without explication. I also love that each book shifts point of view to new people – enabling us to see people we have come to admire with a more cynical eye.
Koll, Skara and Raith all transition to mature adulthood through the course of the story. They suffer great losses and win victories and come to the inevitable difficulty of trying to do good when there are no good choices. Moral ambiguity is part of war and they suffer for it.
I recommend reading the entire Shattered Sea trilogy. These books contain a complete and well-imagined world with theologies, customs and histories that are intriguing and surprising. I will confess to being taken very much by surprise when they visited the Elf city to get Elf weapons. The plot is complex and comes together beautifully in a finale to this series that is satisfying if not exactly happy.