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Publisher's Summary

Yarvi, second son of the feared King Uthrik and the ruthless Queen Laithlin of Gettland, was born with a useless hand, and cannot hold a shield, or make fast a knot, or pull an oar, or do any of the things expected from a man. Left an outcast, he's surrendered his birthright and been given a woman's place as apprentice to Mother Gundring, Gettland's Minister, training to be an adviser, diplomat, healer and translator.
But when his father and brother are murdered by Grom-gil-Gorm, King of neighboring Vansterland, Yarvi is forced to take the Black Chair and become king himself - or half a king, at least - swear an oath of vengeance against the killers of his father, and lead a raid against the Vanstermen. Betrayed, left for dead, and enslaved on a rotting trading galley, Yarvi will need all his Minister's wit and cunning to escape, and all his diplomacy and knowledge to keep a rag-tag band of other slaves together on a month long trek across the frozen wastes of the utmost north. Among them are Sumael, the ship's single-minded navigator, Rulf, an ex-raide, Jaud, an ex-baker, and Nothing, a mad old man with a mysterious past and an almost magical skill with a sword. And their owner, the brutal Captain Shadikshirram, will be dogging their heels at every step. Father Peace may be the patron god of Ministers, but to reclaim the Black Chair, Yarvi will have to strike a deal with Mother War, and once you've invited the mother of crows to be your guest, there can be no telling whose blood will be spilled.
©2014 Joe Abercrombie (P)2014 Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By David on 07-25-14

Formula is not the opposite of gritty; it's just..

Perhaps Joe Abercrombie is a little weary of seeing the word "gritty" attached to his name in every other review, however accurate it may be. But formulaic is not an alternative to gritty; it's just...formulaic. Most of this book you have read before. Admittedly Abercrombie does it at least as well and mostly better than others, but it is impossible not to sigh and wonder why he decided to attend the party without his best clothes on. Still, reweaving old threads into a costume which is perhaps somewhat more stylish than the original demonstrates skill, albeit little inspiration. Less wise was his impulse to rework a peerless piece of stitching (a scene from Hamlet) and leave it hanging tattered on the rack. The advice comics give to their peers, "If you are going to steal, steal from the best," is not necessarily good counsel for writers.

All that being said, this is still Abercrombie, and his second or third best work is well worth reading. The ending, in particular, is very well crafted (will we have to wait until a sequel or two have come and gone before we can get you fully back, Joe?), and I was never really bored or confused. I certainly do not regret the credit, though I was also never astonished, never shocked, never terrified, never convulsed with laughter, never deeply moved, never transfixed by an image. Much more tender, much less muddy. But oh how the mighty have fallen. An extra star off for the descent from the heights, I'm afraid.

John Keating does a perfectly creditable job with the narration. Stephen Pacey or Michael Page, as much as I admire them both, would have been poor choices for this wide-eyed, coming of age story. Keating uses a variety of Scots, Irish and English dialects to set and identify the characters, and he only occasionally misses a meaningful inflection. It is strange hearing him read Abercrombie only because this is not the JA we are all used to.

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35 of 40 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Jim "The Impatient" on 06-14-15


This is way different then any other book Joe has written. I believe it is meant to be a YA novel. Less violence, no sex and not as dark. I still enjoyed the writing, the wit and the humor.

If you don't read this through to the end you might think it was FORMULAIC or if you are only listening with one ear. Those who listen with both ears, will hear the truths embedded in this story. The truths about friendships or lack of, about ambition, about the people and about the Rulers. A MINISTER NEVER SAYS NO, IF THEY CAN SAY PERHAPS. This is a good book for Teens to read. It does not include the usual happy ending, elves, magic or everything always works out best for those who deserve it that they get in other books. Abercrombie includes in this YA book, the lessons he teaches in his adult novels without all the blood and gore and that is that life is rough and does not always turn out roses and sunshine.

I like any book that shows Kings and Queens for what they truly are. The biggest bullies around. I also like a book that has not so perfect main characters. At first Yarvi seems to be a whinny baby about his hand (as would be expected from a member of royalty). The common man would figure out how to compensate for this deformity. With the lack of medical care and the hard life they lived, most common people would have some sort of handicap. A king to be would probably be a whinny baby. I also like a book that has some surprising twists and turns and this has plenty.

As many others have mentioned this narrator sucks. One reviewer put it best when he said he has only one note. One Note Keating. After having trouble telling characters apart and realizing that lots of the humor was sucked out by this narrator, I put him on fast speed. I found I could tell the characters apart better this way. After an hour or two of this I went back to regular speed and found that now that I knew the characters better I could tell them apart despite One Note Keating. His sad performance lowers the overall experience of this book, buy the hard cover. I will not listen to the next book, since One Note is screwing that one up also.

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22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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