Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill. Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit. Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption. And weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?
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One of the best things about Joe's books before this one is the reading done by Steven Pacey. He's one of the reasons I found this series to begin with. I don't know the politics of changing from him but please bring him back.
This voice actor chose to give the main character, a female, a sort of poor Liverpool accent. EVERY OTHER CHARACTER had a more normal accent, except for a couple with an excessive Scottish accent. She is supposed to be educated but sounds like an idiot. I don't get this decision at all. It was very annoying to listen to. The other main character? Well, he grew up poor and uneducated, he gets a normal English accent. Ugh.
He also spoke in a sort of high-low sing song way that was very distracting. Thankfully he lessened it after a few hours. I don't know what the deal was but I almost returned this book because of the reader. I kept it because I do love Abercrombie books and want to support the author.
So, the story is pretty good, it's different than his previous stuff but interesting. I would recommend giving it a listen first to see if you can handle the voice actor.
And John Keating, maybe this was just a bad outing for you, maybe not. I don't want to judge on one book but please, think through your characters and don't try to put so much bloody play into the words that aren't dialogue.
I couldn't listen anymore to the narration because the characters sound similar, with several sounding rather like Hobbits from the Shire, and the phrasing is off, making it hard to follow. So, after a while, I read it, instead.
Good story, downgraded because of Abercrombie's repetitive descriptions, especially of Yarvi's "withered hand" (detailed further below). He makes a caricature of Yarvi through the über-emphasis on his deformity.
This is dubbed fantasy but there is only the slightest touch of the magical, when an ancient Elven relic is activated. Not a fantasy, this is a romance — and a good one — and a tale of political intrigue and adventure, set in a world similar to old Scandinavia, with characters reminiscent of the seafaring warriors and merchants of the North Sea. All the elves appear to have vanished from the land, for millennia.
I liked the prequel, Half a King and was happy to see several returning characters , including Father Yarvi, his friend Rulf, his mother the Queen of Gettland (Queen Laithlin) and her husband King Uthil. We also see Sumael, Ankran's widow Safrit and their son Koll, King Grom-Gil-Gorm and his minister Scaer, etc.
The true villain of the series continues to be Grandmother Wexen, Minister to the High King in Skekenhouse. She's even more power hungry and greedy, jealous of the Golden Queen's Midas touch. Wexen's newest protégée is Sister Isriun, a vindictive woman who featured as Yarvi's cousin and fiancée in the prequel.
The main characters (lovers) are teenagers. There's handsome, hardworking, musclebound Brand, an orphan who strives hard to care for his sister and stand in the light, hoping to find family and purpose — the "good" thing to do — by serving in the King's Guard. Then there's the heroine, Thorn, a spoiled brat who wants to serve in the King's guard, following in the footsteps of her fallen father. The problem is, she's not finding a warm welcome from Hunnan, master-at-arms in charge of training and assigning soldiers.
The story is fairly engrossing, despite several recycled scenes depicting our girl Thorn training to become a warrior-assassin beyond compare. I enjoyed the political machinations of Father Yarvi and Queen Laithlin. Enjoyed the dangers and challenges Yarvi and company encountered on their voyage far beyond the Shattered Sea, in search of allies to hopefully crush Grandmother Wexen and the High King.
Abercrombie creates caricatures by reducing people to one physical attribute and one repeated catchphrase. "Steel is the answer!" -- "Stand in the light" -- "a deep-cunning man" -- "the golden touch" -- "no man can kill me" -- "how'd you get that scar?"
As for physical appearance, Abercrombie constantly boils Yarvi down to nothing more than a deformed hand. We read endlessly about his "crippled" hand, his "withered" hand, his "twisted" appendages, etc. More than two dozen references to this one aspect of the man, but only a few references to his eyes, height, hair, mannerisms. See examples below:
"Yarvi held up his twisted claw and wiggled the one finger."
"Yarvi put his hands over his pale face, the bad one like a twisted toy next to the good."
"Father Yarvi lifted his withered hand and pressed its one crooked finger to Brand's chest."
"And in his hands — or in his one good one, for the other was a crooked lump — her life now rested."
"He waved his crooked hand so the one finger flopped back and forth."
Etc. 20+ times
I became increasingly more annoyed and distracted by the hand. Then it started happening with Sumael -- her notched lip and exposed white teeth. The queen -- her golden key, her hand on her swollen belly. Thorn -- always reaching for her bag of bones. Ugh.