Review: Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

hak 3“And Yarvi realized that Death does not bow to each person who passes her, does not sweep out her arm respectfully to show the way, speaks no profound words, unlocks no bolts. The key upon her chest is never needed, for the Last Door stands always open. She herds the dead through impatiently, needles of rank or fame or quality. She has an ever-lengthening queue to get through. A blind procession, inexhaustible.”

Prince Yarvi of the Gettlands is thrust into the role of King upon his father’s sudden death, but even after a lifetime of preparations the young boy is still not ready to take on his throne. He doesn’t believe himself capable of such power, and neither do the other royals and soldiers around him. It is due to this distrust that Yarvi finds himself awash on a new shore in a strange new land that he’d only heard of through stories of his kingdom’s enemies. So who finds him first as he crawls from the cold waves? His enemy king, of course. Pretending to be a mere baker’s son, Yarvi is then brought into slavery to be sold in one of the high markets of Grom-gil-Gorm’s territory. As he ventures from a throne, to a cell, to a ship where he is charged with the job of an oarsmen, Yarvi begins to plot his vengeance for those who betrayed him and cast him out of his home, and he’ll have to rely upon his enemies if he wants to survive first in order to get back his crown.

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetOur hero of the story is roughly around the age of sixteen if I recall correctly, and he definitely acts like it. Although I’m infatuated with tales of warriors and knights and vikigns etcetera, I was always a bit skeptical about how quick to take on a challenge some of those figures were. In Yarvi’s case, he truly wants to be king but he knows he’s not ready yet— spiritually or physically. For starters, Yarvi was born with half a hand, hence the title. This setback is only a setback if he allows it, and unsurprisingly he does. He was always frowned upon for being a cripple, and he is self-conscious of the fact. Even when he was being displayed in a line up of slaves to be bought, he hid his hand so that his buyer wouldn’t think twice.

To make matters worse, he had to help row a ship with only seven fingers, and he was described as being scrawny and lanky in the prior chapters. There were times when I became frustrated with his inner monologue and the depressing thoughts that accompanied it, but then I remembered that unlike other stereotypical hero’s, Yarvi acts just how I imagine anyone else in his position in real life would. He is hesitant about everything, passionate about the things he desires, and switches moods constantly.

Along his journey as a slave, Yarvi befriends his fellow oarsmen and the other captives aboard the ship. I was pleased to read that there are many mentions of women captains and warrior queens, but I felt that all the secondary characters lacked any true depth. Taking into consideration that this is meant to be a story about one boys development into a man, I found it troubling how little was spent on the progression of characteristics and rather most of the plot centered around battle tactics and the main protagonists constantly on the run.

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetYet even the battles felt short, as did most of the book, which I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t take me so long to force myself to read. Abercrombie has a fluid style of writing, and I really enjoyed his prose and context of language, but it was still a challenge to finish this story if only for the lack of connection I felt towards any of the characters, including the main one.

Would I classify this as a story about vikings? I’m sure under certain dictions it would qualify as such because of the mention of Vasterland and the enemy kings, but personally I read this just as I would have read any other story set in medieval fantasy realms. It didn’t stand out at all, and it felt dull nearly every other chapter. Perhaps you’ll have a better time with this one than I did if you decide to read it, but I can’t say I loved this story without coming up with explanations as to why I also found issues with it. I’m told the second book in this series is even better, but I’m still uncertain whether or not I will be reading that one.

Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable. It was a fun read, but it dragged a bit at the end and I still don’t feel as connected to these characters as I would have preferred. There was so much potential, but the delivery was weak. Oh well. On to more books!

My Rating: 3/5 stars.

Read this review on GoodReads.

Garden Party: a spring playlist.

cozy readsThis beautiful cover design is from artist Júlia Sardà.
You can check out her other pieces here

Garden Party is a combination of songs that make me want to stroll through meadows, find the sunniest patch of grass, plant flowers, eat pretty pastries like lemon bread or French food I cannot pronounce. It also makes me want to read, but honestly what doesn’t? In other words, you might have heard these songs if you’ve ever shopped in Anthropologie. Enjoy!

 

tracklist.

i. what’s a girl to do / Bat for Lashes
ii. paper bag / Fiona Apple
iii. queen of peace / Florence & the Machine
iv. wild fire / Laura Marling
v. wild horses (acoustic) / Bishop Briggs
vi. pierre / Ryn Weaver
vii. all my tears / Ane Burn
viii. all I want / Sarah Blasko
ix. metal heart / Cat Power
x. wish you were here / Florence Welch
xi. aventine / Agnes Obel
xii. 1234 / Feist

Listen on 8tracks here.

Writing Excerpts // no.1

(Here are just some of my dabbles, mostly things I’ve written while bored in class. Maybe one day I’ll expand upon some of them, but who knows? I hope you enjoy!)

part i.

Forth comes the rain that cleaves the wind
with hedging shears and wilting petals,
of which were uprooted too soon,
bewitched by the rising sun,
and drenched in cold sea salt.
Soon will come the roses—
bloodless
ivory sheets twirled between toes—
for what else can new beginnings bring
but growth and thorns and wild abandon.

 

wood.

A tree is only a vessel

made of silt and soil
crafted by fingers dipped in dawn,
and you are but a tree
made from fallen oak
shattered pine
weeping willow
and forest
fire.

A moon of black fire hangs low tonight.

It says to the trees in tongues of foreign mothers hither and wither the crow calls to the unkind ravens, but the ravens are bare and boneless as you in winter webs. And onward goes the shadows who hunt in the path of the flickering fire— onward towards the featherless birds who still scream with mirth even though they’re naked against the cold.

A dusting of frost licks the sides of indescribably large pumpkins, coating the ghost white, grey, and orange of the fruits. Vines upon vines and thorns of thyme loop through the dirt whereupon the crows have burrowed the raven’s wares, creating a nest for the unseelie queen.

 

excerpt no. ii

When the storytellers recite their wares of folklore, the maidens, though they vary in voice and valiance, are often portrayed for being one thing above all else.

Fragile.

Delicate limbs and rosebud lips that which are wielded to disarm armies and infiltrate the most stalwart minds of kings and courtiers. Her velvet skin, her willow-the-wisp hair, her honeysuckle breath that offers solace to all that come close enough to taste it— taste her— will be the demise of a great many men. These characters of old are liars. They are the myths; not the dragons that their knights forged into serpentine tapestries and used the scales to create jewelry for a blossoming bride. No beast was nailed to a dinning hall for being slaughtered by another lesser creature.

What the storytellers neglect to whisper beside hearths and wintry bonfires is that these dragons are the true maidens, and the maidens in the tales are but a gust of wind ripping through a bed of glass meadowlarks. The real women of old were warrior queens. Blacksmith daughters and shieldmaidens with political minds and eyes not made of the sea, but bred from the thunder and the moon that lulled the tides. We were always the storms that caused shipwrecks, not the sirens crafted upon wooden vessels. Never a symbol to romanticize, but a tempest to heed caution.

And the feminine skin that grazed across my ribcage was anything but glasslike.

The woman above me was a basilisk with fangs and claws and thrumming blood. Yet, I wasn’t afraid. How could I be, when I too was a creature born from the fury of my predecessors? When her teeth claimed my throat, my hands rose to caress her sides and drag her down further so that our hearts pushed and pulled like waves crashing against a cliffside. The grass beneath me seemed to stretch taller as I sunk lower into the woodland cot. Above me were oak spires, burning leaves, a gloaming sky, and a pair of wild ochre eyes bearing down on me like the missing sun.

 

inhale.

breathing is easy
when you’ve swallowed the sun
and held the sea between your fingers.
sharing breath with the one
who did both with your world,
that is the challenge.

 

excerpt no. iii

      She was ignited in honey light, with a spine unfurled and elongated such as the serpent that sleeps coiled low within her. A crown of splintered teeth adorned the maiden’s forehead, biting into the heavy forest of hair that grew every which way, like the gnarled roots of an ancient tree. Thorns wove up her forearms as sleeves—as armor—and interlocked against her bodice wherein chainmail would cover a man’s chest during battle. But she was not waging war. It would be a difficult feat indeed to prelude something that had been the essence of her existence. Rather, Kadar was lapsing through another day as a misplaced queen amongst a world uprooted in fear and bloodlust. She wasn’t certain which trait fed the other. Only that her skin itched to bathe in dawn one final time before the sun fell and an eternal moon was born.

 

 

story concept no.i

The forest of Fornhaust thrives by virtue of spilled blood. No rainfall vicious enough or ray of sun emblazoned with the heat of a witches pyre could offer life to these woods. It’s roots are thick with the essence of warriors, it’s bark the clout of a weathered blade. Vagabond spirits know not to trespass, for the only creatures more primal than Fornhaust are the maidens who serve it. But when the forest begins to decay for the first time in a two thousand years, the blood of a lone wanderer won’t be enough to satiate it’s hunger. For without immediate care, the trees will seek other means of survival— whether it be by festering its rot towards other thickets…or hunting in familiar lands, to devour its own protectors.

After Queen Freydis of the Vaskr shieldmaidens slaughtered the clan of her betrothed and denounced her ancestral throne, she since opened her barren castle to the wilderness for all women in need of a place to hone their abilities. The forest kingdom hosts an academy of female warriors, high priestesses, and earth witches, all of whom have sworn an oath to Her Highest and offered their skills to protect and serve the Fornhaust. Theyda, the most feral and triumphant warrior birthed by the silt and soil of the woods, is a few months shy of ascending her final task as an apprentice to the great Wilder Witch. On the eve of her ceremonial, a rupture forges deep in the riverbed: ravens fall from the skies, wind shrieks like a mute giantess among the copse of blanched winter pines, and the trees weep black blood. The elders see this as a sign from the gods, and they strip Theyda of her titles— forsaking her to the madness of the dying woods.

To save the land that relinquished her, Theyda and her sister shieldmaidens must seduce two rival kingdoms to venture into the heart of the awakened forest where war must be fought and enough blood spilled to replenish the realm. But while drawing foreign kings within the cusps of battle, and venturing farther than she’s ever been granted passage, Theyda is faced with a morbid realization that could cause Fornhaust to writhe in pestilence forevermore if she doesn’t chose wisely. And wherein the forest is starving, it’s people are rising from the drecks of an ancient curse with a thirst for revolution.

(key story terms:)

  1. Forn— ancient (Old Norse)
  2.  Haust— autumn
  3. Vaskr— brave
  4. Flaugun— fly
  5. Sortna, Myrkva— grow dark
  6. ávotxr— growth
  7. howling— pytr

3. 27. 17

 

Atmospheric Books

How we rate a book has a lot to do with not only the characters and the plot, but the setting as well. We might not realize it, but a vast amount of our emotions are placed in the background scenes and subconscious environments. To be fair, most books arguably have their own original settings wherein no two books will ever take place in the same fantasy kingdom or high school, however there are a few books that surpass all others in regards to being wholesomely atmospheric. Books that not only include an environment, but make that environment vital to the storyline. I adore books of the such, because they are the ones that I feel as though I can really submerge myself in and escape reality.

These books emphasize the whimsical aspect behind many genres, not only fantasy, because they seem so surreal yet they were designed to bring forth our own personal encounters and nostalgia in order to raise our emotional awareness. These atmospheric books do wonder for our minds, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite ones!

Don’t just read books— fall into them.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenster


“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
“The Night Bazaar had ensnared me. I could smell its perfume on my skin—of stories and secrets, flashing teeth and slow smiles.”

The Half Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

“She rushed across the fields and into the woods, where some shadowed grove would still shelter winter’s snow. She found a cache of not yet melted snow in the roots of an oak, and there she sat, numbing her hand, while the sun set.”
The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“White Sky. Trees fading at the skyline, the mountains gone. My hands dangled from the cuffs of my jacket as if they weren’t my own. I never got used to the way the horizon there could just erase itself and leave you marooned, adrift, in an incomplete dreamscape that was like a sketch for the world you knew -the outline of a single tree standing in for a grove, lamp-posts and chimneys floating up out of context before the surrounding canvas was filled in-an amnesia-land, a kind of skewed Heaven where the old landmarks were recognizable but spaced too far apart, and disarranged, and made terrible by the emptiness around them.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

“It was a palace of vaulting glass and shimmering tapestry and, woven through it all like light, magic. The air was alive with it. Not the secret, seductive magic of the stone, but a loud, bright, encompassing thing. Kell had told Lila that magic was like an extra sense, layered on top of sight and smell and taste, and now she understood. It was everywhere. In everything. And it was intoxicating. She could not tell if the energy was coming from the hundreds of bodies in the room, or from the room itself, which certainly reflected it. Amplified it like sound in an echoing chamber. And it was strangely—impossibly—familiar. Beneath the magic, or perhaps because of it, the space itself was alive with color and light. She’d never set foot inside St. James, but it couldn’t possibly have compared to the splendor of this. Nothing in her London could. Her world felt truly grey by comparison, bleak and empty in a way that made Lila want to kiss the stone for freeing her from it, for bringing her here, to this glittering jewel of a place. Everywhere she looked, she saw wealth. Her fingers itched, and she resisted the urge to start picking pockets, reminding herself that the cargo in her own was too precious to risk being caught.”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

“The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed trough the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with coversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of the night. If there had been music…but no, of curse there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.”

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

“As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.”

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

“Marya watched from the upper floor as once again the birds gathered in the great oak tree, sniping and snapping for the last autumn nuts, stolen from squirrels and hidden in bark-cracks, which every winged creature knows are the most bitter of all nuts, like old sorrows sitting heavy on the tongue.”

In the Woods by Tana French

“…the solitude was intoxicating. On my first night there I lay on my back on the sticky carpet for hours, in the murky orange pool of city glow coming through the window, smelling heady curry spices spiraling across the corridor and listening to two guys outside yelling at each other in Russian and someone practicing stormy flamboyant violin somewhere, and slowly realizing that there was not a single person in the world who could see me or ask me what I was doing or tell me to do anything else, and I felt as if at any moment the bedsit might detach itself from the buildings like a luminous soap bubble and drift off into the night, bobbing gently above the rooftops and the river and the stars.”

 

SIAD.

Self Injury Awareness Day (SIAD) occurs each year on the first of March. It is an internationally recognized event that was founded to draw attention to those who inflict self harm— so that the people who partake in this act are better understood, and can find a way to cope and subsist. It is important to remember that these victims are, in fact, victims to their own emotions and should be treated like every other human being. Too often are self-injury survivors made out to be stereotypically depressed, asocial, volatile and so on. This isn’t a trend. The most stable, seemingly exuberant person you know could also be harboring a grief greater than you could understand. The glorification of self-injuring acts through certain books, television shows, and songs (etc) are damaging to not only those who truly know what it means to experience such pain, but also to others who are trying to understand what causes a person to go to such lengths in order to feel better.

For those of us who have inflicted self-harm in the past, or are currently struggling with a relapse, remind yourself that you are worth more than your scars. I cannot say that your pain is only temporary, for each person is vastly different than another, but you DO have the power to take control of your body again. It will be hard, but allow close friends and family to help you. You don’t have to seek the aid, but don’t fight it. They only want to see you not suffering. If that isn’t enough, I can speak from experience that the best motivator during a state of depression can be your own voice. Think about all that which you’ve done, and all of what you can do. We see you. And you are not alone in this battle.

Originally, I had planned to provide a lengthy list of (mostly YA) books that deal with self injury or depression. I spent a good few hours pouring over GoodReads and other blogger’s recommendations for novels of the such, but not even a few minutes into writing up my post I realized how wrong it felt. As I’ve stated before, I have a history with self injury. This was years ago, and I am proud to declare that I’ve been healthier and happier ever since. I should also state that I’m not an ardent fan of contemporary as I am fantasy/sci-fi, and most books that include self injury are contemporary. Thus, I’ve only truly read a few, and that was such a long time ago that I can barely remember what I had read— only that it made an impact. That being said, I could easily recommend the books I’ve read and declare them “novels that teach you how to cope with self injury.” But then I would be lying.

We all have different opinions on the matter, but personally I feel as though most of these books work counter productively towards those who deal with self harm. Why read about someone else’s painful story when you are going through your own? I find it very triggering, and as of present we still do not include trigger warnings in books of any kind. Perhaps this seems like a reach to you, and I can see how, but let me rephrase this. Someone who is seeking help via a book about a character going through similar situations won’t necessarily find solace in a fictional person who is bringing up all of the reader’s repressed emotions and paranoia. Now, I am certain there are books out there that are written wonderfully and truly can help a reader deal with their illness, however I would feel terribly hypocritical to recommend books that I personally have not read to someone who is putting their trust in my hands with an ailment that directly impacts their life.

Although, there is one book that I can safely say will empower you.

Rather, the book of poems by acclaimed feminist and poet, Rupi Kaur, titled Milk and Honey, has a section that deals entirely with healing. So instead of reviewing her book right here (which I have done before: the full review can be found under my review section of the blog), I’m going to paste some of my favorite quotes/ poems created by her.

“stay strong through your pain
grow flowers from it
you have helped me
grow flowers out of mine so
bloom beautifully
dangerously
loudly
bloom softly
however you need
just bloom”

“what is stronger than the human heart which shatters over and over and still lives”

“if you were born with the weakness to fall you were born with the strength to rise”

“most importantly love
like it’s the only thing you know how
at the end of the day all this
means nothing
this page
where you’re sitting
your degree
your job
the money
nothing even matters
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them”

“do not look for healing
at the feet of those
who broke you”

“it was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”

“the world gives you so much pain and here you are making gold out of it -”

“your art
is not about how many people
like your work
your art
is about
if your heart likes your work
if your soul likes your work
it’s about how honest
you are with yourself
and you
must never
trade honesty
for relatability”

“you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness on my tongue
i was made heavy
half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and not easy
for the mind to follow”

“I want to apologize to all the women I have called beautiful before I’ve called them intelligent or brave.

I am sorry I made it sound as though something as simple as what you’re born with is all you have to be proud of when you have broken mountains with your wit.

From now on I will say things like you are resilient, or you are extraordinary not because I don’t think you’re beautiful, but because I need you to know you are more than that.”

Slut Shaming in YA Literature

“i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that”
― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey


In a time where unity sounds more like a fable than a fact, fighting oppression is vital for survival. Two of the most prominent oppressors of our generation are racism and sexism, both of which are constantly being disputed yet still remain an uphill battle. It’s easy to question why nothing has changed when you’ve put such effort into making a difference, but the fact of the matter still stands to reason that each little movement makes up a part of one giant revolt. The minimal things you do to help support equality will carry on to inspire others around you. Which is why I find proper representation in Young Adult literature to be essential for teaching readers how to be accepting and understanding, and to reassure them of their worth in this war-torn world. And while I promise to write another post about the racial inequality in YA, I wan’t to focus firstly on the gender bias that exists.

There is a certain stereotype that in retrospect appears harmless but can cause grave amounts of damage which can be found in plenty of novels, especially ones in the contemporary genre. The so called “mean girl” antagonist that materializes in a book is often depicted as someone who wears a lot of makeup, revealing clothing, lacks intelligence, and is outwardly racist and/or homophobic. However many prototypes of this character exist, they all seem to have the same overlooked trope in common— their reasoning for being antagonistic. From my perspective, it would seem as though they have every right to be hostile towards the main characters, what with the blatant slut shaming these women are facing. Authors tend to use the downfall of one character to elevate the innocence and uniqueness of their main character— and these two are typically the a) high school mean girl vs. b) victimized leading protagonist.

This is incredibly sexist.

slut-shame-3

slut-shame-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without understanding the way in which these authors are portraying their main character, they want to utilize the antagonist’s pain as a way to support the protagonist’s “goodness.” Regularly the bully finds herself in a definitive position where “her strawberry blond hair was combed into low pigtails, and like always, her skin was concealed under half a bottle of foundation. I (*the protagonist) was fairly certain I’d guessed the right amount, since there wasn’t a trace of her freckles in sight (….) There was three-quarters of an inch between the hem of her skirt and the start of her underwear…if she was even wearing any.” The prior is a direct quote from Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush young adult series. It was the first introduction of Marcie Millar, a character who is only further slut shamed and then disgraced even after her death.

I would like to first point out that the usage of makeup on any given person does not equate to their beauty or self-worth. The choice of wearing the products is for personal gratification ONLY. If it makes someone feel more confident to conceal a blemish with a remedy, so be it. If it makes someone feel empowering to wear hues of golden eyeshadow, dark lips, and wonderfully painted cheekbones, so be it. If someone feels beautiful without wearing makeup at all but respects that others feel the opposite, so be it. By demonizing a woman because she wears “too much” makeup, or because she dresses a certain way, we are objectifying her character simply because of a choice she made to feel better about herself—one that has nothing to do with anyone else. Using this stereotype in a YA setting, where readers are looking to enjoy the story but also learn from these characters, an author is misguiding their audience into believing that shaming another person because of the way they appear is alright.

It is interesting how the bully becomes the bullied the further you read these stories.

Slut-shaming is an atrocity that can be defeated by speaking out whenever you see or hear it occurring. Let the accuser know why they are in the wrong, and help them see that by degrading another person for the way in which they decide to decorate themselves, they are only hindering their own appearance.

slut-shame

“Many believe that the usage of these derogatory terms online through memes, social media accounts, and music videos all contribute to a rape culture, where women are blamed and men excused in cases of sexual assault or rape.”— Foothill Dragon Press

If you see this happening in any book, I highly encourage you to talk about it. Inform others of what you notice, and respectfully contact the author with your concerns. They most likely wont be able to fix something in a book that has already been published, but they certainly can learn from their mistakes so to not repeat them in the future. Help put an end to girls shaming girls, and we can start to unite women by uplifting one another instead of tearing us down because of how we look.

With that being said, I’ll leave you with this: A secondary character is only as secondary as you let them appear. If they’ve awaken an emotion in you that the protagonist couldn’t, then to you they are the primary. And all characters should be treated carefully, for even though you might not see their importance, someone else will, and any harmful representation can cause vast damage to a reader’s morale.