Friday Firsts: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie


Welcome to Friday Firsts – a new weekly meme created by Tenacious Reader. New Book: First paragraphs. First impressions. New favourite?


| Friday Firsts: February 09 |

Half the World

Book Two of Shattered Sea

by Joe Abercrombie

Fantasy | 484 Pages | Published by Harper Voyager in 2015


| First Paragraphs |

He hesitated just an instant, but long enough for Thorn to club him in the balls with the rim of her shield.

Even over the racket of the other lads all baying for her to lose, she heard Brand groan.

Thorn’s father always said the moment you pause will be the moment you die, and she’d lived her life, for better and mostly worse, by that advice. So she bared her teeth in a fighting snarl – her favourite expression, after all – pushed up from her knees and went at Brand harder than ever.

She barged him with her shoulder, their shields clashing and grating, sand scattering from his heels as he staggered back down the beach, face still twisted with pain. He chopped at her but she ducked his wooden sword, swept hers low and caught him full in the calf, just below the mailshirt’s flapping hem.

To give Brand his due he didn’t go down, didn’t even cry out, just hopped back, grimacing. Thorn shook her shoulders out, waiting to see if Master Hunnan would call that a win, but he stood silent as the statues in the Godshall.

Some masters-at-arms acted as if the practice swords were real, called a halt at what would have been a finishing blow from a steel blade. But Hunnan liked to see his students put down, and hurt, and taught a hard lesson. The gods knew, Thorn had learned hard lessons enough in Hunnan’s square. She was happy to teach a few.

So she gave Brand a mocking smile – her second favourite expression, after all – and screamed, ‘Come on, you coward!’

Brand was strong as a bull, and had plenty of fight left in him, but he was limping, and tired, and Thorn had made sure the slope of the beach was on her side. She kept her eyes fixed on him, dodged one blow, and another, then slipped around a clumsy overhead to leave his side open. The best place to sheathe a blade is in your enemy’s back, her father always said, but the side was almost as good. Her wooden sword thudded into Brand’s ribs with a thwack like a log splitting, let him tottering helpless and Thorn grinning wider than ever. There’s no feeling in the world so sweet as hitting someone just right.

She planted the sole of her boot on his arse, shoved him splashing down on his hands and knees in the latest wave, and on its hissing way out it caught his sword and washed it down the beach, left it mired among the weed.

She stepped close and Brand winced up at her, wet hair plastered to one side of his face and his teeth bloodied from the butt she gave him before. Maybe she should have felt sorry for him. But it had been a long time since Thorn could afford to feel sorry.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads


| First Impressions |

I started this book a considerable while ago and so, for the purposes of this post, went back to its opening chapters to get a sense of my first impressions. And boy does Abercrombie always leave a mark, even a second time.

As familiar to his work as anything, the opening paragraphs are filled with action. The narrative is so fluid, the fight scenes are etched out in such exact detail, and the characters given such dynamic realism that they could be standing right in front of you. This is what I love about Abercrombie’s writing. Stark, real and gritty.

Shattered Sea is without a doubt one of the series I will be powering through in the coming months. I only regret not having brought it to my new apartment sooner!

What are you currently reading? What were your first impressions?

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