I'll give this book its due from the off and say it beat my initial skepticism as just another copy and paste of the A song of ice and fire series and turned out to be pretty enjoyable, at times gripping. Funnily enough George R.R. Martin praises the book on the cover as one that he couldn't put down. As a person who dislikes the hugely popular Game of thrones, I braced myself for what I thought was going to be a cheap rip off. Certainly the themes are similar, perhaps even Abercrombie drew upon Game of Thrones as inspiration.
It is set in a Medieval world, centred on a character whom fate has dealt a poor hand, no pun intended, and must fight against the overwhelming odds in a brutal world lacking in empathy. He continuously finds himself in unlucky situations and like the Starks in GOT you desperately want him to do well, because you sense that he is the heroic lead fighting against injustice. However he tends to be quite a bit less honest then your usual heroine, often choosing back stabbing, cunning methods to outsmart friend or foe for his own gain.
Its major strength is that the first 250 pages or so are written with a gripping verve that sucks you in to the world of Yarvi the crippled would be king. The progression from the obnoxious, self loathing boy into a smart, ruthless man satiates the readers desire for Yarvi to grow as a character. The slavery section aboard the merchant vessel brought out the strongest bits of the imagination. I could vividly imagine the scenario Abercrombie paints and lost myself in the harsh surroundings of the protagonist. Characters like Nothing are particularly well done. He is an amusing, fruitful addition to the story line, providing some much needed security for the young King.
Despite all this and such promise. I can't help but feel after I've had a few days to settle down and evaluate it. That it is all over too quick. You have this fantastic build up to the point where the story line is well knitted and organized. The characters are beginning to take shape, you can feel the imagination and the passion of the writing coming through and the whole tale pulls you in, only for it all to descend into a bit of a rushed, ill thought out ending.
Before you know it characters that once hated each other and have hurt each other to get ahead become inexplicably close without even a seed of doubt. The journey to the King's homeland feels rushed and suffers from a corny action passage in which a band of slaves defend an elven ruin against 20 mercenaries. You feel no empathy for the deaths of minor characters, because they are predictable deaths and their passing doesn't particularly have an impact on the direction of the novel. And then before you know it, it's all over, the King has his vengeance with the help of his countries greatest enemy (Grom Gil Gorm) and nothing turns out to be his long lost uncle who then takes over the throne. Illogically Grom Gil Gorm just decides to leave instead of crushing the new king whilst he is vulnerable and taking the land he has craved so much for himself.
But I won't continue to be so harsh, for the scope of the imagination that went into it, I just felt it needed at least another 300 pages to be paced and developed properly. If this had been done then perhaps the reader would go away with a more satisfied outlook, but in all it is still a gripping read despite its flaws. The author has a knack for creating suspense and sucking you in which is always the sign of an enjoyable read. I will move onto the second installment of the Shattered Sea series. So far I'd recommend it to any casual fantasy reader, who wants something light and easy to read on a long train journey, enjoy.