Today we review the first in one fantasy series and the second in another.
Randy Henderson’s debut novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, is fantasy with a good dose of humor, something that can be hugely popular with teens if it hits them right. (Our reviewer notes call-outs to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams!) The first three chapters are free on the Tor website.
Half the World is the second volume in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, a good series for Game of Thrones fans waiting for that next volume (or season). We reviewed Half a King last year. The concluding volume, Half a War, is due in July. I should note that the Shattered Sea trilogy is being promoted to teens as well as adults, and is not as dark as Abercrombie’s usual; it is relatively “clean” as well. Also, Yarvi has a disability–a withered hand–which makes him an unusual and welcome protagonist.
Great characters and serious action sequences are the big draw in this debut urban fantasy. Finn was exiled to the Outer Realm at age 15 (in 1986) for necromancy he didn’t commit. Now, 25 years later, he’s out of exile but those who first framed him are wasting no time in setting him up again. To make matters worse, the transfer back to the “real world” was botched and Finn’s “memory download” is patchy at best. With Zeke, a previous enemy enforcer turned ally, he has three days to try to discover the truth. Henderson is clearly a fan of the humorous fantasy of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, with shout-outs to both, such as when human love interest Dawn asks if Finn is going to tell her the “secret to life, the universe and everything.” While the humor is hit and miss, the pop culture is spot-on, from Finn’s bafflement at the Internet to a battle set at Seattle’s Experience Music Project that will be an even bigger lark to anyone who has been to that museum. The ending is satisfying, but hints at further installments are certainly evident. VERDICT While not as skillfully written as the “Discworld” series, this novel will probably appeal to the late-Pratchett’s fans.—Jamie Watson, Baltimore County Public Library, MD
In this sequel to Half a King (Del Rey, 2014), Yarvi, the betrayed heir to the throne of Gettland, has fought his way back from an assassination attempt and slavery to take his preferred position as minister to his mother, Queen Laithlin. The High King of Skekenhouse is gathering forces and threatens war with Yarvi’s homeland, so Yarvi must travel the countries surrounding the Shattered Sea in search of those willing to stand with him. He is accompanied by Thorn Bathu, a fierce 16-year-old-girl who is determined to be a warrior, and Brand, another teen fighter who, though equally fierce, is guided by his commitment to stand in the light and do good. Their journey, highlighted by the intense training Thorn must undergo along the way, leads them into risky situations where telling allies from enemies is difficult. Treachery, brutal battles, sly strategy, and more of Yarvi’s “deep cunning” make this a thrilling story whose appeal will reach beyond fantasy fans. Teen readers will especially enjoy the work’s focus on Thorn and Brand; although they are fierce warriors they still experience the awkwardness of a new attraction, thankfully in a way which does not detract from the action. Inclusion of just enough backstory and a rich plot make this sequel a fine stand-alone read. VERDICT Unlike many second books in a trilogy, Half the World moves the story forward with new characters and situations while holding on to the excitement, drama, and humor that made the first installment a winner.—Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA