Series: The Broken Empire #1
Published by Ace on August 2nd 2011
A stunning fantasy debut from a major new talent!
When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...
It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him-and he has nothing left to lose.
But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?
I may be running out of options, but running out isn’t an option.
This book was quite the ride. Very original and intriguing to say the least. Probably the darkest fantasy novel I have ever read.
Going into this book all I knew was that Prince of Thorns was about an anti-hero. But let me tell you, Jorg Ancrath wasn’t just an anti-hero, the dude was plain evil. And when I say evil, I mean EVIL. As in, no redeeming qualities. And you know what? I loved Jorg. Seriously, I tried to hate him and failed miserably. It is no secret that I love anti-heroes and morally grey characters but Jorg was in an entirely different dimension. He wasn’t grey, he was black. And I freaking loved it. Not sure what that says about me but oh well…
Let’s talk about Jorg a little bit more first (because let’s be real, he is going to be the reason you either love or hate this novel):
“You know how to break the cycle of hatred?” I asked.
“Love,” said Gomst, all quiet-like.
“The way to break the cycle is to kill every single one of the bastards that fucked you over”, I said.
The first thing you need to know is that Jorg is an actual villain. He has had horrible things happen to him in the past but in no way do those things excuse his present actions. What I loved was that Mark Lawrence never tried to redeem him, he doesn’t try to make us swoon over Jorg, doesn’t try to make him likable. Jorg is a selfish, ruthless bastard and in no point in time are we told otherwise. The guy respects nothing, he couldn’t care less about honour or loyalty. He rapes. He can and does sacrifice people without afterthought, even those he calls his Brothers. Prince of Thorns isn’t a story about redemption, or a messed up character finding his way. Jorg will never be a good person and I found that to be fascinating.
Jorg was a great character because – besides the fact that he is vicious and kind of psychopathic – he is also very sarcastic, intelligent and unpredictable.
Anything that you cannot sacrifice pins you. Makes you predictable, makes you weak.
His inner monologues were so entertaining and I found myself wanting to read on even in the moments I found the plot to be confusing.
Next let’s discuss said plot. Prince of Thorns is in its essence a revenge tale, unique because of the perspective it is told from. There are two parallel storylines, one is present day wherein Jorg is travelling through the Empire with his brothers – a band of mercenaries as vicious as him – pillaging villages and killing people, while the other is set four years earlier, before he left the castle and his home. The second storyline serves to fill us in about what is happening now and why Jorg acts the way he does. Fortunately, I found both storylines equally interesting.
What may put off some readers is that the novel creates a somewhat blurry visual puzzle that makes the story quite confusing at times. I personally enjoyed this because I found it to be a different approach to storytelling, but it can make the reading process slightly exhausting.
Then there was the writing. Let me tell you, the writing was GREAT. Some of the best metaphors and similes I have ever read. The writing isn’t particularly rich or poetic, but the way Mark Lawrence uses words was impressive. There were SO many amazing quotes in this book; I could find a great one on almost every page.
However, there were also things that could have been better. I wish the worldbuilding had been clearer and more fleshed-out. I am still a bit confused about what this world is exactly, a medieval Europe set in the future? What? Why? The magic was a little bit too volatile for my tastes, it seemed that certain individuals could do all kinds of things and we never got an explanation for it. Also, I found Jorg to be so lucky at times that it was difficult to suspend my disbelief. Some things were just a tad too convenient.
Overall though, I found this to be a very engaging and intelligent read. It won’t be a novel for everyone, but if you love fantasy, messed up characters and don’t mind something darker then I definitely recommend this.