Author: Mark Lawrence
Title: Prince of Thorns
Series: The Broken Empire
Series: The Broken Empire
Publisher: Harper Voyager (2011)
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“‘Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.’
Once a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.
Prince of Thorns is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, original, absorbing and challenging. Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.” GoodReads’ blurb
This novel was something I had been screaming for since I started writing about... well, about writing. When I was discussing first person point of view, which is considered somewhat inferior by many, I wrote a post (that will make its way to Stories of my life if I ever write the dreaded post on World Building first) where I cried:
Give me a villain, and make me cheer him on!
And that’s exactly what Prince of Thorns has done. Jorg is not a dark hero with a tormented past. He’s not a prime example of grey-and-grey morality. He’s evil, with all four letters of the word, and he ruthlessly smothers any thought, any feeling that might make him softer. He never regrets or excuses his actions: he owns up to them, and offers, as way of explanation, what might be translated as “I do what it takes; if you don’t like it, don’t keep reading”.
But that’s the thing. I had to keep reading. In his own darkness, somehow, Jorg is a attractive to me as any white knight in shining armor I might have read about. The scary thing is, I don’t want to change him – will possibly be disappointed if he does change without an extremely good, solid reason – but I want to follow him into his bloody victory.
Because he is genuine. And, in a world of cardboard, two-dimensional character who pull off things because they’re convenient for the plot, that was more than enough for me.
The plot itself was not as twisted and complicated as, say, A Song of Ice and Fire – series which Prince of Thorns is currently being compared to – but it is not simplistic or predictable either. The main force moving Jorg all along is revenge against the murder of his mother and brother – or is it? The Prince constantly sidesteps the confrontation, making a life for himself on the road instead, and returning to his cold, treacherous father, but always keeping his path far from the culprit. Why? Is it really his choice? When his father sends him to a suicide mission, how will he succeed? What price will be paid? Will he get his crown, as he claims in the first pages of the book? Those questions, and more, kept me turning page after page until the book drained out, and I was left waiting for the second instalment. Not once was I disappointed during the trip in search of answers and resolution, not just because of the skill of the Mr. Lawrence, which is obvious, but also thanks to the extremely original background he has created for this series.
The world building was, as a matter of fact, another of the reasons this book was so great for me: it was medieval fantasy, but it knew Plato. Geography was completely alien, but philosophy was not. The best sword fighting mixed with the most curious comments about the Romans. And I just had to know why. I needed to find out whether the Romans were the Builders, and we were living an alternate middle age... But no. Roman roads and buildings don’t last millennia. And then... The surprise, the feeling of everything suddenly making sense and of thinking, “Well done, Mr. Lawrence!”. It is something I’ve seen done before just once (might have happened more often, but I don’t know more instances), but then it was just a hint, a supposition. In Prince of Thorns, all bets are off and the integration is total... and perfect. Though I won’t spoil it (even more) for you.
I don’t have much in the way of complains after reading this novel. I just want more.
It is true that the secondary characters are not very developed when compared to Jorg, but they do have their own level of depth and I believe that trying to give them more would only collide with the rather overwhelming charisma of the Prince.
The ending happened very fast, and it left me reeling, but you’ll find that actual battles and real violence in this book does tend to be quick and not disgustingly detailed, though more than enough to form a good picture. No, the ending had strength and it served to completely pull me in and leave me waiting for the second part.
I really, really hope Jorg will reach his goal, and that I’ll be right there with him to see it happening.
And, if you didn’t guess it already, yes: I recommend you to go out right now and buy the book.