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Friday 28 November 2014

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Review by Richard Saar

I like my local bookstore, not just for the fact it has books in it (really?) but that the staff there read the books and are happy to talk about them. As much as online shopping works when you know what you want, a real store can’t be beaten when you don’t know what you want. So based on the recommendation of the staff at my local book store, I went home with Prince of Thorns.

A great recommendation it was indeed, I was looking for a new fantasy author to read and Prince of Thorns delivers in spades with a visceral and uncomfortable dark fantasy story that left me with the disturbing feeling I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book as much as I did.
Set in the medieval kingdom of Ancrath, one of a number of smaller kingdoms vying for control of the land; Prince Jorg of Ancrath lives on the road in a self-imposed exile after running away from the royal court, and his father the King, four years earlier.

Jorg is just thirteen, but leads a band of wandering outlaws who have been sacking, burning and killing their way through the countrytside. Jorg though is no spoilt royal brat, he’s earned his place as the leader through guile, cunning and quite often murderous violence. In fact Jorg is not a very nice person at all, there’s a darkness inside him that is ever threatening to burst forth, don’t be near him when it does.

After four years on the road he returns home to reunite with the King, who would rather he had just died out on the road and made way for his unborn heir with his new Queen to inherit the throne.

Desperate to prove himself to be a man worthy of his fathers pride, Jorg takes on a mission to conquer a rival lord and take the impregnable Red Castle, a mission that has been set-up by the King to have no chance of success.

Jorg soon realises that it’s all a game, but the Kings and Princes, himself included, are just pawns moved around the field by unknown forces. Can he find out who controls the game and defeat them, what ancient secrets does he find out there in the caves underneath the Red Castle, or can even survive the trip there when these unknown forces start to take an active interest in his life or death.

The world that Lawrence has crafted is very gritty and realistic; this really is solidly Dark Fantasy, nothing pretty or nice to sooth the reader. Jorg is a very disturbed, ruthless and violent teenager who is hard to get to like, but it’s this darkness that makes him so much more interesting. Fantasy readers are not shown this dark side too often, other than as a foil to the true Hero, so to travel with Jorg is to step onto the other side.

The writing is very good indeed; the atmosphere of dull, wet, oppression is very often the story itself. Lawrence does make you feel just how cold and dirty it is out the on the road and just how quickly and cheaply life is extinguished. There’s no heroic clash of swords and fighting through seemingly mortal wounds and miraculously surviving; in Prince of Thorns most of the deaths are nasty and undertaken by surprise or deceit. Put it this way, rusty looking knives are more the order of the day.

I was actually quite surprised when I worked out where and when the story is set, this adds a great deal of interest as the history is slowly revealed, and no I’m not telling you the answer to that…

Prince of Thorns the first story in the three book Broken Empire series and I’ll definitely be buying the rest as soon as possible.

Source: Bought from a real book store

IBR Rating: ★★★★

Recommendation: Not for everyone, but for those who like Dark Fantasy and are happy to walk on the wrong side of the road, this is a must read. Actually, even if you don’t normally read this genre, it’s well written enough that you just have to try it, who knows maybe you’ll like the dark side! 

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  1. Great review! I felt the exact same way about this book. And I can say that the story grows on you even more in the second and third installments.

    I always enjoy an upredictable read, I love not knowing where the next page is going to take you, and this series truly has that quality going for it!

    I am looking forward to see your opinions on the rest :)

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Item Reviewed: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Saar
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