Friday, 4 May 2012

Prince of Thorns

Title: Prince of Thorns
Series: The Broken Empire #1
Author: Mark Lawrence
Pages: 373 (paperback)
Published: April 12th 2012
Published by: Harper Voyager

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.

I have been waiting for the book to come out in paperback since it was first published months and months ago. And it's finally here! The start of Prince of Thorns follows Brother Jorg as he and his band of outlaw brothers are just finishing up with the killing of a village. Next comes the raping and pillaging. Not the nicest of openings to a book, made even more disturbing by the fact that Jorg is just thirteen years old. But there is more to him than there seems, and we follow the band as the make their way back to Jorg's home and his father: King Olidan of Ancrath. Jorg sets out to prove his worth to his father, and carnage follows.

I did quite enjoy this book, for all that the main protagonist is 13/14 and killing and the like with barely a second thought. But it's easy to forget how young he is, for while he does have some childish moments his life up until that point - both while he was a Prince and since he took to the road at 10 - have hardened him and made him cynical. Something which I actually found a little bit heart-breaking. And none of it is too graphic. It's more than you know stuff is going on without being made to visualise the blood and guts spilling everywhere. Very much helped by the fight against the skeletons - very little blood or guts to spill there at all!

When it comes to Jorg it does seem a little like there is just this one layer to him - his plan. His plan to be a King by fifteen. And an Emperor by twenty. You do get flashes of something more, but it does seem that this is him overall. And the same is true of the other characters: they're all a little bit one-dimensional. Maybe it's because of the types of people who make up most of the characters. I can't imagine outlaws have much chance to cultivate themselves in anything other than staying alive, but Makin I expected a little more depth from. Katherine is, I think, the exception to this. She is not in it much, but you see the conflict in her very clearly for all that. There's definitely more to come from her, and I'm interested to see what that is and where it goes.

The story itself is well written and easy to read. Descriptions are well done without being overbearing or overdone. The last hundred pages or so in particular I found whizzed past, but it is a story that strongly reminds me of others. Jorg is clever, and sees things that others don't, kinda like Locke Lamore from The Gentlemen Bastards Sequence by Scott Lynch. Young boys with quick minds, though Locke seems more mischievous than Jorg.

And then there's the world the story is told in which reminds me very much of Terry Brooks' Shannara series, or at least what I have read of them. Our own world gone wrong in the future, with magic and mutations come back, though there has been much more technical regression in PoT, probably because it is set more in the future. There are hints in the references to things of the past which at first confused me: they were ancient history (Aristotle and the like), so was it an alternative history, or set in our future? Roads and buildings are made from 'Builder' materials, what sounds like concrete, and Nietzsche is later referenced putting it into our future. I'm interested what else will be uncovered from our world for Jorg to make use of.

Enjoyable book, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

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