This review was actually one of the most difficult ones that I’ve had to write so far, because my feelings on this book were so mixed. Plus it being the second book I’ve reviewed in my new format makes me wish I could revert back to my first few reviews where I literally wrote four or five sentences on what I liked, but I’m better than that and I need to grow as a reviewer so here we are.
Title: Prince of Thorns
Author: Mark Lawrence
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Grimdark
Series: The Broken Empire #1
Release Date: August 2nd 2011
SYNOPSIS: 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.
From being 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 has the ability to master the living and the 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.
I’m always a sucker for a good fight for the throne, and with Jorg trying to win the throne and get his revenge all at the same time you would think that this would’ve been perfect for me! And while I enjoyed certain aspects, it was overall just really hard for me to follow along with when it came to what was happening and why it mattered. The main action in this book I would say was a fight for a castle (I’m purposely trying to be vague so as to not give spoilers) and the trip that the characters took to get there was so confusing to me and I just had a hard time following along with where the characters were and what was happening. Normally, I don’t have any issues with things like this because I can normally get a good sense of direction so to speak, but not really with this one. It didn’t really feel like a lot was happening throughout the story, and there wasn’t really much character development either except for Jorg deciding he wanted to make decisions for himself, which isn’t really development in my opinion. It was also difficult to believe that Jorg was only 13 or so based on his actions and the decisions he made.
Even though Jorg read to me like a much older protagonist, the way he was written was fantastic. He isn’t meant to be likable or have any redeeming qualities, and he 100% fits that bill. I’ve read quite a few books that have assholes as main or side characters, but never to the extent that Jorg is an asshole. Think of the absolute WORST thing a person could do, then multiply it by about 10 and you have Jorg. I mentioned that it was hard to think of Jorg as 13 because he makes all these decisions that (in my opinion) a 13 year old would never make, and it was kinda unbelievable how godlike he was in everything that he did. He’s better at swordplay than people twice his age, and smarter too, which in my opinion was compeletely unbelievable, especially since he not once came up against someone that could outwit him. Everyone other than Jorg was completely forgettable, and as someone who doesn’t normally struggle telling characters apart, I had such a hard time with this book with all the side characters. One minute I would think character A was actually character B, but then something would happen that would make me think differently.
If I were to have to describe the atmosphere of this book, I would say its gray. Like, foggy, desolate, no one will ever be happy again and will live short lives gray. There really isn’t much world building so far (it is only book 1 in a trilogy though). I’m not 100% sure on if this is supposed to be a epic/high fantasy world, or an alternate universe of our own world because we have Plato, Rome, India and God mentioned multiple times throughout this book, so it felt like it was maybe more along the lines of historical fiction at some points. There are hints of sci-fi that show up towards the end of the book, but then we also have elements of high fantasy in the angels and undead that show up. I was not expecting this mix of different genres when I went into it, so if you are looking to read this series keep that in mind.
This was Mark Lawrence’s debut novel, but the book was well written despite my problems with the side characters not being fleshed out and the world being confusing. I’ve mentioned it before, but for me writing is good if I don’t notice it/it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book and this writing was just that. This is also a little different from most of the fantasy that I read because it’s from a single perspective, so if you absolutely hate multiple POVs this one is just one POV.
Enjoyment for me with this book is kinda hit or miss, some parts I loved, some parts I didn’t understand, and some parts were just meh. I’m interested enough from what other people have said about the series as a whole to continue on and see what happens, and Jorg as a character is interesting enough for me to want to see what shenanigans he gets up to next.
3/5 stars. It was okay, and I want to continue on to see if I like the next books better because I see a lot of potential in this series!