Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Spoiler-Free)

PRINCE OF THORNS3 stars

Mark Lawrence//Prince of ThornsSUMMARY

The story follows Jorg, heir to the throne of Ancrath and the leader of a group of bandits who, at the start of the story are going around burning and looting villages, and killing and raping the inhabitants. Not exactly a pleasant bunch. Jorg’s goal is to avenge the murder of his mother and brother, and to become king and reunite the kingdoms of the Broken Empire (under his own rule, of course). His methods are questionable, however, and basically everyone (except his own followers) seems to want him to fail.

This is the first book of The Broken Empire trilogy. The two sequels are, respectively, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns.

STORY [3/5]

Meandering at times (especially at the beginning), as it takes Jorg a while to figure out who his enemies are and how he will defeat them, but the journey is an interesting one, and there are plenty of twists to keep you on your toes.

CHARACTERS [4/5]

Jorg has a kind of dark, savage charm which is very enjoyable to read (as long as you’re not too squeamish), and the most notable of the (extensive) cast of supporting characters are realistic and well-written (if not always particularly pleasant). My favourite character was definitely Makin, though I fear somewhat for his safety in the sequels… we all know what happens to good, honourable characters in dark, violent, politically-fraught fantasy novels. 😦

However, the great surplus of side-characters makes them blend together, and of Jorg’s original group of bandits, only Makin, Rike and the Nuban really stand out from the crowd, which is a shame. Some more interesting characters are also introduced later in the book, but not until we’re quite close to the end, so unfortunately there’s not much of a chance to get to know them.

WORLD/WORLD-BUILDING [3/5]

You learn the world slowly, as Jorg travels, which is (I feel) the most natural way to get into new fantasy worlds. The world itself, however, lacks originality (seriously, the map is basically a Europe that has been poked around a little and re-named), and the similarities to our own world can be distracting if you want to really immerse yourself.

WRITING [3/5]

Very good, though it lacks the epic tone of, say, A Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin) or The Kingkiller Chronicle (Patrick Rothfuss). The story is broken into two time-periods (Jorg’s present, and his life four years earlier), but the flashback-chapters are not so frequent as to make the story seem disjointed. Rather, they only appear as necessary to explain Jorg’s backstory in relation to events as they happen in the present-day chapters. The short italic sections at the end of some of the chapters (which are usually little details about Jorg’s men, or philosophical observations), are sometimes interesting, but mostly don’t seem to serve much purpose.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [3/5]

Prince of Thorns is a good (and very intriguing) start to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more, but I’m pretty fantasy-ed out for now, so I probably won’t get to King of Thorns any time soon.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

People who like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (or the TV adaptation, Game of Thrones), particularly the darker storylines, such as Theon’s or Arya’s in the later books.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Spoiler-Free)

  1. Bryn says:

    It’s not just a little bit like Europe, it’s exactly Europe with the sea level a hundred metres higher. The book is set a thousand years in our future. Hence all the references, the remnants of technology etc.

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    • Ah, I was thinking that it might be set in some kind of future, or alternative-present, or something. Thanks for letting me know – not being able to tell whether a world is made up or real is something I find really distracting when I’m reading, so it’ll be good to know, going forward.

      Is this something that you find out for sure in the later books? Or is it just something that you’re supposed to pick up from the references?

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