Title: Prince of Thorns | Series: Broken Empire #1 | Author: Mark Lawrence | Publisher: Harper Voyager | Publication date: August 4th, 2011 | Num. Pages: 333 | Genre: High Fantasy
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.
Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, and sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.
This was probably one of the weirder books I’ve read and I’ve read some pretty weird books. In retrospect it’s not a book for someone who doesn’t enjoy high fantasy because there’s a huge presence of fantasy in the book – huge but I’ve also got to say, on the flip side, it is for someone who doesn’t enjoy high fantasy.
I’ll level with you – I’m not really a huge fan of high fantasy I tend to roll my eyes a little and wish for death the end but with Prince of Thorns I didn’t get the feeling of abandonment I usually get.
I enjoyed Prince of Thorns for multiple reasons – the biggest has gotta be Jorg. What a character.
He had a little bit of everything twisted up inside did that one. His story starts when he’s ten years old and he’s in a coach with his mother and brother – there’s an “accident” and Jorg is thrown clear of the coach into a hook – briar thorn bush.
From there things turn nasty, his brother is slain and his mother brutally raped and murdered and there’s nothing this ten year old can do. That is a failing in his eyes, he failed his family and as such is no good.
He’s taken home once he’s found on the brink of death where he stays for many weeks. He then takes to the road with men he set free from his father’s prison and leads his new brothers on many a journey.
The biggest thing that irritated me is that the storyline was fragmented into present day (age 14) and the past (age 10 post accident) but the two time lines blended into each other without a break in certain parts.
It looked as if it was to showcase that Jorg was a little insane because of his accident and it was a success. I felt on numerous occasions throughout that I was missing something but I couldn’t put my finger on what it actually was.
Jorg appears to – after the accident – have the ability to master the living and the dead which gives us the fantasy. Necromancers, leucrota (gargoyle-esque creatures) and magicians abound and they’re written in such a way as to make you feel like they really, really shouldn’t exist even in a fantasy novel.
I like the brothers a lot. Jorg’s road brothers – Makin, the Nuban and the rest.
“Every brotherhood has a pecking order. With brothers like mine you don’t want to be at the bottom of that order. You’re liable to get pecked to death. Brother Jobe had just the right mix of whipped cur and rabies to stay alive there.”
“Assassination is just murder with a touch more precision. Brother Sim is precise.”
“Whoever made the Nuban must have fashioned him from bedrock. I never knew a man more solid. He held his words close. Few among the brothers sought his counsel, men upon the road have little use for conscience, and although he never judged, the Nuban carried judgement with him.”
The descriptions of each brother and of various other things precede the chapter and they’re brilliant descriptions. It gives you an insight into their character from Jorg.
What I also liked was when Jorg returned to the Tall Castle and was surrounded by lords and ladies – his description of them was great.
“The perfume of Lords and ladies tickled at my nose: lavender and orange oil. On the road, shit has the decency to stink.”
It puts him into perspective and the drastic changes four years on the road can do to a boy reaching his majority.
Despite the few nitpicky bits it was a well rounded debut novel. A colleague has read the second one and he advises not to leave a break between the first and next books so I’m gonna take his advice and move on to the next one.