Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
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.
Prince of Thorns is Mark Lawrence’s debut novel, and the first part in a brand new epic fantasy series, titled The Broken Empire, which has been called the British answer to A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. This is certainly a bold statement to make, what with the huge success of Martin’s series recently alongside the television adaptation. I can imagine some fans taking this statement with a pinch of salt, refusing to believe such a claim. I cannot compare it to Martin’s work as sadly I haven’t quite made my way around to reading his series yet – though it is in my ‘to read’ pile! But what I can tell you is that Prince of Thorns is a truly remarkable book that will make ‘Mark Lawrence’ a name that you will never forget.
Prince of Thorns may not be as epic as A Game of Thrones or Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind,’ being just shy of 400 pages, but in my opinion, this is what makes it so refreshing. True, it doesn’t have the magical world-building elements of Rothfuss and Martin’s books, it doesn’t have lists of endless characters or detailed maps. Instead,Lawrence has created a fast-paced, bloody and brutal story that keeps you turning page after page, hankering for more.
Prince Jorg is fourteen years old, and he has already witnessed the terrifying murders of his mother and younger brother. He enlists the help of a group of prisoners held captive by his father, the King, and together, united as a band of brothers, they kill, torture and rape anyone who stands in their way on their quest for revenge. Jorg is cold and heartless, and the only thing he has left is his need for revenge. He is extremely unforgiving and willingly cuts loose any ties to his heart, making him stronger and more powerful in the face of battle. He has nothing to lose, and that is what makes him the ultimate player in the game he finds himself playing.
I was struck straight away by Jorg’s character. From the very first page his behaviour is relentless and horrifying, and it becomes hard to believe that he is as young as he says. Lawrencehas created such a vivid and memorable character that I know Jorg is going to stay with me for quite some time now. He literally jumps out of the page and comes to life. He’s quick-witted, and sharp-minded. He is not afraid to make choices about who lives and who dies. But through this tough exterior, there is another Jorg in there – the Jorg who cares, even a little, for his comrades, for the people that defend him until their death. It’s true that if any of them hindered his quest he would not hesitate to kill them, but he would feel something, and I’m sure these feelings are as much of a surprise to him as they are to us. It becomes clear, as the book goes on, that Jorg is influenced by something or someone, that he is merely a pawn in someone else’s game. The question is – are Jorg’s thoughts and actions his own, or are they controlled by another? This is the true battle of the story. Jorg has also come to realise that somewhere along the way, and over the space of four years, his need for revenge on the man who murdered his mother and brother, has been left behind in favour of the battle of ‘the Hundred’ – one hundred princes vying for their rite to be King of the Empire. There are much darker forces at work here, and slowly Jorg’s memories unravel and reveal the truth of what really happened four years ago.
You can see for yourself that although this novel is exceedingly short in terms of most fantasy novels, Prince of Thorns certainly doesn’t lack any depth in character or story. There are magicians, necromancers, ghosts, animated skeletons, and many other fantastical creatures to feed your imagination. There is nothing lacking in this novel and I can’t even find a bad thing to say about it.
Prince of Thorns finishes on a great note, not on an irritating cliff-hanger, but in such a place as to make you think that this chapter of Jorg’s life is finished with now. In book two, which I believe should be due out towards the end of next year, is surely going to be more about Jorg’s battle to becoming King of the Empire. I honestly cannot wait to read more, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy or even those who are new to the genre! It’s completely unforgettable and you will not be disappointed.
Prince of Thorns is out now, published by Harper Voyager. Thanks goes to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!
- Man in Black Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (mibreviews.com)
- Book Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (blogcritics.org)
- “People who like this sort of thing.” Being a review of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns (tor.com)