Let it be known first that Prince of Thorns is not my first Mark Lawrence’s book, the first was Red Sister, his newest and what the majority of his fans considered as his best work so far. Though I can’t say the same for the series yet, Prince of Thorns, the first book in the Broken Empire trilogy, one of the most famous Grimdark fantasy and Mark Lawrence’s debut novel is inferior compared to Red Sister but hey, I’m not here to do a step-by-step comparison.
PoT as a whole is still more of an okay read for me since there’s nothing special yet as of now other than the unique main character. I have problems with almost every aspect of the book excluding the MC and prose. One thing for sure, reading this book while you’re having one of those bad day and felt like obliterating all things in sight proved to be quite satisfactory.
The entire book follow only one POV in 1st person perspective and this may be off putting for a lot of people especially since the main character, Jorg Ancrath, the Prince of Thorns who’s “broken” by a traumatic event in his past is an asshole, insane, and sociopath say the least. He’s pretty much Batman/Bruce Wayne (*gasp*Bruce Wayne is Batman!?) who goes down the road of Joker.
Personally, I find people’s reactions towards the violence in this book to be overblown, there are tons of other books more violent and gritty than this, a single 2 page torture scene by Glokta in The First Law trilogy made me grit my teeth more than this whole book. Yes, there is violence and yes Jorg is a rapist and murderer but the rape scene happened off-screen, in one short paragraph that when I read the part, I was like “wait, this is the scene?” and have to reread it to know that it was actually talking about rape. This doesn’t mean I support his actions at ALL, it’s just that we see tons of people’s head bashed like potato in tons of other books we read and no one bats an eye towards those scenes, apparently one short vague paragraph about rape is worse than people’s head exploding or bodies part being cut off.
I must also state that the book really lacking in actions department, there’s tiny bits of action here and there but most of them are forgettable except for maybe one courtly duel scene.
In my opinion, Jorg as a character is really unique to read, there’s probably less than 10 POV I know which role-played a sociopath or villain as the main POV and although he started out as a complete villain, by the end of this book he transformed himself to be an anti-hero and I can’t wait to read more about his development.
“The way to break the cycle is to kill every single one of the bastards that fucked you over. Every last one of them. Kill them all. Kill their mother, kill their brothers, kill their children, kill their dog.”
If there’s a con that I had with Jorg’s POV, it’s not on reading his behavior or personality (once again, doesn’t mean I support his actions AT ALL) but his godlike ability in everything. He’s 14 years old, sounded like a 20-30 years old adult, blessed with power and skills better than all trained soldiers, almost resembling a “gary-stu”. Not to mention that all conflicts in this book seems too convenient for him to solve and the infamous enemies he faced more or less have an IQ so low to even be considered a worthy enemy. I find myself reading the book almost completely devoid of intensity excluding one or two scene.
Picture: Chibi Jorg by peastri
Another great thing about the book is in its prose. The structure of the book is told within two time frames, past and present and Mark’s prose is really great in gripping the reader to the book. It’s immersive, well written and philosophical at times.
“Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over, until you know every touch and corner, but still you'll find an edge to cut you.”
Now, two of my biggest problem with the book lies in its lack of well written characters and world-building. Jorg aside, there’s no other compelling characters, all the other side characters are devoid of personality that I could care less if they died or not. This includes Jorg’s group of mercenary, the Road Brothers. I want the books I read to have other compelling characters rather than one only, the more the better. This is achievable despite the 1st person narrative, Kingkiller Chronicle for example, for a book solely focused on Kvothe, there are tons of other great characters endearing for the readers despite their brief appearances, Simon, Auri, Devi etc. I really hope the sequels to this book to have more great side characters to care for.
And finally, the world-building aspect, this book doesn’t have the feel of an epic or high fantasy book, at least not yet as of now. There’s no lore or mythology here, the setting of the world is the same as ours with fictional cities in a map with high resemblance to Europe or maybe it is Europe I have no idea yet. The God in this book is Jesus, there’s talk of Plato, Roma, India, Robin Hood that it felt at times like reading historical fiction. There are some elements of high fantasy of course, with the undead and angel for example but their brief appearances and the setting of the world doesn’t help in bringing the tone of high fantasy to the book as of now, there’s actually a hint of Sci-Fi in the world-building and that part intrigued me so let’s just say, my problem lies in my expectation for thinking this is a standard high fantasy book.
Picture: Interior Artwork from Broken Empire Omnibus edition by Jason Chan
Despite the faults I have with the book, Jorg and the prose itself manage to pushed me to read the book in 2 days (not something to be proud of though, the book is really short) and from what I gathered so far, this book is more like a setup for the next two books. It’s more of a character background book to Jorg rather than his real journey and the ending of the book really piqued my interest in continuing the trilogy, which I’ll do so after posting this review. Prince of Thorns is an okay read for me and I hope the rest of the trilogy could push the series towards greatness.