Lawrence's debut is a milestone in modern fantasy. Solid writing and well-crafted characters, witty humor and sentimental elements, controversial circumstances and teeth-grinding situations, all skilfully combined in creating a novel that will redefine the term grimdark.
The world building is well structured and ever-expanding, with elements closely resembling that of an alternate universe in medieval times. In comes the (easy to understand yet complex to define) magic system, that combined with the aforementioned world building gives you the impression of a random, and usually seen in fantasy, fantastical world. Pleasantly shocking revelations prove you otherwise.
“I think maybe we die every day. Maybe we're born new each dawn, a little changed, a little further on our own road. When enough days stand between you and the person you were, you're strangers. Maybe that's what growing up is. Maybe I have grown up.”
The Protagonist, Jorg of Ancrath (pronounced like it's spelled, not "Yorg"), is one of the most controversial characters in modern fantasy. He begins his journey as a crystal-clear villain, and proceeds into carving his path as a beloved Anti-Hero, creating a lot of debates in fantasy fiction cycles, for whether he should be despised or praised, loved or hated. The answer is none of them. He should simply be enjoyed. You don't have to like a character in order to enjoy his story. And, considering the realism (and humanism) that characterizes Mark's world (as seen with the moral and theological issues raised, as well as the inner struggles of the characters), that's a story one doesn't usually find in fantasy (or in fiction in general), and surely doesn't simply dismiss.
All in all, i find The Broken Empire to be the greatest fantasy fiction story of the decade, belonging to the top of your TBR list, unless you are one of those little sisses who can't stand the realism on Mark's books. It's a medieval story for fuck's sake, of course they will rape, kill & pillage (and not necessarily in that order).