Broken Empire: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings offers his thoughts on the stunning follow up to Mark Lawrence’s 2011 debut, Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, published by Harper Voyager in the UK.
“Mark Lawrence follows up to Prince of Thorns with a cracking, compelling, unpredictable sequel that succeeds in almost every way. My new favourite Fantasy novel of 2012.” ~The Founding Fields
You know in my review of The Blinding Knife, I mentioned that I’d found a favourite fantasy of novel of 2012? Well, as it happens, the very next fantasy novel that I read beats a Brent Weeks novel. Something that I’d never thought possible unless the name of that author was George RR Martin, Peter V. Brett or Brandon Sanderson, (I would put Abercrombie in there as well, but I’ve only read the first First Law novel). Lawrence produced an awesome trilogy opener with Prince of Thorns, which I didn’t get around to reviewing (But I loved it nonetheless), and has now followed that up with a dramatic, enthralling and captivating sequel that you will be unable to put down. Mark Lawrence has made it two out of two, and he’s jumped to the top of my favourite fantasy authors list (along with the aforementioned Martin, Sanderson, etc).
The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.
In any other book, Jorg would be the bad guy. Some of the acts that he commits in Prince of Thorns were enough to put some readers off, as he’s far from the normal “Knight in Shining Armour” that you see in your average fantasy novel. Jorg is flawed, but despite the issues with his character, Lawrence has somehow managed to weave a compelling narrative that will actually leave you wanting Jorg to emerge victorious. You want to follow him, no matter what he’s done. He’s developed as a character over the course of the two books so far, and it will be interesting to see how he changes in the third book.
King of Thorns takes place four years after the ending of Prince. It’s clear that Jorg is older now, but nonetheless still in his teens. He’s not perfect. He will make mistakes. This allows the novel to be more believable, and Lawrence writes a gritty, dark world that readers of George RR Martin will be familiar with. Nobody is safe, and anybody can die. There are no cliches here folks, and King of Thorns provides a very unpredictable read.
Another interesting thing to note here would be that whilst the Broken Empire trilogy may feel like it’s set in a fantasy world, it soon becomes very clear that the world was once our own. It’s several thousand years into the future, we’ve no idea how long. There’s a particular scene where Jorg provides a narrative (as the first person perspective continues throughout King of Thorns in its whole) about our Calender, and how even they no longer use our Calender. Whilst a few place names may be the same such as the inclusion of Normandy, there are massive changes to the landscape and the castles/cities. Whilst it may be set on Earth, it’s not the Earth that we know. What was shed some light on in Prince of Thorns has been explored in its sequel, and I have a feeling that the science-fiction element of the world building will have a key role to play in Emperor of Thorns, book three.
Like Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns is fast-paced, action packed and unputdownable. The ending will leave you begging for more, even if King of Thorns was large than the first book. I can’t wait to see how this Trilogy ends, and even though I was behind on picking up Prince of Thorns, I will be aiming to get Emperor of Thorns as close to its release date as possible. There are elements of third person narrative here, in the format of diaries provided by Katherine Ap Scarron, which allow the reader to get to learn about the events from a different perspective than from the brilliant, but irredeemable Jorg.
Using flashbacks again in King of Thorns, Lawrence manages to form the past and the present into a single narrative in a different manner from Prince of Thorns and create an intriguing read that allows for plenty of cliffhangers from both timelines. If you loved Prince of Thorns then you should go out and read King of Thorns if you haven’t already, as you should love its sequel. If you disliked Prince of Thorns then I’m not sure you’ll like King of Thorns, maybe wait until its released in paperback and give it a try then, or pick up an eBook and see if you like the sequel.
The Broken Empire Trilogy: Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns (TBR).