The Red Queen’s War: Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence – Advance Review [Bane of Kings]

Prince-of-Fools

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Prince of Fools, the first novel in The Red Queen’s War Trilogy by Mark Lawrence, set in the same world but following different characters to his previous BrokenEmpire Trilogy. This is published by Harper Voyager in the UK – with an expected release date of June 5 – with the US release hitting June 3 through Ace.

“An excellent novel that should please fans of the Broken Empire Trilogy and newcomers to Mark Lawrence’s work alike. You really should check this out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

 

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

I really enjoyed the debut trilogy by Mark Lawrence, his Broken Empire  novels – and was really looking forward to see where he would take Prince of Fools, the start of The Red Queen’s War series – and thankfully, he didn’t disappoint, with this novel serving to be another strong contender for the most enjoyable books of 2014 – with a confident narrative that doesn’t disappoint.

Prince-of-FoolsWith the return to the world of the Broken Empire, Lawrence instead shifts his focus to a prince with slightly less ambitions than Jorg Ancrath – Jalan Kendeth, a grandson of the Red Queen, who is one of the most dreaded rulers of the Broken Empire – and has been at war since she was crowned. However, Jalan is completely unlike his ancestor – a drinker, gambler and womanizer, and a far different character to Jorg. He’s tenth in line to the Throne, but unlike most members of the Monarchy in fantasy series – is content with what he’s been given.

Jalan is a character that undergoes a lot of growth over the course of this novel, and the fun is in witnessing his transformation. He joins up with a Norse Warrior after escaping a death trap set by the mysterious Silent Sister, the Red Queen’s Greatest Weapon – and sets on a journey across the Broken Empire. The Norse Warrior is called Snorri, and acts as a good companion to Jal’s endeavours. As before, the book is told in first person – and we get to see Jalan’s growth the most of all. He’s a very different character to Jorg the more we learn more about him – and it’s great to see that we haven’t simply been giving a carbon copy. He’s flawed, but has a level of morality and loyalty that don’t make him completely despicable – and serves as a powerful lead character who carries the narrative well.

The book serves as more of a straightforward fantasy read than the previous trilogy, but balances a strong element of horror to keep a fresh feeling. At the same time, the plot manages to be great, well balanced and action packed – with there never being a dull moment, with a greater exploration of the Broken Empire in a way that can appeal to both newcomers to Lawrence’s works as well as old ones – if you want to jump in here then this is as good chance to get involved as any.

If The Broken Empire was an epic, conquest-driven series, The Red Queen’s War is shaping up to be focused more on the characters – both Jalan and Snorri get developed very well and it’s interesting to see their journeys throughought the book. The interaction between the two characters is great to read as well, with some strong dialogue pulled off by Lawrence.

Fans of the previous Trilogy will no doubt be already up for buying this book, but it’s newcomer friendly and easily accessible. It’s powerful, entertaining and deeply engrossing – and comes highly recommended. When this book hits, if you don’t have it preordered already, you’ll want to go and grab this one as soon as you possibly can.

VERDICT: 9/10

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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