Just a few hours ago, I finished Prince of Thorns, the first book in the Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence. The Broken Empire series tells a tale about revenge, one told from the point of view of our main character Jorg Ancrath, who’s desire for revenge has left him bereft of all compassion.
Prince of Thorns is dark, and the darkness is brought forth early on; the first chapter details Jorg walking through the aftermath of a village he pillaged, with grieving mothers screaming over their lost children in the background. If grimdark novels aren’t your fancy, then this series is not for you.
If you can stomach the opening scene, then you’re in for a ride. At just over 300 pages, Prince of Thorns condenses two story-lines into a quick, fast-paced novel. The bulk of the book is told from the present-day, first-person perspective of Jorg, as he seeks revenge against the man who wronged him and his family several years before. The second story-line is Jorg’s experiences from four years prior. These flashbacks serve to tell us the why of why Jorg is the monster he is and the how of how he got to the position he’s at now. The plot is easy to understand, yet not too simplistic as for the reader to get disinterested.
The first-person narration means the reader learns everything from Jorg’s perspective, and so his character is developed more so than any other. Jorg is complex, though I’ll admit sometimes he reads just like another angsty teenager.
Besides Jorg, other characters like Makin or Sageous are all fascinating to learn about as the book goes on. Lawrence does not lack in characterization, and there is still so much more to learn about the characters to come.
Prince of Thorns’s selling point is its plot, and Lawrence’s prose reflects that; the writing is straight-forward and quick. But I won’t lie, his writing was difficult to get engrossed in at first; there some syntax choices that are jarring. Lawrence often puts bits of highly-figurative language juxtaposed against very straight forward narration. It’s abrupt, and it knocked me out of the story multiple times before I got used to it. Overall, though, the writing is up to par.
I’ll be continuing on with the next two books, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns. I look forward to see what happens to Jorg and his band as the series goes on. I highly recommend this book and the subsequent sequels to anyone looking for a dark, fast-paced fantasy series.
(Also, if you like interesting settings, read this. I won’t give it away, but if you’re intrigued unconventional settings, you won’t be disappointed.)