King, Prince & Emperor of Thorns Series by Mark Lawrence

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Werthead, May 12, 2011.

  1. Werthead

    Werthead Registered User

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    A hundred petty warlords are struggling to carve their own pieces out of the Broken Empire, the divided remnants of a glorious, high-technology society obliterated in a monstrous war. Little has survived from before that time aside from a few books of philosophy and war, and religion.

    Prince Jorg, the son of King Olidan of Ancrath, is a boy of nine when he sees his mother and brother brutally murdered by agents of Count Renar. When Olidan makes peace with Renar in return for a few paltry treaties and goods, Jorg runs away from home in the company of a band of mercenaries. As the years pass, Jorg becomes cruel, merciless and ruthless. He sees his destiny is to reunite the Broken Empire and rule as the first Emperor in a thousand years, and nothing and no-one will deny him this destiny.

    Prince of Thorns is the first novel in The Broken Empire, a trilogy which was fiercely bidded over by several publishers before HarperCollins Voyager won the publishing rights in the UK. It's being touted by Voyager as 'the big new thing' for 2011, to the extent where they are even giving away copies to people who have pre-ordered A Dance with Dragons from certain UK bookstores.

    This faith is mostly justified. Prince of Thorns is a remarkable read. Well-written and compelling, it is also disturbing. Anyone who's ever bailed on reading Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books because of a horrific thing the main character does a couple of chapters in will probably not enjoy this book either. Jorg is a protagonist with the quick wits of Locke Lamora, the charm and resourcefulness of Kvothe but the moral compass of Gregor Clegane. The book has the protagonists (the word 'hero' is completely incompatible with Jorg or his merry band of psychopaths and lunatics) doing things that even the bad guys in most fantasy novels would balk at, and for this reason it is going to be a challenging sell to some readers.

    Lawrence writes vividly and well. The dark and horrible things that Jorg and his crew get up to are mostly inferred rather than outright-described, which is just as well. Lawrence also avoids dwelling on Jorg's physical actions too much in favour of delving into his psyche, working out what makes him tick, presenting these ideas to the reader, and then subverting them. As the book unfolds and we learn more about Jorg's hideous experiences, we realise why he is the way he is, though at almost every turn Jorg also chides the reader for thinking he is trying to excuse himself or beg for forgiveness. He is simply presenting the facts and the context and leaves them to decide whether he is the logical result of circumstance or someone who could have saved himself from this dark path if he had chosen to do so. Lawrence's aptitude with the other characters is no less accomplished, with deft strokes used to create vivid secondary roles concisely and with skill.

    Outside of the excellent characterisation, Lawrence paints a vivid picture of a post-apocalyptic world. The ruins of an earlier, technological age (probably our one, though the map suggests that if it is, the geography of the world has been radically transformed, at least in the area the story takes place) litter the landscape, and it's interesting to see references to familiar names and places. The works of Plutarch, Socrates and Sun Tzu have survived, as has the Christian faith, and in the distant east place-names sound more familiar (Indus, Persia). This evokes the feeling of a world broken and twisted, the new rammed in with the old, the effect of which is unsettling (I think it might be what Paul Hoffman was going for in The Left Hand of God, but Prince of Thorns does it much better). I assume more about the world and the history will be revealed in the inevitable sequels. Whilst Prince of Thorns is the opening volume in a trilogy, but also works well as a stand-alone work. Whilst there is clearly more to come, it ends on a natural pause, not a cliffhanger, which is welcome.

    This is a blood-soaked, cynical and unrelentingly bleak novel, but it also has a rich vein of humour, and there are a few 'good' (well, relatively) characters to show that there is still hope in the world. There are some minor downsides: a few times Jorg seems to 'win' due his bloody-minded attitude overcoming situations where he is phyiscally or magically outclassed, and there's a few too many happy coincidences which allow Jorg and his men to beat the odds, especially right at the end. There's also an event about three-quarters of the way through the novel which is highly impressive, but may be a bit hard for some fantasy fans to swallow.

    Prince of Thorns (****½) is a page-turning, compelling and well-written novel, but some may be put off by its harsher, colder aspects. Those can overcome this issue will find the most impressively ruthless and hard-edged fantasy debut since Bakker's Darkness That Came Before. The novel will be published on 2 August in the USA and two days later in the UK.
     
  2. DurzoBlint

    DurzoBlint http://tinyurl.com/363ogv

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    I really enjoyed the book as well. Interesting main character and while the timeline was interesting, not sure where or when in Earth's history it takes place, the best part was the little twist towards the end.

    Great review Wert, as always.
     
  3. Loerwyn

    Loerwyn Staff

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    That's an encouraging review, Werthead. I've not read many, if any, books with a protagonist like that so it'll be a new experience for me.

    I'm really looking forward to it, and I've already paid my money :)
     
  4. Luke_B

    Luke_B Diamond Dog Staff Member

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    Nice review, Adam. I saw on Mark's webpage that he sees the book as a kind of fantasy version of A Clockwork Orange. I'm quite excited about this one. Looks like it may well be the big debut epic fantasy release that we crave every year.
     
  5. Haliax

    Haliax Registered User

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    Sounds interesting. I pre-ordered it awhile ago after Pat wrote a blog on it. Sounds like I should enjoy it.
     
  6. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    I've got an ARC from Ace. I planned on getting to the book, but will probably push it a little higher on the pile. At least so I time it with the book's release.
     
  7. 3rdI

    3rdI Edema Ruh

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    Dammit I want an ARC. Mark hook a player up please!

    For real I am really looking forward to this book. It sounds like it is going to be absolutely fantastic. The comparisons to Bakker and Hoffman caught my attention and Jorg sounds like a helluva character. August cannot get here fast enough.
     
  8. Rulkez

    Rulkez Registered User

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    Got a copy today with my DwD pre order , not far in but his writing style is certainly engaging.
     
  9. Mark Lawrence

    Mark Lawrence The New ... MARK LAWRENCE

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    The very last ARC I had got sent to a certain Werthead...

    There's always a chance Voyager or Ace will help you out.

    I've been saying that since January ... 2010.
     
  10. Mark Lawrence

    Mark Lawrence The New ... MARK LAWRENCE

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    Forgot to say: in the unlikely event that you're a reviewer/bloggist in Dutch or German then I do have free copies of the book itself (not ARCs) in those languages to send out.
     
  11. nsjenkins

    nsjenkins New Member

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    Prince of Thorns

    Nice review as always Wert. Picked up a copy of this yesterday from Waterstones after reading your post about the ADWD pre-order deal.

    I'm currently about half way through and really enjoying it so far. I haven't compared this copy to the official one listed so I'm not sure if it's the full book or whether there's some parts missing like the map (which isn't too much of an issue since Mark very nicely has a copy posted on his website).

    I'm hoping it's all there although it does appear to be about 11 pages shorter than the page count listed on goodreads.com so I'm a little worried...

    So far this is turning out to be a great read; very well paced and engrossing despite the relatively light worldbuilding aspects. I'll come back with a final verdict when I'm done :)
     
  12. Spears&Buckler

    Spears&Buckler MJ Dusseault

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    Hey! You're the dude who wrote it! I'm definitely going to check this one out, now. If there's a book I kinda want to read and I find out the author posts here, I automatically put it on my to-read list. The same happened with James Barclay back in the day.

    Another future sale Mr. Lawrence!
     
  13. 3rdI

    3rdI Edema Ruh

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    Was that the original release date? Delays with the publisher?

    I will be standing in line at Borders with my copy on August 2nd. I hope you sell a boatload of copies :)
     
  14. Mark Lawrence

    Mark Lawrence The New ... MARK LAWRENCE

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    @ Spears&Buckler + 3rdI, much appreciated.


    That was when I signed the book over. No specific delays since then, it's just a sloooooow business.
     
  15. Whiskeyjack

    Whiskeyjack sapper-in-chief

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    Mr. Lawrence, do you know if a Kindle edition is planned for your book? Hope so, since it looks like a great read and ebooks are pretty much all I buy nowadays (due to storage issues).
     
  16. Mark Lawrence

    Mark Lawrence The New ... MARK LAWRENCE

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    Hey Whiskeyjack - I quizzed Voyager today for you. The Kindle edition is out the same day as the hardback (August 4th) - no pre-order on it yet because Kindle won't allow pre-orders until they have the files in their hot little hands & the official map is still being finished off at Voyager.
     
  17. Whiskeyjack

    Whiskeyjack sapper-in-chief

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    Thanks, Mark. Another customer here. Prince of Thorns is now on my Amazon wishlist, awaiting the Kindle edition!
     
  18. Rulkez

    Rulkez Registered User

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    Really beginning to struggle with this now. Everything is so implausible . I'm a little before halfway and :

    I just can't buy a group of bandits, blacker than anything you would find in an Abercrombie novel following a 13 year old boy. A boy who acts, talks and fights like some one 3 times his age.
     
  19. John_PQ

    John_PQ Registered User

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    I think he's 14 and I guess he wouldn't be the focus of a book if he weren't unusual. He didn't strike me as 42, but he's certainly not typical of his age group. Mind you, GRRM has Jaime placing well at tourneys at 14 and Robb being a king and leading his army into pitched battles at 15. I guess we all demand different levels of 'realism' in our fantasy.

    Ender's Game really pushes the envelop when it comes to precocious main characters :)
     
  20. Rulkez

    Rulkez Registered User

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    Well he was 13 at the start of the book though he turns not long into it. However he is already leading the Brothers by then. The way he talks and acts in the flashback scenes ( where he is from 10-13) is simply implausible. We are expected to believe a boy aged between 10-14 , of noble birth and upbringing is able to lead a group of murderers , rapists and general bad asses . Wert had it right in that Jorg is written like a cross between Kvothe , Locke Lomora and Gregor Clegane , I could buy that if he was maybe a little older but Jorg just reads to me like a typical Marty Stu only with a questionable moral compass.

    It may get better , I still have a little over half to read but so far It's borderline wether I will even bother to finish it.