Loerwyn: Prince of Thorns is a tale about a kid named Jorg. When we first meet him, he's 14, six foot tall, toned and muscular, and an utter bastard.
Me: My own brother was 6 feet tall before he hit 14, so I don't see a big problem here. As for the "utter bastard" part, that's one of the major points of the story...
Loerwyn: He murders, lies, rapes, assaults, abuses, steals - He's pretty much the villain of most gritty fantasy books.
Me: Yup. He's not a nice guy. So? Do you think everyone in A Clockwork Orange went to Sunday school every week?
Loerwyn: Oh, he's also a prince who lives under a sort of self-exile after the murder of his mother and younger brother.
Me: Yup. So?
Loerwyn: Jorg is able to cut down experienced soldiers, fight in armour, survive being stabbed in the chest and all these other magical things.
Me: In case you missed it, this is a work of FANTASY. He survives being stabbed because he has taken in some of a necromancer's powers. He is able to cut down experienced soldiers and fight in armor in part because he was raised as a king's son, and in part because he has been controlled by a wizard. Fantasy, remember??
Loerwyn: The supporting characters are little different. We have a black man often called the Nuban, and we're frequently reminded that the black man is indeed black and that he has black skin and that Nubans are black. Because he's black, you see.
Me: Well, uh, yeah. So? This is writing that depends heavily on imagery of one sort or another, and Jorg depends heavily on the Nuban as one of the anchors tying him to whatever decency he has left. Thus, it is natural for Jorg to dwell on the Nuban's various physical and internal qualities. And remember, the Nuban isn't the only character or character-type whose color is repeatedly remarked upon. For instance, remember why it's called the Castle Red ?
Loerwyn: Jorg's Brothers (i.e. his band of merry men) are either food-obsessed, rape-obsessed, violence-obsessed or they're the fallen captain who joins in but still has a sense of honour.
Me: Yup. More not-nice guys. So?
Loerwyn: The women tend to act simply as sex machines, angry birds or... Oh, I think that's about it.
Me: Yup. And just how many positive female characters do you think there were in A Clockwork Orange? This is not a kumbaya love fest, nor is it intended to be.
Loerwyn: Aside from the almost Oedipal reverence Jorg has for mother dearest, there's not a single positive female character.
Me: Whereintheheck do you get this Oedipal nonsense? How do you think YOU would remember your mother, if you saw her gang-raped and sliced open in front of your eyes where you were nine or ten?
Loerwyn:Pretty much every woman bar Jorg's mother and his mother-in-law gets beaten, sexed (Either consensually or raped) or... Uh, I think that's the range of interactions.
Me: Once again -- yup. This is the story of an insane, or nearly insane, young guy with little or no positive experience of the world around him. It is the story of Prince Jorg, not Saint Jorg.
Loerwyn: Oh, and a weird vault computer thingy also magically survives.
Me: Why magically? It's a storage vault built deep into a mountain, specifically intended to survive just about anything. It does. That doesn't require magic, just very sophisticated technology and some luck.
Loerwyn: Now, the plot. I honestly do not know why most things happened.
Me: It appears to me that you'd have better understanding if you had paid more attention to the book.
Loerwyn: Jorg is trying to kill his uncle, which clearly involves razing villages, raping women, killing his own men and killing others.
Me: No, actually, he is NOT trying to kill his uncle for most of the book. This is the kind of comment that makes me think you weren't paying much attention when you were reading. During most of the book, Jorg is actually being manipulated by a wizard who specifically wants Jorg to NOT kill the uncle. The wizard wants Jorg to do exactly what he IS doing -- causing upheaval around the area, and gaining experience in murder and mayhem.
Loerwyn: He then decides to go home to his dad (The King!) for some reason, but not before killing one of his brothers for the fun of it
Me: See above. Wizard. Manipulation. Insanity.
Loerwyn: and he encounters ghosties
Me: Refer back to "fantasy". Sure enough, ghosts often appear in fantasy stories. Surprise surprise.
Loerwyn: and some old priest bloke who recovers from near-death rather quickly.
Me: Whoever said the priest was near death? He was left to die in a cage, sure -- but that's not at all the same thing as "near death".
Loerwyn: Daddy tells him to bring him a county, Jorgy-poo runs off to do it
Me: Why in the world would you ever think that idiotic words like "Daddy" and "Jorgy-poo" are appropriate here, in place of "King" and "Prince Jorg"?
Jorg is not entirely rational, not by a long shot. That's an important part of the story, not an excuse for you to ridicule the author.
Loerwyn: and so on and so forth. We go through tunnels with necromancers, a tourney outside a castle and a few other things here and there.
Me: Once again -- refer back to "fantasy". Oddly enough, these sorts of things happen in fantasy stories.
Loerwyn: The chapters of the plot are peppered by retrospective chapters that, without fail, take place four years ago, back when Jorg was about ten or eleven (I'll comment on that later). They almost invariably involve Jorg and the black Nuban of blackness, and how Jorg comes to respect him (I'll mention that later, too) and how we ended up where we are with this story. I thought they added some good information, but I feel like they could perhaps have been put at the start to give a chronologically smoother read.
Me: You've got something against flashbacks? It's important to the tension and confusion of the story that we NOT find out about the wizard Corion until near the end of the book. Thus, in part, the flashbacks.
Loerwyn: I honestly struggle to remember why Jorg went through the necromancer tunnels, up an elevator shaft (I think... Or was it a buried skyscraper?), why he killed the ladymancer, why he found the bombs, why he blew the mountain up, how he managed to escape in time and so forth.
Me: I'm not surprised that you have trouble remembering. I honestly think you just weren't paying much attention as you read. Don't blame your confusion on the author.
Loerwyn: I don't think many of these events were helped by Lawrence's often unclear writing, which caused me to reread things more often than I'd have liked.
Me: "Unclear"?? Do you want to read adult literature, or do you want to read the Cat in the Hat? IMHO Lawrence's writing is often almost hallucinatory in quality, but I wouldn't ever call it murky.
Loerwyn: How did this vault continue to function potentially thousands of years after the "apocalypse", and why did society revert itself to a society where women are only good for food and sex?
Me: See, this is the sort of thing that makes me believe you weren't paying attention. In fact, the specific number of years is set down explicitly right in the book. They find the computer precisely 1111 years after it was left alone in the vault.
As for reversion -- that's what can happen after any kind of apocalypse. Just take a look at Lord of the Flies, if you don't believe me.
Loerwyn: Surely if humanity survived, which it clearly did, then many things like social attitudes would survive to some degree?
Me: Hey, if that's the kind of society that YOU wish to imagine, then go write your own book based on that notion. Many other authors have disagreed with you, but if you like it that way more power to you.
Loerwyn: Christianity survived in this world, and somehow so did written texts, but some characters speak Latin. *How* did they learn Latin in the first place? How did magic come to exist? How could they almost word-for-word reconstruct a medieval setting? Too many questions were left unanswered for me.
Me: Hey -- this book is less than 400 pages long. Do you really expect Lawrence to cram in the entire detailed history of the world??
Loerwyn: There were also inconsistencies with Jorg's age. He's almost fifteen at the start, and reaches that age soon enough. That would mean the Four Years Ago bits span from ages ten to eleven, which is fair enough, except for the fact that Jorg is almost exactly the same four years ago. The way he speaks, the way he acts? He's an arrogant arse even at ten. However, when one of Jorg's best friends said "A little over three years ago, you were ten", it's clearly wrong. Jorg would have been eleven going on twelve. That's a big error there, Mr Protector of Jorgy.
Me: The guy's a soldier, not a scribe. Heck, I can't even remember exactly how many years ago I moved to this new place -- and that's only three or four years as well. You are setting your expectations waaaay too high here.
Loerwyn: The way women were treated made last year's Farlander look like the pinnacle of female equality, and that even mentioned breasts every two pages!
Me: Jeez Louise. This isn't I'm Okay You're Okay. This isn't Betty Friedan or Dr. Phil. This is a brutal story about a brutal world. (And before you start calling me a sexist pig, I'm a woman myself.) The author isn't saying it's "okay" to treat women badly -- he's just acknowledging that, in societies like this one, they DO get treated badly.
Loerwyn: Whilst Jorg was oddly compelling, he was as believable as Nicolas Cage's attempts to act.
Me: I actually found this one comment pretty funny. Nicolas Cage is a widely respected actor -- but NOT for any sense of realism. He isn't a realist. He creates drama and larger-than-life personae. And, in a way, that's what Jorg does as well. This is FANTASY -- and realism is not always the best friend of a fantasy tale.
Loerwyn: I find it impossible to believe that an arrogant, puffed-up fourteen year old would be able to lead a band of men twice his age, twice his strength etc, and so forth. It made no sense to me.
Me: Refer back to wizard, training as heir to a throne, insanity, and so on. I actually agree with you that it would be nice if he had at least one or two more years on him, but I don't think the lack of those one or two years ruins anything. Fantasy, remember?