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  1. #1
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    King, Prince & Emperor of Thorns Series by Mark Lawrence

    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 (****) 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. #2
    http://tinyurl.com/363ogv DurzoBlint's Avatar
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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. #3
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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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. #4
    Registered User Luke_B's Avatar
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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. #5
    Sounds interesting. I pre-ordered it awhile ago after Pat wrote a blog on it. Sounds like I should enjoy it.

  6. #6
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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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. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob B View Post
    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.
    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. #8
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    Got a copy today with my DwD pre order , not far in but his writing style is certainly engaging.

  9. #9
    The New ... MARK LAWRENCE Mark Lawrence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3rdI View Post
    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.
    The very last ARC I had got sent to a certain Werthead...

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

    August cannot get here fast enough.
    I've been saying that since January ... 2010.

  10. #10
    The New ... MARK LAWRENCE Mark Lawrence's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3rdI View Post
    Dammit I want an ARC. Mark hook a player up please!
    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. #11

    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. #12
    MJ Dusseault Spears&Buckler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Lawrence View Post
    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.
    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. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Lawrence View Post
    I've been saying that since January ... 2010.
    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. #14
    The New ... MARK LAWRENCE Mark Lawrence's Avatar
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    @ Spears&Buckler + 3rdI, much appreciated.


    Quote Originally Posted by 3rdI View Post
    Was that the original release date? Delays with the publisher?
    That was when I signed the book over. No specific delays since then, it's just a sloooooow business.

  15. #15
    sapper-in-chief Whiskeyjack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Lawrence View Post
    ...That was when I signed the book over. No specific delays since then, it's just a sloooooow business.
    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).

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