Fifty Books, 365 Days. Book Thirty Four – Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Date started: August 24th

Date finished: August 30th

Perhaps the greatest indicator that I liked Prince of Thorns is that rather than write up some thoughts about it, I’d much rather just go start the sequel, King of Thorns. But it’s best I get this done now, just in case I start mixing up events from the two books.

Prince of Thorns tells the story of Prince Jorg, heir to the throne of Ancrath, and his quest for revenge against his uncle, Count Renar, for murdering his mother and brother in front of him when he was at the tender age of nine. He assembles a band of outcasts and cutthroats, and basically cuts a swath across the world. Oh, and it’s glorious.

I learned during my fairly short tenure of playing Dungeons & Dragons that a chaotic evil character is difficult to pull off. Thankfully, Mark Lawrence succeeds. Jorg is a bastard, but also a surprisingly likable protagonist. For me, this mostly comes down to his charm and wit. His relationships with the people he chooses to surround himself with are fun to read, mostly due to the snappy dialogue.

What’s interesting is that this all works without much focus on the world or any characters aside from Jorg. The whole story is written in first person from his perspective, and he’s amoral enough to not really care about anything or anyone around him, apart from his single minded focus on revenge. There were times during the first quarter or so where I felt it bordered on being a little too myopic, but it grew on me as I learned more about Jorg, and why he would think the way he does. Plus, after reading so many fantasy books with bloated descriptions of settings, Prince of Thorns was a breath of fresh air in this regard.

As for the setting itself, it’s interesting. But it’s interesting for reasons I’d prefer not to give away in a spoiler free review. Suffice to say, it wasn’t what I expected. And while there were hints early on in the story, I still got excited when the whole thing was blown wide open later on. I really hope there’s more exploration of this stuff going forward, but not in a way that goes against the understated nature of the first book.

If I had to pick out an issue with Prince of Thorns, it’s that it ended a little too abruptly for my liking. There’s a break neck pace to the whole thing, but the final 25 pages or so seemed to rush by in a sprint to the finish line. The first two acts were well paced and truly gripping, but I could have done with act three being fleshed out a bit more. Despite that though, this is still an exceptionally solid start to a series, and I’m excited for what comes next.

This will be the first trilogy I do in one shot since I started out the year with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. I hope this one can maintain the quality of Prince of Thorns going forward.

Further adventures in fantasy Book Reviews:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Stand by Stephen King (spoilers!)
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

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