Date started: September 12th
Date finished: September 22nd
At the start of my King of Thorns review, I brought up the dark middle chapters of various different trilogies. Looking at each of those examples, I found it interesting that the final chapters of those trilogies are Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and Mass Effect 3. My big question going into Emperor of Thorns then was “Will Mark Lawrence drop the ball?”
No. No, he didn’t. Emperor of Thorns picks up almost exactly where King of Thorns left off. The flashback portions take Jorg on a quest to a distant land from a ghost he met named Fexler Brews, and the present day stuff is centred around the journey towards Congression, where once again the rulers of the Broken Empire will convene to attempt to vote in a new Emperor. Only now the Dead King is on the march with an army of necromancers, lichkin, and zombies, heralding the end of days unless someone strong enough can rise up to defeat him.
Once again, this is a difficult review to write because I’m trying not to give away spoilers about the world itself, which is far and away what I enjoyed most about the trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence excels at character work too though. Jorg once again gets a good showing here, stepping a little further away from his amoral roots, but still retaining enough of his wickedness to walk more on the side of utter bastard than stereotypical hero figure. Katherine also steps up a lot here, along with Chella the necromancer, who both play well as foils to Jorg, albeit in different ways.
My only disappointment on this front is that with more prominent roles for Katherine and Chella, I felt Jorg’s wife Miana was sidelined a little. She has a moment of exceptional badassery in King of Thorns, and I was hoping to see more of that in Emperor, but when the rest of the story is as good as it is, that’s a minor complaint.
All that said, it really is the setting of the Broken Empire I’ll miss the most from the series. I loved reading Jorg every step of the way, and I’m glad Lawrence decided to end his story here on a high point (and if I haven’t given it away thus far, Emperor is the high point of the trilogy) but I would like to see more from the Broken Empire itself. There is a bit towards the end where Jorg meets a party of three characters, and just for a second, it honestly felt like he could have been playing a bit part in their story as opposed to the lead in his own. I haven’t checked Google yet, but I have a sneaky feeling the Queen of Red and the Silent Sister might have snuck in as a backdoor preview of stories to come.
And for what it’s worth, I do hope I’m right on that front. This is the first fantasy trilogy I’ve read like this since Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, which is almost an unfair expectation to fulfil. But it did, and at times Lawrence exceeded it. I can honestly recommend Emperor of Thorns, and the whole trilogy, unequivocally. And whether we get more Broken Empire stories or something completely new, I’ll fervently await whatever Mark Lawrence decides to do next.
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