Book Review: The King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of ThornsKing of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Genre: Dark Fantasy, Post Apocalyptic

Series: The Broken Empire #2

Publisher: Ace Books (August 2012)

Author Info:  mark—lawrence.blogspot.ca/

Wendy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Whatever you look into can look back into you.”

I recently read a piece of writing advice about how to properly write violence and death by always making it count. Be it the character committing the act, the victim, or the observer, violence has to have a price. Gratuitous violence is just too easy.

My thoughts went immediately to The Broken Empire series and it’s antagonist, King Jorg Ancrath. Violence in his past shaped child into man by breaking him and letting the darkness we all harbour within ooze out. The article made me further appreciate Lawrence’s character and those around him, particularly his Brothers. They are all killers–psychopaths and sociopaths of varying degrees. Some of them love the kill, while others might mourn each life taken, but Lawrence writes each killer and each act of violence with such care. In fact, what I really enjoy about Lawrence’s writing is that he writes the words that need to be written. No character or action is gratuitous or wasted.

For Jorg, the ghosts of his past have literally come back to haunt him, released by the necromancy he stole in the previous book. I was concerned that regret was going to eventually give us a kinder, gentler Jorg, but Lawrence does not disappoint by having Jorg walk the heavily trodden path of redemption. Jorg does gain wisdom as he grows from boy to man, prince to king, but Lawrence doesn’t cop out with the character’s darkness. There is nothing Jorg does that is worthy of forgiveness, and even his acts of kindness come with a calculation of the costs.

As king, Jorg finds himself faced with the challenge of a rival, the Prince of Arrow, who would take his kingdom and go on to gather all the kingdoms under his benevolent rule as emperor. Jorg doesn’t care much for anyone telling him what to do, and with his original quest for vengeance satisfied, perhaps the emperor’s throne wouldn’t be a bad idea for a new goal as well. But of course there are problems. The Prince of Arrow is the better man in all ways and Jorg has no allies, the dream-witch, Sageous, is still pulling Jorg’s strings in indiscernible directions, and the Princess Katherine haunts Jorg just as much as the dead do. Trailing these torments, Jorg crosses the land in search of a way to stand against the Prince of Arrow and claim the Imperial Throne himself.

Often times Jorg seemingly pulls himself out of situations by the seat if his pants, usually at great cost to those who have bound their lives to him. In pivotal moments, when it seems almost impossible for Jorg to win without the hand of God, Jorg always manages in the mist spectacular way possible. Usually with a plan that Jorg reveals in that moment. Some might find this story telling plot solution too easy, but the further I sink into the Broken Empire and Jorg himself, I’ve come to accept that this is Jorg’s story and he will tell it as he damn well wishes. Telling a story in first person is not often done well, especially when flashbacks are tossed into the mix, but I think Lawrence has found the key through this character by revealing Jorg’s inner workings and his flaws, including pride. What story teller doesn’t take pride in saving and then savouring the big reveal? Moreover, these big moments are not without set up. Lawrence carefully presents all the pieces for the reader to put together as Jorg’s gathers his tools, forming a spectacular tapestry of pain, violence and darkness when he unleashes his denouement.

Surrounding Jorg’s elaborate schemes and antics are a few interesting mysteries about the world itself. The ancient Builders have left behind many devices that will be recognizable to readers, but remain a mystery to the characters. This world is obviously grounded in our own, but Lawrence only teases us with the connection, while parceling out the magic that turns this from merely a secret post-apocalyptic tale into one of true fantasy. Will we ever learn the connection?

My step into The Broken Empire was long overdue, but now that I am here, I am enjoying every moment, especially with my hard copy reading enhanced by the incredible narration of James Clamp.
39dec-5stars

18 Comments on “Book Review: The King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence”

    • Musings like this and the application of philosophy or other cultural references in situations is one aspect of the main character (and the series in general) that has put The Broken Empire on the top of my reading list.

      Ok, maybe using the Kobayashi Maru was a bit much, but I guess I’m fine with Star Trek surviving the apocalypse and being put up there with the great teachings of the past. 😉

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  1. As a general rule, books that feature necromancy are usually my fav, but lately the ones that I’ve been reading have fallen short. It’s good that Jorg sticks to his dark path in this installment. I’m on a bit of a dark kick at the moment, so your review has definitely piqued my interest in this author.

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    • I like dark stories but always find they never hold true. They always cop out by bringing back the light or not going dark enough. Jorg seemed to be leaving toward the former, then nope. He went all in. Love it.

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    • For a short while in the beginning, I thought the novelty of Jorg might be wearing off, but nope. He’s still going strong with me. Can’t wait to start the next.

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        • Ah. I get a little lost when he decides to go somewhere, not necessarily because it takes to long for him to get there, but because I don’t understand why he’s going where he goes and why he stops at the places he does. But I’ve come to accept the answers as BECAUSE, DAMMIT and just enjoy things from that perspective.

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