Published by Voyager on August 2nd 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Royalty
Buy on Amazon
Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother’s tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that’s true enough, but there’s something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse.
From being a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg has the ability to master the living and the dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father’s castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him.
Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, and sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.
“I may be running out of options, but running out isn’t an option.”
This book was quite the ride. Very original and intriguing to say the least. Probably the darkest fantasy novel I have ever read.
Going into this book all I knew was that Prince of Thornswas about an anti-hero. But let me tell you, Jorg Ancrath wasn’t just an anti-hero, the dude was plain evil. And when I say evil, I mean EVIL. As in, no redeeming qualities. And you know what? I loved Jorg. Seriously, I tried to hate him and failed miserably. It is no secret that I love anti-heroes and morally grey characters but Jorg was in an entirely different dimension. He wasn’t grey, he was black. And I freaking loved it. Not sure what that says about me but oh well…
Let’s talk about Jorg a little bit more first (because let’s be real, he is going to be the reason you either love or hate this novel):
“You know how to break the cycle of hatred?” I asked.
“Love,” said Gomst, all quiet-like.
“The way to break the cycle is to kill every single one of the bastards that fucked you over”, I said.”
The first thing you need to know is that Jorg is an actual villain. He has had horrible things happen to him in the past but in no way do those things excuse his present actions. What I loved was that Mark Lawrence never tried to redeem him, he doesn’t try to make us swoon over Jorg, doesn’t try to make him likable. Jorg is a selfish, ruthless bastard and in no point in the story are we told otherwise. The guy respects nothing, he couldn’t care less about honour or loyalty. He rapes. He can and does sacrifice people without afterthought, even those he calls his Brothers. Prince of Thorns isn’t a story about redemption, or a messed up character finding his way. Jorg will never be a good person and I found that to be fascinating.
Jorg was a great character because – besides the fact that he is vicious and kind of psychopathic – he is also very sarcastic, intelligent and unpredictable.
“Anything that you cannot sacrifice pins you. Makes you predictable, makes you weak.”
His inner monologues were so entertaining and I found myself wanting to read on even in the moments I found the plot to be confusing.
Next let’s discuss the plot. Prince of Thorns is in its essence a revenge tale, unique because of the perspective it is told from. There are two parallel storylines, one is present day wherein Jorg is travelling through the Empire with his brothers – a band of mercenaries as vicious as him – pillaging villages and killing people, while the other is set four years earlier, before he left the castle and his home. The second storyline serves to fill us in about what is happening now and why Jorg acts the way he does. Fortunately, I found both storylines equally interesting.
What may put off some readers is that the novel creates a somewhat blurry visual puzzle that makes the story quite confusing at times. I personally enjoyed this because I found it to be a different approach to storytelling, but it can make the reading process slightly exhausting.
Then there was the writing. Let me tell you, the writing was GREAT. Some of the best metaphors and similes I have ever read. The writing isn’t particularly rich or poetic, but the way Mark Lawrence uses words was impressive. There were SO many amazing quotes in this book; I could find a great one on almost every page.
However, there were some things about the novel that could definitely have been better. I wish the worldbuilding had been clearer and more fleshed-out. I am still a bit confused about what this world is exactly, a medieval Europe set in the future? What? Why? The magic was a little bit too volatile for my tastes, it seemed that certain individuals could do all kinds of things and we never got an explanation for it. Also, I found Jorg to be so lucky at times that it was difficult to suspend my disbelief. Some things were just a tad too convenient.
Overall though, I found this to be a very engaging and intelligent read. It won’t be a novel for everyone, but if you love fantasy, messed up characters and don’t mind a bit of a darker read then I definitely recommend this.