Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I’ve decided to switch up from afflicting the web with my fiction for a change and write something that’s a little bit easier. An opinion piece. Since I’m assuming you read the title, we all know that this is a review of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. I’m late to the party on this one. It’s the first book in the first trilogy set in his Broken Empire world.

Firstly, Lawrence’s work is a pleasure to read from the very first paragraph of the book. He had recently waxed philosophic about the nature of language, and I’m going to quote Lawrence  to explain what I think of his own words. “It’s poetry diluted to taste.”  As an author, he strings together phrases that have a lyrical quality to them but are muted down to avoid becoming overly flowery or rambling.

Lawrence has also managed to keep a fairly steady pacing with his opening salvo of the trilogy. There wasn’t a single point where I felt he was lingering too long on a particular scene or where I wished he would just get on with the plot. The only points where I ever felt my interest beginning to flag where the expository flashback chapters that pepper the book and offer the reader insight into exactly why the Jorg, the protagonist, is the way he is. The novel does an good job of switching back to the current action to avoid these flashes of exposition from bogging down the reader’s interest while still providing us with a coherent reason for Jorg’s actions from page 1.

The pacing and language throughout the book are wonderful, but despite having the next two books in the trilogy on my shelf waiting to be cracked open, I still decided to take a break from the world of the Broken Empire. Why is that? The characters. While the story moves at a steady trot from start to finish and the words are excellently chosen, I just never became emotionally invested with the characters.

Jorg is a standard anti-hero. He’s not nice about things and part of that is because of Reasons Outside of His Control. Unfortunately, any sympathy I would have had with him because of his tragic backstory is completely negated by his arrogant, and at times, petulant, attitude. Because of the first person perspective that is used as the form of delivery throughout the novel we never really get to know enough about the supporting characters to truly appreciate them either. The supporting cast deaths that do happen along the way lack any real impact because most of the characters just seem to act as set dressing surrounding Jorg.

Despite my inability to really care about the characters and the outcomes of their actions, the novel was still an enjoyable read, and I am interested to see how Lawrence fleshes out the promises of plot foreshadowed in the first volume; as well as how he continues to build the world which is definitely not an off the shelf variety for Fantasy. I would recommend this book to someone who is already a fan of the Fantasy genre and looking for something faster pased than most fantasy epics, but also offering a different world than we’ve come to expect from fantasy as well.

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