Book Feature: Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire)

by Anaiya on October 24, 2013

Looking for some great dark fantasy reads? In that case Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns should be at the top of your list. While the stuff the main character does and says can be called horrific, this is not a true horror read. Scroll down for the description of the book and some ideas as to what other readers are saying about it.

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire)

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire)

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…

It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him—and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…

It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him—and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

A Guy October 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm
112 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Grim, Dark, Fantastic: Lawrence is the new KJ Parker, August 3, 2011
By 
A Guy (Boston, MA) –

All I can say about this book is “wow”. Actually, that’s a lie; I have a lot more to say. These kind of grim, ultra-harsh fantasies with anti-hero leads are really hard to write well. Getting the right mix of believability and twisted viciousness in the protagonist, while not making the reader totally hate him, is tough. Before reading this, KJ Parker (Fencer trilogy, Scavenger trilogy) was the undisputed king in this area; now Lawrence (the author) joins him as one of the great masters of dark fantasy.

The plot is solid: in a Jack Vance “Dying Earth”-ish future, scores of petty kings and nobles compete to reclaim an empire, while in the shadows magicians and necromancers manipulate and control events for their own agendas. The protagonist, Prince Jorg, has been on the road with the roughest band of killers for four years, forging himself into a weapon after his mother and brother were killed in front of him. Having taken control of this brotherhood of brigands, he decides to return home and attempt to take his birthright, sparking further trials and conquests.

The writing style was very good, the pacing was great, and flashbacks filled in the backstory in nicely digestible pieces. As a note, I’m normally not such a fan of flashbacks, but Lawrence managed to keep them germane, where each one helped further the main storyline, rather than distracting from it. Lawrence, like Parker, really excels in his character portrayal of Jorg, and captures his semi-psychotic nature. I liked the combat writing too; typically fast, vicious, and clever, it avoided pitfalls of unbelievable actions or lengthy, technically complicated duels, while still included more than enough blood and bodies.

Overall a great effort, and possibly the best dark fantasy I’ve read since the Fencer trilogy. Recommended to anyone that likes a dark fantasy, and particularly to those that like KJ Parker (and vice versa).

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Amanda M Lyons October 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of the Best Anti-heroes in a Long Time, August 2, 2011
By 
Amanda M Lyons (Millersburg, OH United States) –

What a wonderfully dark and often humorous trip this books has been!

Prince of Thorns is the story of Honorous Jorg Ancrath as much a prince of thievery and cruelty as he is to the throne currently occupied by his less than chivalrous father. A smart quick-witted and brutal 15 year old, Jorg is often taken for less than the sum of his experience. He is no less than a rogue and has more than earned his place among his Brothers of the road by cracking skulls as much as by leadership.

Jorg is no ordinary teenager. He’s lived among the brutal marauders, under their rules for the last four years. He left his father’s castle by his own choice at the age of ten on a quest to avenge his mother and brother who were horribly murdered before his eyes. His quest as yet unfinished he travels his world making war and death his stock and trade. Until that is he’s brought home and the path he’s chosen is forced to change.

I haven’t read a book with such a great first person narrative in ages! Jorg makes no bones about just what sort of person he’s become since he left his father’s castle telling us exactly what it is he and his men do as they wander about in as clear detail as he cares to offer. Jorg it seems has become an evildoer and relishes the action and battle he finds with his comrades though that horrible night which changed his life is never far from his thoughts. While this should make him a less than sympathetic character it well and truly doesn’t! While he’s capable of a great deal of wrong he’s also a very keen wit and is clearly acting to survive in a world he feels has no sympathy for the innocent. He is essentially giving his world back the same pain and misery it has given him only with a lot more charm and cunning than it bargained for!

While Jorg is only 15 he speaks with the voice of a man twice his age and with a wry sort of humor most couldn’t take in such darkness. His companions and the many combatants they meet along the way are just as intriguing as the storyteller himself. I think any fantasy fan is going to love this book! The voice Jorg tells his tale with (there is more on the way thank goodness!) is crisp clear and very easy to get caught up in. Lawrence’s writing is hugely entertaining and he takes us to so many unexpected places that you can’t help but want to read more. This books is a treat to read and well worth the time invested!

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Blodeuedd "Blodeuedd" October 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Prince of thorns, August 2, 2011
By 

Note: review by a friend

Brother Jorg, Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, will be King by fifteen. Emperor by 21, probably. But at the moment he is a road bandit, rapist, butcher, torturer. And he is the hero of the book Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence.

You get heroes of all kind in fantasy literature – heroes with varying degree of skill, powers and motivation. The good guys are pure of heart and clean of face. Then we have the anti-heroes, the unwilling heroes who have the hero-hood thrust upon them, but they always come through, and finally show their heart of gold.

Brother Jorg is at the far end of that scale, you might say. He is a stone cold bastard, thirteen year of age, killed more men than the plague. But ok – the land is riddled with war; the feuds between the little kingdoms have been going on for decades, centuries. If he can become the Emperor, at least there will be no more war.

Prince of Thorns is the first book of a trilogy, where we will follow Jorg’s path. The set is an alternate Europe (with magic, ghosts and monstrosities), refreshing it its simplicity. The focus is entirely on Jorg. His stubbornness and lack of fear is legendary – he survives against overwhelming odds by a mixture of intelligence, brutality, dirty tricks, cunning, necromancy, etc.

What do I think about it? If you can get through the initial revulsion in the first dozens of pages (where the author really grinds your nose into the feces of brutality and immorality, to get your mind on the right track) it’s a wonderful book! A page turner, I personally read it in one sitting. Ok, you may learn that Jorg has had a rough childhood to motivate his deeds, but that doesn’t really matter. It is refreshing to just be able to follow the machinations of an artful bastard, winning against all odds. Just don’t expect much romance and love – there is a hint, but no more.

Conclusion:
Extremely different! But refreshingly so. I will read the other two books, that’s a promise.

Rating:
Recommended, for some

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Beatmuppet October 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Broken Empire Series, August 30, 2012
By 

King of Thorns (#2 Broken Empire) by Mark Lawrence.

Hmm, What to say about this Author and this series, without spoiling any of the twists or surprises. Book one, Prince of Thorns was one of the surprises of 2011. If you didn’t get it on your to do list you should add it now. I’ll wait while you do.

Ok? Done?

At it’s essence, this series is a VERY dark and violent tale, told first person, from the point of view of Jorg the young and disturbed ringleader of a brutal band of wandering misfits (Brothers), that, for want of a better description, go round raping and pillaging and murdering whomever they like, and unashamedly, loving every minute of it.

I did say it was dark.

It’s not grotesquely violent. It’s not horror, but it does not ‘hollywoodize’ the violence. Its real and raw. It’s the Tarantino of Fantasy. The violence is somewhat confronting because Jorg is so calm about it. It’s not an angry reacting to an insult. It’s not vicious self defence. It’s not heroic winning after an honourable sword-fight. If that guy is annoying, or smiles oddly, and needs a dagger pushed gently into his eye, then that’s what he gets.

It’s not all violence though. I’m just giving you fair warning that there’s some moments in there that may turn your nails black (in a good way).

It is, in a way, the journey, both physical and mental, of Jorg, as he discovers where he came from and remembers what made him as he is. It’s actually pretty insightful.

It could be the journey of a boy becoming a man. A man learning to control the primitive angry beast that wriggles in the shadow of many of us.

There’s some superb humour stirred into the mix as well. I do get a big kick out of black humour.

Mark Lawrence has a wonderful writing style, that suits this tale.

It’s sparse and bleak. It almost misleading in it’s apparent simplicity, but then you realise he’s painting a very clear scene.

It’s a naked grey sketch, stepping quietly along without heavy description but then he will slip in a line so masterfully crafted, so beautifully colourfully detailed, that it’s like a punch in the face with a bunch of flowers.

The beauty stands-out all the clearer against the bleakness. The good in people stands out against all the bad that can happen.

Maybe it’s a look at what is evil?

Maybe it’s just Lawrence testing what we are allowed to write?
Many good books have tested boundaries in the past.

Maybe Jorg is just a broken, disturbed, detached young man.
Maybe he’s just a cool character to writer and that’s it?

Lawrence makes you feel like a child discovering a frozen puddle on the way to school. The pure pleasure of breaking something perfect. The natural joy of not being burdened by consequence.

Either way.

This is a great writer and an engrossing series with a difference, not just because of its dark moments, but because of its surprising twists and revelations.

This is a series well worth a look by fans of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Alternate History and Post Apocalyptic, or just damn good writing.

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little_elf10 October 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Better than the first, September 3, 2012
By 

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

I just finished Mark Lawrence’s, “King of Thorns” last night, and I must say that while I enjoyed “Prince of Thorns,” it’s predecessor, the sequel solidified my admiration of Lawrence as an up and coming fantasy author.

Lawrence is gutsy, to say the least. In the first book, he chose to tell a conflicted coming of age story, but in reverse order, starting with Jorg and his band of brutal, unmerciful bandits raping and pillaging the land, only giving the backstory of the troubled Prince of Ancrath later. Lawrence must have known that he would lose readers – especially those who found Jorg’s morality, or lack there of, a little too much to handle. We eventually got our explanations and the origin story for his sociopathic nature. Still, as a reader, Jorg was difficult to identify with because of the shock of the first half of the book.

Enter the second book. Here, Lawrence gives us much more backstory and situates Jorg with character-types we weren’t privy to in the first – characters that remind Jorg that human lives might indeed be worth something. In this context, Lawrence gives us several emotionally gut-wrenching scenes, offering us glimpses into the complexity of Jorg’s character. Readers who did not enjoy the first book should definitely try the second. Very rarely do authors make readers bleed the injuries suffered by their characters, and Lawrence does that successfully in several scenes.

The book is told in two primary time frames, the present, while Jorg is 18, and 4 years prior, directly following the events of the first book. Interspersed between these time-jumps were diary entries told from Katherine’s perspective. As several other reviewers have noted, the initial 100 pages were a bit difficult to navigate, primarily because in addition to time-jumping, the reader had to figure out where the story actually was in each of those time points. This was not a problem with the latter half of the book.

Supporting characters were well-flushed out. Katherine, in particular, has developed tremendously, and we also get introduced to an additional strong female lead.

As with the first book, the mythology of a post-apocalyptic world was rich, and the juxtaposition of ghosts, trolls, and machines certainly makes the story less predictable.

In sum, “King of Thorns” outdoes its predecessor. I certainly recommend picking up a copy. Lawrence is unpredictable and one of the most interesting fantasy authors to read.

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Bob Milne "Beauty in Ruins - Speculative and ... October 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
A bigger book than the first in every respect, July 14, 2013
By 
Bob Milne “Beauty in Ruins – Speculative and … (Niagara Falls, ON Canada) –
(REAL NAME)
  

This review is from: King of Thorns (The Broken Empire) (Kindle Edition)

I opened my review of Prince of Thorns, book 1 of The Broken Empire saga, by saying:

“Damn, but this was one hell of a book!”

I would like to begin this review in a similar spirit, by saying:

“Damn, but this was one hell of a book to review.”

I’ve let it settle and digest for a few days, but I’m still very conflicted in my thoughts regarding King of Thorns. Mark Lawrence has improved upon many aspects of that first book, particularly in the areas of character development and world-building, but the converging paths of the narrative structure that didn’t work so well for me this time around.

Generally, I’m not a big fan of stories that jump back and forth in time, balancing flashbacks with the ‘current’ or ‘present day’ narrative. It’s just not a device that works for me. Having said that, it did work for me in the first book, largely because Jorg was such a unique sort of protagonist that I was truly interested in just what happened to place his feet upon such a path. Here, the ‘present day’ narrative jumps ahead four years, forcing a gap that allows for the same device to be used again. The problem is, with my curiosity about Jorg’s origins already sated, the flashbacks here lacked the same drawing power. As much as I appreciate what Lawrence attempted to do with the copper box – I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which his banked memories altered the course of battle – I didn’t find the ‘big’ memory a compelling enough mystery to justify taking us away from the events of his wedding day.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the story of Jorg’s wedding day is such a strong story on its own. Taking place over the course of a single day, it develops his character, advances the plot, and resolves several key conflicts in exemplary fashion. Here we have a few moments of courtship, a rushed marriage, a siege, a quest, and a battle – more than enough to carry a tale. Once again, Jorg and his band of brother face impossible odds, but find novel and exciting ways of stealing the upper hand. This is fighting dirty, as we’d expect, but it works.

Speaking of fighting dirty, the climax is another aspect of the tale about which I’m conflicted. It’s completely in keeping with Jorg’s character, and brilliantly resolves some of the larger challenges facing his march to the ultimate throne, but once again it relies upon artifacts of Builder technology. I’m honestly not sure whether I like that pattern. It intrigues me and excites me, and I love the Dark Tower way in which the ghosts of the past have both a significance and an enduring sense of peril, but it just felt a little to convenient here, a little too much of a stretch. Ultimately, whether it’s a clever device or a bit of a cheat is something I really can’t say until I see how Emperor of Thorns is resolved. I would actually be disappointed not to see it attempted again, but the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of it will mean everything.

I would, of course, be remiss not to say a few words about the women of the world. While her diary entries didn’t necessarily add anything to the narrative for me, it’s clear that Katherine is being pressed into a pivotal role. Not only is she quickly becoming a key piece in the overall game of thrones, but the significance of her thorn in Jorg’s side continues to grow. As for his child-bride Miana, she was a pleasant surprise, worthy of not just her place in the story, but also of a place as Jorg’s side. I expected very little of her going in, but began to like her early on, and definitely respected her contributions by the end. Chella, as we might expect, continues to play a role in events, haunting Jorg’s thoughts and driving him into confrontation with the dead. The scene in which she forces a confrontation with the ghosts of his genocide amid the marsh and the mud is just awesome, and almost enough to redeem my conflict about the dueling narratives.

Overall, King of Thorns is a strong read, and a worthy sequel to Prince of Thorns. Despite my conflicts with the telling of it, I enjoyed it immensely, and actually stayed up late to read the final 200+ pages. The cast of characters has grown, Jorg has grown, the world has grown, and the stakes have grown. A bigger book than the first in every respect, this is a tale that leaves even bigger expectations for Emperor of Thorns.

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