Book Review: Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence (2011)

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Review #28

 

Jorg is the crown prince of Ancrath, but instead of preparing himself to inherit the throne, he is roaming the countryside with a band of murderous outlaws, searching for revenge. Four years ago, Jorg found himself trapped in a hookbriar brush, unable to move as his mother and brother were slaughtered before his eyes. Now, the Prince of Thorns prepares himself to return home and confront his father before enacting his final act of vengeance.

“You can only win the game when you understand that it is a game. Let a man play chess, and tell him that every pawn is his friend. Let him think both bishops holy. Let him remember happy days in the shadows of his castles. Let him love his queen. Watch him lose them all.”

There are many examples of the “anti-hero” throughout science fiction and fantasy, but I can’t think of a more prominent instance than Jorg of Ancrath. Most proclaimed anti-heroes are similar to Celaena Sardothien in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass novels. They are morally ambiguous, and sometimes snap and kill their enemies in a disturbing manner, but underneath we know that they are operating for the greater good. Well I can definitely say beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jorg would make Celaena run and hide under her covers. He is a morally repugnant psychopath who murders people for annoying him. He seems to have loyalty to nothing whatsoever, and at one point sacrifices a member of his team to a group of monsters in order to gain access to a military target. There is also a throwaway line which alludes to the fact that Jorg may be a rapist. All in all, author Mark Lawrence makes it difficult for us to root for his main character. The fact that we still find a way to identify with Jorg’s struggle is a testament to Lawrence’s writing abilities.

It may be the fact that at a mere thirteen years of age, Jorg is rather young to be written off as a hopeless case. We as a reader feel the need for him to see the error of his ways and atone for them in a state of repentance. It is suggested that Jorg may not be entirely responsible for his own actions, there being a group of sorcerers working to control his fate. I found myself hating this aspect of the plot because it felt like a cheat. If your main character is going to be a murderous tween, let it happen. Don’t try to pull the punches by using magical mesmerism.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Prince of Thorns is that we have no idea when the story is taking place. Jorg alludes to the writings of Plutarch, Plato, and Socrates so we know we are on Earth. He also mentions the ambiguous “Builders” who have no imagination but can build marvelous things using “melted rock and twisted metal”. Trying to figure out the setting of the novel was a fun and twisted mystery.

I picked up Prince of Thorns because I was in the mood for a fantasy novel. As distasteful as I often felt towards the “protagonist”, I cannot deny that Lawrence’s writing captivated me and I was truly interested to find out what was going to become of the wayward little prince. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in this series.

My rating: 4/5

You can find Prince of Thorns here on Amazon or here on Book Depository.

Happy reading everyone!

 

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