King of Thorns: Vulgar, mean, harsh, fascinating

Mark Lawrence The Broken Empire 2. King of Thornsfantasy book reviews King of Thorns by Mark LawrenceKing of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

When I find myself laughing on a regular basis while reading a book that is usually a really good sign that I am enjoying it! King of Thorns, the follow up to Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, had me laughing — a lot! King of Thorns is not a fun and games fantasy romp by any means, but the humor just made a good book even better.

Honorious Jorg Ancraft is tired of being manipulated and told what he can and can’t do. In his world there are a number of shadowy powerful competitors for control who are manipulating events and people through magic and other unsavory means. They are willing to do some terrible things to achieve their ends. Jorg’s family has been slaughtered, his friends have been hurt, and his life has been threatened repeatedly. This has given him boundless motivation to control his fate, no matter the price.

Mark Lawrence sticks primarily with Jorg’s perspective, but at times he follows Jorg’s love interest, Katherine, Jorg’s father’s young wife’s sister. Katherine is writing in a journal and chronicling her life living in her sister’s home. She is plagued by horrible memories of Jorg and things that have happened to her. Katherine’s life is tightly controlled, but she always feels like something is not adding up. The pieces of the world she is living in simply don’t make complete sense.

The best part of King of Thorns is watching Jorg evolve and seeing how the people he has gathered around him grow from being merely fellow felons to loyal retainers. Lawrence occasionally gives usinteresting tidbits of information about this mad ensemble, providing both amusement and troubling glimpses into individual characters. This technique effectively adds depth to the story without burdening the reader with long irrelevant segments of storyline. For example, we’ll hear about how a cold-blooded killer became who he was because his other line of work didn’t work out. Jorg’s choices and how some of them truly haunt him afterwards make him almost likable…. for a cold-blooded, calculating, power-hungry, mean, partially insane teenager.

Lawrence continues to hint at and shade in the world-building details. Scenes of a medieval adventurer coming across a high-tech computer system that has access to an evolving digital copy of a long dead programmer, for example, make for really thought-provoking material. If little pieces of modern technology were being employed during the dark ages, just how much of a difference would they make? It was intriguing to me.

King of Thorns, like Prince of Thorns, is vulgar, mean, and harsh. This is a world that’s in a constant state of warfare as various nobles vie to become Emperor and there is very little restraint. If you’re easily offended by people being killed simple to prove a point then this series may not be to your taste, but if you enjoyed Prince of Thorns or are a fan of Joe Abercrombie’s work, then you’ll think King of Thorns is a lot of fun. It’s a hard world, but Mark Lawrence sure makes it fascinating to read about.

In Book One of the Broken Empire, Mark Lawrence brought to life the “morbidly gripping”* (Publishers Weekly) story of a boy in search of power and vengeance. Now, in King of Thorns, that boy’s journey into manhood takes him to the dark depths waiting within his soul… The boy who would be King has gained the throne… Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath vowed when he was nine to avenge his slaughtered mother and brother — and punish his father for not doing so. When he was fifteen, he began to fulfill that vow. Now he is eighteen—and he must hold on by strength of arms to what he took by torture and treachery. King Jorg is a man haunted: by the ghost of a young boy, by a mysterious copper box, by his desire for the woman who rides with his enemy. Plagued by nightmares of the atrocities he committed, and of the atrocities committed against him when he was a child, he is filled with rage. And even as his need for revenge continues to consume him, twenty thousand men march toward the gates of his castle. His enemy is far stronger than him. Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But he has found, in a chamber hidden beneath the castle, ancient and long-lost artifacts. Some might call them magic. Jorg is not certain — all he knows is that the secrets they hold can be put to terrible use in the coming battle…

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JOHN HULET is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of.

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2 comments

  1. Lots of people praise this series, but I found I couldn’t get past the first three or four pages of the first one. I think it’s what you said — people tortured and killed for no reason except to make a point. Apparently I am more lily-livered than I realized.

  2. I love this series. For my money Lawrence is right up there with Abercrombie.

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