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.