Prince of Thorns: Sarcastic, action-packed, and economical

fantasy book reviews Mark Lawrence The Broken Empire 1. Prince of Thornsfantasy book reviews Mark Lawrence The Broken Empire 1. Prince of ThornsPrince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Trapped in a thorn bush, ten-year-old Prince Jorg watches in horror as his mother and brother are savagely murdered. A mere few years later, Jorg is the ruthless leader of a band of cold-blooded outlaws, raiding village after village on a path to vengeance through a land plagued by feudal wars.

If you’re a Joe Abercrombie fan, I’ll give you Greg’s bona-fide 100% guarantee you’ll love Prince of Thorns. I’m not implying in any way that Mr. Lawrence is an Abercrombie clone. Lawrence’s writing is definitely all his own but his dark tone, cleverness, and realism make a perfect match to Abercrombie’s stuff.

Prince of Thorns is written as a first-person narrative told by Jorg. It’s a grim revenge story that, except for a couple supernatural elements, reads just like medieval historical fiction. In fact, as I read it, I struggled to figure out what made this book fantasy. Then, just shy of halfway through, in only a few sentences, Lawrence turned the whole thing upside down. Actually, he really did it with one word, but at the time, I was so wrapped up in the story that I missed that word for what it was. Maybe other readers are smart enough to catch on sooner than I did. Regardless, get a good grip on the arms of your favorite reading chair before you get floored. I don’t want to give any more away because discovering where and when this story is set is a huge part of the excitement. So I’ll leave at this: in the span of a few paragraphs, this book went from a standout debut to shining genius.

The violent deaths of Jorg’s mother and brother, his torturous recovery from a fever brought on by the poison of the thorns, as well as the cruel upbringing in his father’s castle, all seem to have made Jorg into a monster. Or maybe those things just brought the monster to the surface. Jorg is more merciless than his marauding cohorts, maybe even more than his enemies. And he’s just barely in his teens. Usually, I can’t buy into a child character that acts more like an adult, let alone be a military leader of hardened men. Not only did I buy it this time, I ate it up. I’m always amazed when an author can create such a connection to a villainous character. It’s a little disconcerting, but I can’t deny that I like this guy. With Jorg, it’s always all or nothing. Most times, he hasn’t a clue what he’ll do until he does it. He is so defiant that sometimes he even feels compelled to go against his own plans! This line defines Jorg in a nutshell: “I don’t like to get angry. It makes me angry.” Call me sick, but not only do I find that hilarious but I just get it.

Lawrence’s style is so much fun to read. He’s a master at one-liners and I found the entire book quotable. It’s sarcastic, action-packed, and economical. Lawrence is one of those writers with an exceptional talent for saying a lot with few words. The story reads fast and the reader ends up in a totally different place than he or she ever expected.

Prince of Thorns is the first book of THE BROKEN EMPIRE trilogy, but it stands just fine by itself. It’s a book with a real conclusion instead of an installment with a cliffhanger. But Jorg definitely has more tales to tell and I’ll be there to hear them. However, as exciting as hanging out with Jorg is, I’d never trust him enough to turn my back to him.

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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  1. I am reading this right now and rather enjoying it. I am glad I splurged and bought a copy!

  2. I just placed a hold on this at my local library, especially since it’s the October selection for the Fantasy Book Club at GoodReads. Excellent review, Greg.

  3. Can’t wait to see what you think.:)
    I really loved this one. Can’t wait until the next book.

  4. I’m curious to see how much this compares to Abercrombie (although I have yet to finish the last book of his series, or the two stand-alones). I forgive you for slaying the vocabulary beast. :)

  5. I’m anxious to see where/when you think this story takes place, at least after the first few pages.
    Abercrombie and Lawrence could be brothers or at least, drinking buddies. :)

  6. I will definitely be reading this one!

  7. Had the pleasure of reading this pre release, one the of the most enthralling reads i’ve had in a long time. Buy this and you’ll struggle to put it down.

  8. What Rhino says!!
    Kat, it’s awesome! Lawrence is a new favorite author of mine.

  9. I have this one my TBR shelf and wish I had the time to get to it sooner. I was very intrigued by the review on, which was rather negative but in a way that made it sound like something I’d like (and also got some rather harsh criticism from a representative of its publisher). I hope I can get to it sooner rather than later.

  10. Stefan, me too. It was one of those negative reviews that made me more curious about the book, rather than less. I believe that writing a sexist setting or character isn’t necessarily the same thing as promoting or condoning it. It’s all in what you do with it.

  11. I read that same review and it also did the same thing. I can’t remember much of what it said though other than me thinking maybe the reviewer should go read, Wheel of Time or something.
    I’m really anxious to see what all your thoughts are about it. I really enjoy reading your reviews of books that I’ve reviewed.
    FanLit reviewers just rock!!! \m/

  12. I finished this at lunch today. Compelling read. I believe I nailed down when (if not where, since the landscape has been altered) this novel occurs. I noted in my status updates at GoodReads the spots where I began to suspect and where I confirmed it.

    This world and protagonist reminded me of Brett’s The Painted Man. The drinking-buddies comparison between Lawrence and Abercrombie seems apropos, but I still think Abercrombie has the edge for raw, visceral, riveting battle scenes. But Lawrence’s Jorg pulled at my motherly instincts, where the Bloody Nine appalled me so much I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the page.

  13. What kept throwing me was references to “Hundred Year War” conflicting with the map at the beginning.

    I need to give Brett’s stuff a gander myself.

    Awesome assessments of Abercrombie and Lawerance. :)

  14. If you read carefully, I don’t think Lawrence actually ever wrote ‘Hundred Year War’ … I think he always said ‘Hundred War’ (with the explanation in the closing section of the book). I also fell for that trap and refreshed my memory on the famous Hundred Year War started by William the Conqueror.

    You’ll enjoyed Brett’s novels, I predict. :)

  15. You are absolutely correct Jon. In fact now that you mention it, when I first ready “Hundred War” I was thinking that Lawrence was eluding to “The Hundred Year War” and was just putting a twist to it. Jorg even comments a few times that the war had started long before they were born.

    Very slick of Mr. Lawrence.


  1. Mark Lawrence - Page 8 - Science Fiction Fantasy Chronicles: forums - [...] Originally Posted by I, Brian I think I probably will - The Judge linked to the Tor …

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