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.