(Cover picture courtesy of The Streetlight Reader.)
To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the cost of it may drown the world in blood…
The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.
I believe I said this before, but it bears repeating: Jorg is like Genghis Khan if he’d gotten started on the whole conquering business in his teen years. Trust me, King of Thorns and the whole of The Broken Empire trilogy is brutal in terms of blood, guts and gore. It’s not for the faint of heart.
With that said, I still love Jorg as a character. Mark Lawrence has managed to create a character that is far from sympathetic, but is more empathetic. Readers get an in-depth understanding of who Jorg is and why he is the way he is, but it’s hard to feel sorry for him very often. Rather, he’s an interesting character so you can’t help but keep on reading to find out what happens to him. Although the narrative was a little more disjointed, you can certainly tell how Jorg has changed from the first book now that he’s eighteen years old. Is he any less ruthless? No. But he does feel at least a little sympathy for some human beings by this point.
My only complaint about King of Thorns is the disjointed narrative. We get treated to excerpts from Katherine’s diary, Jorg’s point of view four years ago immediately after the events of Prince of Thorns and the current wedding day/battle. During each of these points in the narrative there are flashbacks within the flashbacks, so I admit it did get a little confusing. Could Mark Lawrence have written this in a better way? Probably. Does it still work out? Yes. The plot is tied up nicely by the final battle and even though Jorg has changed, his last main action at the end of the novel is so completely in character you can’t help but laugh. Then again, maybe you won’t because I personally have a morbid sense of humour.
What I really liked about this second book in the trilogy is that Jorg is an even better character than before, but also that we got to see more of his world. This post-apocalyptic quasi-Medieval world is absolutely fascinating! You can tell Mark Lawrence really put effort into world-building because we get all kinds of subtle hints at the events that brought along the apocalypse as well as how it changed the world. I don’t want to give things away, but from the sounds of the Builders and the political strife that occurred after their fall it’s no wonder Jorg is the way he is. It’s a brutal, cruel world and seemingly good men like the Prince of Arrow are swallowed up by it.
Overall, I absolutely loved King of Thorns. It was fast-paced if a little disjointed at times, the characters acquired more depth and the world-building was expanded upon. If you like dark fantasy/post-apocalyptic fiction you’ll love The Broken Empire trilogy.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.